It seems I say this every year but it bears repeating that today isn’t about rabbits, eggs, candy or barbecues. Today marks the date that Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is, in my opinion, the most important religious holiday that there is.
Sure Christmas is the season of giving as people celebrate the birth of Christ. However, while it is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ in the eyes of some people I feel as though it has become too commercialized with Christmas carols seemingly being played earlier every year. This year I actually heard some being played inside of stores in mid-October.
Now that I think of it, are there any Easter songs? Oh yeah, there’s ‘Here comes Peter Cotton Tail’ but the lyrics to that song don’t have anything to do with the real meaning of Easter. In short, Easter doesn’t have any songs like ‘Silent Night’ that are played in Wal-Mart two months in advance.
All the musical pieces that I associate with Easter are hymns that were sung at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension where I served as an acolyte (yeah, really) from the age of ten until I graduated from high school. Easter Mass was always really uplifting. Especially when I was a junior and senior and led the procession into the church carrying the cross to the sound of the hymn “Hail ye Festival Day’’ (bet you never heard that one at Wal-Mart).
I really miss the priest who served at Ascension from the time I was a little boy until I was about 22 when he took another job in Tennessee. Father Hunter Huckaby was not only a great priest (his sermons were always insightful and often very humorous) but he was really down to earth and was actually once arrested for charging the field after Cathedral-Carmel won a football playoff game (his son Caldwell was a star running back) against Teurlings. This was of course before they merged with Fatima to become St. Thomas More High School in 1987. His sermon the following Sunday was a classic.
He and my father became really good friends and when my sister got married he traveled all the way down from Knoxville just to perform the ceremony - something my sister was pretty demanding about. That was something I’ll never forget and he still keeps in touch with my Dad to this day.
However, while the rest of the world is rejoicing, Easter will always be a somber reminder of my mother. She died on Easter Sunday in 2009 - April 14th to be precise.
Over the last three years, Easter obviously hasn’t been the same but things are getting better. I’m going to church with my father (one of the few times a year that I actually wear a suit) and then it’s off to my Aunt Barbara’s house for food and drinks. If I learned anything from my mother’s death, it is that there is nothing more important than family and I’ve come to appreciate them more every time we have a chance to visit. I like to think that my Mom will be looking down on us today just as sure as I will be looking up. And just as I told my father last night she will be very unhappy if we aren’t enjoying ourselves.
A while back I was talking to my friend Kelly who said that, while she does believe in the Lord, she doesn’t particularly care for organized religion and all the differing denominations. She didn’t think that stained glass windows and collection plates had any part in her relationship with God. An interesting point but I had to disagree with her. I believe that there are places of worship (that sadly I don’t attend as often as I should) that - no matter what denomination you are - the Lord helped to place on this Earth for people to gather and collectively worship him. I believe that on occasions such as today when everybody at church is smiling and in a good mood that there is something about that warm feeling that makes it truly special. And one thing I know is that when I do attend Mass, I’m always in a good mood when I leave.
She responded that she did believe there was a God but she was somewhat leery about the fact that he had a son that he placed on Earth to die for our sins. She did however acknowledge that there was a very great man who existed 2,000 years ago.
“How else can you explain the fact that people began counting the years after he died” was how she rationalized it.
Two things I promised myself I would try to stay away from when my boss, Harold, allowed me to begin writing my column in 2007 - politics and religion. However, I am a Christian and when I think about my mother, my late grandparents and my own mortality I know that there are certain times when I feel obligated to break my own rule. And today it feels good.
So rejoice in the knowledge that today is the day that Jesus Christ walked out of his tomb and changed the way that most of the world believes. Rejoice in the knowledge that the Lord bestowed upon us his only begotten son to teach us his ways. Rejoice in that life, while it does have it’s difficult moments, and beauty are all around us though we often forget to stop and take notice of it.
And rejoice in the knowledge that the great man who existed over 2,000 years ago today is alive and well in our hearts as we get ready to attend Mass this morning.
Howell Dennis is a native of Lafayette, La. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington where he graduated in journalism and public relations.