When I was a kid we still got Good Friday and Easter Monday off of school. Many businesses also operated on abbreviated hours during those days as well. Growing up I often spent Easter with my Grandparents. My Grandparents in Chicago would drive from one edge of the state to to the other to pick me up; a long drive before the advent of the interstate system. Being with them during holy week left memories about the holy season that has stayed with me all my life.
My Granddad was a Methodist minister, and Granny was the standard good minister’s wife. She belonged to to all the ladies clubs and could be seen at church each time a service was held. She rode shotgun and supported him and the message he delivered. My Granddad went to work each day and I was left to spend the day with Granny. It was she who shared with me that from her perspective that Easter was the biggest Christian holiday. She felt that the rising of Christ clearly trumped Christmas. The completion of miracle of the triumph over death for us was the single thing most important thing to a Christian, when Granny told the story.
One of my most vivid memories was of going to church several times during holy week. Of course we went to church on Palm Sunday, the first day of holy week. It was full of hymns that in my memory were the same ones sung every year. It seems that hymns sung were known to everyone in attendance; those who came to church every Sunday and those who only came a few times a year. None of the mumbling along a note or two behind the organist, with people wondering who had picked this obscure hymn to sing. I always enjoyed it when the whole congregation could sign a hymn together, those who had wonderful voices and folks like me who were tone deaf and could not sing on key no matter the tune. We would then go to church again on Maundy Thursday, the day of the last supper. Finally Good Friday would come and we would go to church acknowledging the death of Christ. Lent always seemed like a time of a great dark cloud to me. We’d get dressed up in our going to church dud and go to church over and over knowing what the outcome would be the same.
Granny would during the Easter season play Handel’s Messiah over and over. It was through this repetitive exposure, that this I came to understand that this oratorio. Granny caused me to actually came to listen to the words and came to understand that much of it came from a version of the Psalms. I love to hear it during the Christmas season when so many do public performances of this are done, but during Eastertide I dig out my classic version done by the London Symphony and the non-traditional Soulful Celebration.
Granny has long since passed away, and before that time it had been years since I spent any time around Easter with her. Yet this holiday season I think of the foundation and perspective they gave me.