I have always loved Holy Week. The drama, the pageantry, the depth and richness, the sheer endurance needed to make it through the services which have in my experience ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.
Growing up and attending the beautiful red brick German St. Peter’s parish across the road from our ridgetop farm, I loved the fact that the appropriateness of the thin, reedy, dirge-like and dragging rendition of “Were You There.” In my 20’s I moved to far flung places and joined church choirs that burst forth in polyphonic brilliance with the Hallelujah chorus at the end of the Vigil service, but there is a special place in my heart for the brave, tiny rural choirs directed by women like my mother and my grandmother, fiercely determined to create passion and drama and beauty and bring to life the rich musical tradition of the church with a rag tag band of eye rolling teens, a couple gruff farmers, quavery sopranos, and a startlingly robust alto or two.
Last year though I wasn’t anywhere near a country choir, but here in the city attending services at our local neighborhood church. Like the church of my childhood, St. Augustine’s is a German built parish, red brick and soaring towards the heavens but on a much grander city sized scale. Here is St. Augustine himself.
St. Augustine’s is a very handsome church, with light streaming through beautiful stained glass windows.
My favorite, the one which most often captures my gaze and imagination, is St. George with his white steed, glowing with light and color.
During Holy Week last year though, my imagination was not so much captured by St. George as by the fact that I was due to have a baby at any moment. I thought perhaps I would be exempted from my Holy Week duties, but it was not to be. That baby was completely content to stay curled up right where she was. She was determined to experience the whole of Holy Week and the Easter celebration from her warm quiet and cocooned interior cushioned position.
Good Friday last year was warm and sunny, and after I walked home from church with Casey we pulled out the vintage bicycles inherited from my grandparents and older than either of us. Somehow we had never managed to use them until this day, but the sun was shining and it was one of our last days sans infant, so we thought we would set off to explore. Sadly there is no photographic documentation of this event. You will simply have to use your imagination to picture a six foot tall full term pregnant woman with a sun hat on and a long lanky six five husband weaving through the city on vintage early 70’s bicycles. It was a glorious adventure that led through back alleys barely covering hundred year old cobblestones, along the river, through the downtown, out to Point State Park, and back to Lawrenceville. The rugged terrain didn’t faze the happy baby however. She waited till after we had attended Easter morning mass to arrive.
Now I have an Easter baby, which adds another level of joy to Holy Week. This year though she is an Easter toddler, which means that soon I will corral her and cart her off to Good Friday services. I am fairly certain that joy will not be the only emotion I experience. Wish me luck.