Thursday, April 28, 2011

This & That

This week, Buffalo has jumped not into Spring.. but into summer.  At least that is what it has felt like the past two days.  Last week we had some flurries and this week the temps reached the low 70s!  Our "springtime" seems to have gotten the short end of the stick this year.. either being cold and wet or unseasonably warm.

Tonight I slept with the windows open.  Even after the sun had gone down the temps were still in the mid 60s and humid from the rain we have been getting off and on.  It wasn't until this morning that I noticed a stark difference in the world around me... BIRDS!  I have become so used to the isolation of being locked up in the house for the colder months that I have forgotten the beautiful background songs of our native feathered friends.

Just as I get excited at the first signs of a new season like the first leaves changing or the first snowfall, the first appearance of the robin is a sure sign that spring has arrived.  Although the robins have been back for some time now - and we even have a nest of them just outside my bedroom - it's the song of the birds that is telling me summer can't be far off.

I always think of my Grandfather (Gramps) when I see robins.  He had a very simple sense of humor and a simple way of joking with us kids.  He loved to tell us non-sense stories that to any adult would seem just plain stupid.. but when he told them in that voice that he ONLY used when speaking to children under 7, it made a lasting imprint of simpler times and simpler joys.  Often he'd make up stories along the lines of The Three Bears, substituting anything he could think of for the bears.  His favorite story would be: "Once upon a time there were three robins sitting on the fence..... and they all flew away."  That was it... end of story.  But coming from a man who was otherwise so straight laced, it was funny to us kids.

I've been trying to get up to the rehab center to visit my friend Anne as much as possible.  I had a nice visit with her and some of her family Easter Sunday.  Two weeks ago doctors found a large brain tumor during an MRI... and three days later she had major surgery to remove it.  Sadly, the tumor was found to be cancerous, which is never a good thing... but even worse when those cancer cells are right in the brain.

She seems to be recovering well.. and at 82 is doing much better than I would be after major surgery.  Anne always did have a wonderful disposition and positive outlook, always trying to accept the things life throws at her.  She seems to have a permanent smile on her face which can still light up a room.  We tease her about her shaved head (and she makes jokes too) and laugh at the many "hole in the head" cliches.  It would be so easy for someone in her place to wallow in self pity and despair, but she just keeps puttering along... an example to people of all ages that attitude is everything!

She had her first visit to Roswell, our local cancer research hospital (and one of the best in the country!) to see about the extent of the brain cancer and what can be done.  I've been hesitant to call her - knowing she probably has visitors - but I've been on pins and needles wondering how her first appointment went.  I'm hoping to go and see her tomorrow. 

I tell her that the one good thing in all this is that it is infinitely easier to visit her now that she is a captive audience.  That woman has always been on the go - doing for others with a passion only Mother Teresa could relate to - so pinning her down for a visit was sometimes difficult. 

I'm trying to follow Anne's example and keep a positive outlook... despite my hardcore pessimistic tendencies.  If any octogenarian can kick cancer's ass.. it would be Anne!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sacred Triduum and Easter Sunday

I was hoping to blog each day of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) explaining the complex traditions and observances of the days -- in my characteristic Catholic-History-Geek way, but as has been the case lately.. time seemed to escape me.  So I'll make up for it now! (in an abbreviated version anyway) :-P

Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday) has always been a time of great spiritual renewal for me.  I love our rich traditions and observances.  Sadly though, working in retail I don't often get to fully participate in the liturgical celebrations.

Holy Thursday is the time when Catholics celebrate Christ's instituting of the Mass and the Eucharist -- done at the Last Supper.  After the Mass, the altar is stripped bare in preparation for the solemn remembrance of the passion of Christ on Good Friday.  The blessed sacrament is removed from the main tabernacle and placed in a side chapel adorned with flowers and candles where the faithful can stay and pray before our Lord present in the sacrament for the remainder of the night.

