In my home town of Chelsea, Easter week was huge. Especially when you were seven years old. Chelsea was a town of about 385 people except during holidays, summer vacations and spring breaks. The population rose to around 415 or so depending on how many relatives would be visiting at that time. Easter was no exception. Now, Chelsea had two religions, the Catholics and the Methodists. It was that simple. Now for sure, there were some who were of neither faith and drove perhaps to another town for church and there were a few who did not claim any religious affiliation. Very few though!
Our second grade class at St. Joseph's School had just received our First Communion and (gulp) Confession a month earlier or so. I gotta tell you, going to Confession for the first time is scary! Hmm, just exactly how many times did I say those naughty words? Boy, sure hope the Priest don't ask Mom how many times I didn't do as I was told. He wouldn't check up on me, would he? Maybe he can't tell who I am. Hey, I know what....I'll disguise my voice. Ya, First Communion was a breeze, but that first Confession was something.
The week leading up to Easter is called Holy Week, and it was truly observed in Chelsea. We had the grocery story and on Good Friday, we closed from Noon until 3:00 p.m. Just like every other store in town. Why? Well, two reasons, I guess. One, it was the hours Jesus hung on the cross and two, everyone was in Church for the Good Friday service. I never knew what those without any denominational affiliation did during these three hours. At St. Joseph's Church, it was a holy and somber service. To be honest, I really enjoyed it, however I'd never admit that to any of my friends. Church was supposed to always be boring, right? At least to a 7 year old kid. I don't think my older sister and brothers were too excited about it either.
Our Church had dark purple cloths covering all the statues in the church and that was a lot of purple cloths. It was kinda eerie, yet though-provoking. There was no singing, (which was good). I never did handle those Gregorian Chants too well and of course the male segment of the Congregation wasn't expected to sing anyway. That was exclusively for the Choir and/or the women. Men were exempt.
I don't remember everything about Good Friday service, except that several Priests were present and they read the entire passage of the Passion. It seemed to take forever. Then, our Priest brought in a huge statue of the Crucifix, and leaned it up against the altar at the front of the Church and everyone in attendance slowly came forward, genuflected in front of it and then we each kissed the feet of Jesus. Yea, kissed His feet. And guess what? There was no towel to wipe off each other's kisses. That was long before germs of any kind were discovered. Besides, would God let someone get sick for doing such a noble act? I think not!
After 3 PM, all the stores opened back up and everything returned to normal. Us kids couldn't wait to get to the ice cream shop to get some ice cream. We couldn't eat candy of any kind because our parents all had made us give up candy, chocolate and things of that nature for Lent. But after three hours in Church, they let us enjoy some ice cream!!
After Good Friday came Holy Saturday. This day was sort of a break between the long service the day before and the big service the next day. Easter. A "High Mass" for sure. Anyone remember the High Mass? The entire Mass was sung. Everything except the homily. I think the Methodists called the message "The Sermon," but we called it the "Homily." I had no idea what it meant at the time but those twelve minutes the Priest spoke were the longest minutes ever....to a seven year old, at least.
Easter Sunday was great. New outfits. New shoes, socks and even underwear!! To celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I wasn't much in to all this way back then but I am truly glad my parents made sure I was involved in it all. I still get shivers as we head into Holy Week. Good Friday always gives me goose bumps. From Noon until 3 p.m., I still feel a spiritual presence. I really do. And I just love Easter. The greatest day in the life of any Christian, don't you think? So from our family to yours.....HAPPY EASTER.
Be so blest this week and let me know what you were doing for Easter when YOU were seven years old at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 319-334-4117. Love to compare notes with you.