My Easter Bag

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​It’s hard to believe that Easter was only one week ago. Most of my Holy Week was spent in church between morning prayer services, the parish community dinner, evening prayer and mass. There is a lot going on and a lot packed into the second half of the week following Palm Sunday. The three days of Holy Week prior to Easter Sunday is called the Triduum, which is basically one long service beginning on Holy Thursday with the sign of the Cross and ending at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night the same way. At our parish we have hospitality or receptions on Saturday morning and evening, the former in celebration of the lighting the Easter fire and the latter in celebration of welcoming the new members to the Catholic church through the RCIA program.

It’s very fulfilling and spiritual, but it’s long and it’s tiring. Since my first Vigil, one of my yearly customs is that I will bring a small tote bag along with my usual purse to carry a water, cough drops, tissues. I’ll add my worship booklet so I have it for the entire three days.

At some point during Holy Week, I’ll realize that I don’t really need my pocketbook if I toss my wallet and kindle and phone and other necessities into the tote bag. That way I only have one bag to carry and keep track of.

Genius, right?

Well, every year, I’m surprised by the time Saturday afternoon rolls around at how heavy this tote bag is. I don’t realize it’s getting heavier as I add things one at a time until the very end when I go to grab it out of the car, and it pulls me back in.

Here is a picture of it when I arrived at church for the lighting of the Easter fire on Saturday morning:

The inside of my Easter bag on Holy Saturday morning. (c)2019

It has my large wallet, kindle, hearing aids, extra batteries for the hearing aids, clipboard and pad if the urge to write grabs hold of me, a pen, packet of tissues, bag of cough drops, daily reflection book for Lent, cell phone, rosary, Triduum worship aid, any of the other worship aids that I’ve collected during the week, bottle of cold water, umbrella for the upcoming rain (it wasn’t raining when I arrived but it was raining very hard when we all went outside to light the fire). I think there may have been a few other odds and ends in there. All I know is it was really heavy by the time I pulled it out of the back seat.
Admittedly, and embarrassingly, this one week later, it still has stuff in it, and needs to be completely emptied and put away. It doesn’t have much, but still, it’s long past time.

Holy Thursday or Mass of the Lord’s Supper

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A lot was going on today.

There was a prayer service this morning, and surprise, Father J called me up for a special blessing. I do not like the center of attention place, but I really like all of the warm-hearted and good wishes that I’m being given. When I turned to go back to my seat, one of the women in the front (who I don’t know), grabbed me and hugged me. There is a lot of hugging.

In fact, as an aside, the only group who hugs more than this church is the posse!

While on my errands, I received a call from my going-to-be-godmother who is also the parish office manager to say that Father J had a revelation.

This worried me.

It should have.

He wondered why I wasn’t having my feet washed at tonight’s mass.

My first reaction was, “NoNoNoNoNo…”

I do NOT like people touching my feet. They’re dry and very ticklish and let’s just leave it at that. Basically I only take my socks off to take a shower.

I was told that I didn’t have to, but it was one of those you shoulds but you don’t have to, and I’d still have to do it next year, so I said, ‘whatever he wants me to do,’ which has been my usual response to most things that I know I can get through but don’t want to say yes. (Like Wales and LARP and an emergency c-section, but I digress.)

I’m already carrying the oil of catecumen in the processional, and I am supposed to announce it. It needs to be very loud. At rehearsal, they made me say it three times because my voice is too timid. If they let me type it on tumblr, I could have gotten it in ALL CAPS, bolded and italicized, and it would have been perfect.

And then of course, I’m carrying a glass jar of oil that’s been blessed by the Bishop for the parish for the entire year. No pressure there on not tripping and throwing it through the air like Daffy Duck.

One of the things that has surprised me about all of the things asked of me for the ritual of becoming Catholic and observing Easter has been how non-plussed I am about everything.

“Are you nervous?”

“No,” I say, and surprisingly I’m not.

I’m more nervous about meeting tomorrow’s train than anything I’ve been asked to do.

I’ve gotten a tiny surge of anxiety and in my mind asking myself, ‘you want me to do what?!’ but it’s fleeting, and I nod my head and smile and I mean it.

I have been given a certain grace to accept what I need to do or maybe it’s that it’s like an obstacle course. I jump through the hoops to get to the prize, and of course this prize is being in communion with Jesus Christ.

Once it was there in front of me, it was there. No doubt. No question that I believed and this was the right thing and if you ask anybody there is not one thing in my life that I can say that about.

If you asked me what’s for dinner, I’d answer, but it would be with a question mark – a kind of ‘is that okay’ at the end that I have never said or felt with joining the church officially.

Telling people made me more anxious, but once the statement was out of the way, the decision was right, and I always knew it.

Tonight, all of us oil and banner carriers were standing in the back waiting for our cue when I noticed a smoky wisp at the front of the church. I didn’t smell incense, and thought at first that it was that dust that you see in a ray of sunlight, but I realized that it was indeed the incense, but it wasn’t a smell, it was the way the incense rose. I watched it climb slowly, steadily and I promise you it was in the shape of a Jewish star. (Also called a Star of David, and it is through David’s line that Jesus is born.)

I could feel myself getting emotional. It was only the most recent moment of clarity.

While Father J was washing feet, he seemed to say something to make the person more at ease. We laughed, and he poured the water over my foot.

I’m pretty sure they put ice cubes in it. I have never felt water that cold and my foot jerked. I’m lucky (or was he the lucky one?) that I didn’t kick him in the face.

It was a humorous moment, but when he laid his hands on me, the humor went away and a most incredible feeling came upon me, I want to say ‘washed over me’, but that seems a bit cliche, although that’s what it was. He dried my foot and leaned forward to kiss it and looked into my eyes and said, “G-d bless you,” and it was a moment much like the one earlier with the incense.

If in my mind thngs don’t make sense, there is no rationale or reason to it, these moments of clarity, of faith, of knowing give so much calm and comfort and warmth.

After that we venerated the altar, eucharist was given and we walked and sang as a group to the parish hall for the host to be kept for adoration and tomorrow’s mass.

The kids were a little antsy, but one more mass for them. We have lots of cleaning and grocery shopping to do tomorrow. (Good Friday fasting is much different than Yom Kippur fasting.)

As I said, there are things I’m anxious and nervous about, but I think it will be okay; I hope so anyway.

At this moment, I feel content, so i’ll post this and go to bed.