The week before Easter is a busy one for Catholics. Palm Sunday finds us singing Hosanna! as we enter the church with palms behind the priest, remembering Christ's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on the back of a humble donkey. There is Holy Thursday Mass when we commemorate Jesus washing the feet of his 12 disciples. On Good Friday we read the Passion, as on Palm Sunday, and there is a procession with a wooden cross up the center aisle of the church. Then, at last, comes Holy Saturday night and Easter morning.
My son Berto had his feet washed, with 11 other members of various parish ministries, on Holy Thursday. He was very nervous about it, but Matthew and I told him to imagine Christ washing his feet and to reflect on something in his life with which he would like Jesus' help, or to think of someone he believes could use Jesus' help (can't we all?). Before he and I left for church, we read in John what Jesus told his disciples after cleansing their feet, "I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
I smiled at Berto as he sat on the altar steps in bare feet, one of just two children seated in the twelve chairs there with their white basins, pitchers and towels beneath.
"Mom," he said afterward. "Looking around, I realized that I have young feet." Then he chuckled.
It's not what I hoped he would get out of it, but oh well.
On Good Friday I prayed a lot and took deep breaths every few minutes as I studied. I would be narrating the Lord's Passion that night at Mass, and it was my turn to be nervous to the point of feeling faint. And so I prayed for courage and understanding and for God's blessing so that I could glorify his name. I asked for Mother Mary to be with me. I asked Jesus to hold my hand.
Dear friends have told me I have a childlike faith. Perhaps that is my gift. I don't have stellar understanding. I do not write brilliant faith posts. I talk far too much when I should really be silent most of the time. But I have a childlike faith in and immense love for Christ Jesus, and so I asked him to hold my hand as I read of his Passion and crucifixion. When there were moments of silence during the narration, I pleaded, Don't leave me now. Keep holding my hand.
He did, though he suffered through it all for us, and I was merely reading about it. I was amazed; I always am. I am anxious and restless, praying to the Holy Spirit for courage, until I stand behind that ambo to read. My legs might tremble still, but I can speak clearly and, by the grace of God, help to impart understanding of His Word.
Ana served that night, and on the way home we were both feeling joyful, though perhaps we should have kept it for Easter. We were simply grateful to serve. I asked her how it felt to go to the back of the church with the deacons to bring Holy Communion and to be one of the first to venerate the cross and told her she did a wonderful job. She told me that when I read it was as if Jesus was speaking.
I didn't respond to that right away. It seemed impossible since I am a woman, but it choked me up nonetheless. And all I could think of was how I felt exactly the same way when I listened to my dad reading the Bible during my childhood.
Throughout this year numerous people have come up to Matthew and me at church and told us how much they enjoy watching our kids altar serve, particularly Ana. She always has a broad smile on her face when she is up in the sanctuary or on the altar steps, and her joy is contagious judging from the many comments made to her parents. Berto is much more stoic and dignified, and that is his special way of serving.
On Holy Saturday one mother in the parish said, "What has made my year is your daughter. That's where it's at: singing altar servers!"
She was speaking of the way in which our Ana girl had belted out the hymn, Table of Plenty, while waiting with Berto and the deacon on the steps for the gifts to be brought forward.
Matthew and I had noticed it, too. Our little girl had her mouth wide open in praise and was moving her head about with gusto as she sang the chorus:
Come to the feast of heaven and earth
Come to the table of plenty!
God will provide for all that we need
Here at the table of plenty!
She was so in the moment that Matthew and I had to laugh, though silently of course, and we glanced over at our friend Adolfo next to us, and he was also grinning. She was certainly doing her part to spread the joy of Easter!
Every year I'll try to share a song of Keith Green's. I was raised on his music, and he is still my favorite gospel singer and a very talented pianist/songwriter as well. He wrote several songs based on Jesus' parables, such as the Prodigal Song Suite, and they are all beautiful, so enjoy.
There is a Redeemer by Keith and Melody Green
Happy Easter, readers and friends!