We're preparing for Easter in our home and in our hearts. I'm thankful for my daughters. They help with the motivation and inspiration to decorate and mark the seasons in special ways. I find it difficult enough to simply clean as often as is needed, let alone find the energy to also decorate with the seasons, so my daughters' youthful enthusiasm when it is time to decorate is a welcome relief at this point in my life.
Our Easter decorations includes a crown of thorns. This crown sat in its box for years, because the children came along and they were very little and very clumsy, and it seemed like too much of liability to display it anywhere.
Then, one Easter, our beloved neighbors gifted our daughters the pink basket you see in the picture above. (They always give the girls baskets and generously invite us to join their family's Easter egg hunt making our Easter memories so much more rich and special.) Once all the candy and toys were removed from the basket, I realized it was just the right size and shape for our mantel and just the right place to place the crown of thorns.
I like the contrast between the two items. It aids my contemplation as I go through the season. Behind all the bright Easter trappings of our modern celebrations that we make so safe and joyful for our children, (and rightly so), there is ever-present, right there, a terrible, gruesome, bloody, cruel reality of the story behind the holiday. Of course, our children will hear about Christ's passion often as they grow up in church, but eventually, they all become old enough to actually comprehend what was done to Him, and that such a thing could happen to anyone, that human beings could do such a thing to anyone, that they might be the victim of such terrible things, or worse, capable of doing such terrible things themselves. It all has to be confronted.
It all is being confronted in our Lenten readings. For our readings, I took all four Gospels (and some of Acts) and started at the place where each Gospel begins telling of Christ's passion, then I portioned the texts into thirty-seven readings, (so we could have room to skip a reading or two out of necessity as life usually happens.)
We begin each evening with reading "O Sapietia" by Malcolm Guite aloud. By the end of Lent, I'm certain we will all know it by heart just like that. Note: This was not part of the original plan, but it came about because my youngest asked for a new poem to memorize for her weekly presentation at Classical Conversations and this happened right as Lent began. So I read her "O Sapientia" and she liked it straight away, especially when she found out it was written by "Our Guy." That's what my girls affectionately call Malcolm Guite. They watched him on Hutchmoot Homebound 2020, saw his vest and his pipe and his garden tree and they liked what he had to say well enough to listen to him twice. But then they saw him again on Hutchmoot 2021 and he was sailing and then he let them into his study and they spied his bookshelves and he ate jam and crumbs fell on his vest and he slurped his tea and he read them silly but seriously profound poetry and they've been absolutely smitten ever sense. Now he's "Our Guy." So we start each evening with a poem that's actually a prayer to Wisdom for wisdom.
The first evening of Lent, we started in John with the death and resurrection of Lazarus and the anointing of Jesus' feet by Mary. We have a bottle of spikenard, thanks to the easy availability of essential oils these days. We each took a drop on our wrists. Even with only five drops, the sent filled the room as it did that night. My original plan was to only use the spikenard on the evenings we read about Jesus' anointing, but now my youngest takes up the bottle every night and anoints herself with one drop at the beginning of every reading and offers it to everyone who may or may not take some. And I let her do this. I can see no better use for the oil. These will not always be with me. And human nature will be avenged if it has been starved, so I just let them feast, pour it out, soak it up, and breath deep while our time together remains. We find that even one drop fills the room with fragrance. How truly extravagant and overwhelming it must have been to spill out the entire jar!
We hold a smooth coin or coins that go along with the place we are in the story. Note: My friend Jesse paints these Easter coins and many other good, good things like them that she shares with Children's ministry or Sunday school classes and sells to friends like us. We have also purchased several of her Christmas ornaments. Our holiday contemplations are so enriched and beautified by her gifts.
Last evening, we held the coin with the crown of thorns and we read about Jesus being struck in the face, and the crown of thorns being placed on Jesus' head, and the purple robe being placed on his shoulders, and the mockery. I chocked up as a I read it and in doing so, I probably made it harder for my daughters to hear. They quickly offered to relieve me and read. It was painful and awkward for us all. But I asked for a second and I recovered quickly enough to be able to keep going without too much trouble. But when I think of it now from a distance, God forbid I read the words like some Stoic. That might be worse than any awkwardness that comes from the proper human emotions one ought to feel when witnessing that sort of suffering.
I'm reading Malcolm's Guite "Word in the Wilderness" through Lent. It's the first time I haven't read Scripture in the morning, but with all the Scripture reading at night, I felt the freedom to read poetry instead. This is the first Lent that we've ever done so much, so deliberately, and it is proving overwhelming in the best sense. The heavy weight of the holiday is permeating our days like a heady scent filling up the room, and we are breathing in deeply.