Many people don’t realize that there is another liturgical season besides Advent and Lent. It is called the Easter Season and stretches between Easter and the feast of Penticost and we are in it now. It interests me that the Easter Season is actually a week or so longer than Lent, yet, in all the years of my Catholic upbringing, I don’t really remember knowing about it. It didn’t even penetrate my noggin when, in later years, I studied theology at a Catholic college. Was it even mentioned in my liturgy textbook? No doubt it was, but if it entered my radar screen, it slipped off the other side before I had a chance to notice.
It wasn’t until I served on a parish liturgy committee that I took notice. On the afternoon of Holy Saturday, while most parishioners were home coloring Easter eggs with their children, a committee of old people, of which I was a new member, started buzzing around the church pulling down purple drapes and replacing them with soft pastel colored banners that said things like “Alleluia” and “He is Risen” on them. The baptismal font was filled with water as well as all those little fonts that people dip their fingers into as they enter the church. Until then, I thought they had dried up due to neglect. White lily plants in bloom were lined up in front of the altar along with other flowers to multiply the colors in the rainbow ribbons hanging from above. As the committee labored, the choir practiced new songs that were glorious compared to the woe-is-me songs of Lent. As they sang, the committee members danced and kept the work moving along at a steady clip. Ropes dangled from ceiling hooks I’d never noticed before and against the pillars were ladders where only the brave would climb to catch the end of the ropes as they swung by. It felt like the launching of a circus come to town.
While this was all going on, I listened to stories of extended family members visiting and who slept where, of jello molds yet to be made, of the sale on ham yet to be picked up. Has Joe Meyer found a job yet? When is Lucy Kremer’s baby due? How’s the supply of hosts? Do you remember how it rained last year and the first communion kids got soaked running over from the school? When will we get together again to get the church ready for the May Crowning? Has the nose on Mary’s statue been repaired? Someone had better wash her cape. It’s filthy.
When the work was done, the experienced ones gathered up the ladders and tools and folded the old drapes. These were carried to their resting place up and behind the choir loft to a room I never knew was there. It was the room, I discovered, where Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men lived in the summer. I saw the box of angel’s wings that had appeared when the preschoolers came together for dress rehearsal on the Saturday before Christmas.
I don’t know why, when I was growing up, there didn’t seem to be much emphasis on the season that follows Lent. Lent and Advent are the seasons when the Church gave us assignments to do at home, like advent wreaths and poverty bowls. If Christians had some assigments to do during the Easter season, maybe there would be a greater sense of this season of joy. There came a point in my life when I needed to know that joy always follows sadness and the sadness outweighs the joy if we allow ourselves to spend time in it. That is when I began to greet the sun each day, a ritual that keeps the Easter season alive for me.
After decorating the church with the liturgy committee, I returned later with my own family, I was as struck anew by the beauty of the worship space. I’d never questioned how the change came about before. But now I knew, not just the “how?” and the “when?”, but the actual identity of the elves. I also realized who it is that actually holds churches together.