Monday, April 02, 2007

Holy Week and Passover

Yesterday was Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week and today Passover begins. With rare exceptions due to a quirk in the way Jewish and Christian lunar calendars are calculated, Holy Week and Passover always coincide. In our mixed bag Christian-Jewish household this makes for a very busy week, with two Seder meals and the need to cook without raising agents (no bread!) added to the preparations for Easter and the Easter Triduum (the three great liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday that form the culmination of the Church's year). Last year was the first year since Tevye and I married that Passover fell four weeks after Easter, and this year it is back to the usual double effect.

I have come to realise that my Holy Weeks are seasonal. There have been seasons of intense religious experience, particularly in my early Catholic days, before children, when time and lack of distractions made it possible to fully focus on the liturgy. There have been busy seasons, when I was in charge of music for the parish and Holy Week was hard work, but the effort and involvement helped to bring the meaning of the liturgies to life. Then there have been the years where everything is a rush, small children a distraction, practicalities a burden, preparation scanty and it is hard to feel spiritually connected.

Guess where I am right now? Yes, that's right, one of the rushed, chaotic years. Two years ago I had a marvellous, spiritually uplifting Palm Sunday. We had visitors from the US, a Catholic homeschooling mother and her seventeen year old daughter, and we spent Palm Sunday in London, beginning with Mass at the Brompton Oratory. A liturgically perfect celebration of the current Roman Rite in Latin - including a full reading of the Passion in Latin - in a beautiful Church. We even felt suitably penitential after someone occupied our seats during the procession with palms and we ended up having to kneel on a metal grille. Last year Palm Sunday was a write off. I was pregnant and ill and didn't even make it to Mass. This year? Well, I made it. Angel is an altar server, so she was busy and out of the picture so far as the rest of the family were concerned. I was playing the flute for the procession with Palms (the idea being that it helps the different ends of the procession to keep singing at least vaguely together. I have never known it to work.) This gave Star the opportunity to spot one of her best and most like-minded friends and for the pair of them to launch into a sword fight with palm crosses - or rather, several palm crosses, which they had somehow acquired. It also gave her the opportunity to wedge herself into a packed seat in church next to like-minded friend before I got there. When I asked friend's mother afterwards whether they had behaved well, the answer was "not one of their better days". Little Cherub was also not having one of her better days and had to be removed from the main part of the Church for a good half of the Mass. We have no crying room, so that means hovering in the entrance area at the back where one can see but not hear particularly well and going outside during particularly loud grumbling periods. Not exactly conducive to concentration.

The rest of Holy Week looks busy, if not chaotic. Today I have to shop and prepare for our family Seder tonight, and get rid of any bread and bread-like products from the house. Tomorrow we will be going to a Seder meal at my sister-in-laws - late night, over excited children, out-of-routine baby! An added complication is that Angel and Star have three dance exams between them, each of which will swallow up the best part of an afternoon or evening. They start today with Angel's ballet exam, for which I still have to sew ribbons on shoes (ballet shoe ribbons are one of my pet hates). I will get to the Easter Triduum feeling unprepared and unfocused, and regretting the lack of time to prepare the children properly. But at least we will get there! And this is, after all, just a season. The time will come when we do have time to prepare properly and celebrate Lent and Holy Week more fully. Meanwhile we will live Holy Week in amongst ballet ribbons and flat-packed furniture (yes, still assembling after yet another trip to IKEA!), over tired and out of routine children, with interrupted nights and tail-chasing days. And however imperfect our Holy Week, next weekend it will be Easter.

1 comment:

Faith said...

Some years I really do up Passover and other years I don't. Guess which one this year is. I feel kind of bad about it because it is such a rich and wonderful celebration. We are going to have the in laws over on Saturday but they aren't religious so the most we ever do with them are the 4 questions.

Next year I hope I plan ahead and have a real seder.

But I think you are doing marvelously for some one so involved in your church AND celebrating Passover.

Have a blessed Holy Week.