I had to miss the Mass, but stopped in for prayer and meditation after work.  It's nice to be there when the Church has quieted down, and there are only a few of us there - coming and going all night - to visit the blessed sacrament.  I always think of Christ's admonishment to His apostles who fell asleep during his agony in the garden: "Could you not stay awake for one hour?"  -- I often hear Him saying: "could you not visit me for one moment?"

This Liturgy also includes the washing of the feet of 12 men.. in imitation of Christ washing the feet of his 12 apostles before the Last Supper.  This part always made me uncomfortable and I was always glad I was not one who had to have his feet washed.  I could totally sympathize with Peter who felt embarrassed to have Christ wash his feet.  It is a good practice in humility though.. both for the priest and those whose feet he is washing. For the rest of us, it is also a public reminder of the humility we should all strive for as well as the charity we should show to one another.

Good Friday is the day we remember Christ's passion and death on the cross.  Traditionally, the priest wore black - the traditional color of mourning.  Symbolic of the sadness of Christ in His suffering and His brutal death upon the cross.  Sadly, in an effort to be a bit more acceptable to "modern tastes", the Church has since adopted the use of red - which they claim is not symbolic of blood, but the symbol of royalty.. for Christ the King.  I always thought the color for royalty was purple.. but I digress. 

In this Liturgy (there is no Mass or consecration on Good Friday), the priest holds up the crucifix exclaiming: "This is the wood of the cross, on which has hung the savior of the world".  Kneeling, we respond: "Come let us adore!"  After the cross processes through the Church, the faithful then have the opportunity to come up and venerate the cross - symbol of Christ's suffering - by kissing the cross.  

It is always humbling and moving to be attending the Good Friday Liturgy or meditating on the Stations of the Cross at 3pm - which is said to be the hour when Christ died.  It's just such an awe inspiring moment to think of everything that happened at that moment in history.  If you read the account in the Gospels: the sky growing dark, the earthquakes, the veil in the temple ripping in two.  I can't imagine what it must have felt like to see and experience all of that!

Sadly, I did not make it to the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.  This Mass is not for those who only go to Mass out of guilt and want to "get it over with" as quickly as possible.  I love the richness of this Liturgy - though I rarely get to attend it any more.  It begins with the blessing of the Easter fire - symbol that Christ is the light of the world - the light in the darkness of our sinfulness.  The priest blesses the paschal candle (that big candle used at baptisms).. and lights the candle from the newly lit Easter fire.

The Easter Water... symbol of our Baptism and washing away of sins - is also blessed, and the holy water fonts of the Church are again filled after having been empty since Holy Thursday (or Palm Sunday). 

Easter Sunday is the culmination of all the anticipation of the season of Lent... our penance and waiting is now over and it is time to rejoice!  I love how the Churches are decorated.. and the wonderful scent of Easter flowers fill the air.  Everyone was in their Easter best... one thing I love about my parish.. people still dress to go to Mass!

Going to the "older" traditional form of the Mass, our celebration begins with the singing of the "Vidi Aquam" - "I saw water coming forth from the temple
on the right side, alleluia:
and all those to whom this water came
were saved, and shall say, alleluia, alleluia." (of course we chant it in Latin).

For me, hearing this and seeing the priest bless the congregation with the Easter water from last night's vigil is the official start of Easter!!  Reminder that we have been washed clean by the sacrifice of Christ.

After Mass I headed over to my Aunt Joan's house to have brunch with my Dad's side of the family.  I swear someone in our family needs to move into a hall or something because we always manage to cram a big group of people into the smallest houses! haha! 

My Aunt Joan always puts out a nice spread for brunch while we all laugh and catch up with one another.. as the younger kids hunt for their Easter baskets.

I was treated to another lovely meal at my brother and sister in law's home tonight where Katie out did herself yet again.  Katie has an appreciation for elegance and class, and it shows in how she sets and table and serves a meal!!!   As always the food was out of this world - and it's nice to watch my little nephew enjoy his Easter in the same home my brother and I did when my Grandparent's lived there. - Religious traditions aren't the only ones I like to see preserved!

I'm very fortunate to have the family and friends that I do... who make holidays like this so wonderful!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Easter season!!