Easter is upon us and for many Christians it is the holiest day on the liturgical calendar. Better than Christmas! But for the sect I belong to, the one that spends about 75 minutes of church time celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus versus weeks of shopping for goodies to fill a deceivingly large basket, Easter is mostly an exercise in contradictions.
The candy, for instance. During the other 51 un-holy weeks of the year, I spend a ludicrous amount of time refusing my son’s requests for sugar, hoping that I will eventually nag him out of his sweet tooth and he will resign himself to a carrot instead. It is a daily struggle that I commit to because I think I’m saving him a lifetime of dental work and a stint at fat camp when he’s 14. Of course there are exceptions to this rule and this upcoming Sunday is the grand daddy of immunities when JP will consume an entire dairy-free, nut-free chocolate bunny before the paperboy delivers my beloved Sunday Times.
This does not freak me out. After all, what fun would Easter morning be if one were accustomed to eating jellybeans and sugary marshmallow treats all the livelong day? It is the exception, the thrill of consuming a hallowed bunny-shaped chocolate bar in place of the most boring meal of the day that turns the otherwise uneventful holiday into a celebration. It’s the minors’ equivalent to wine before noon. But it does make for some dodgy reasoning when long after Easter your kid finds you eating Peeps with your morning coffee.
Then there is Mass. Each year as Lent approaches (a 40-day season before Easter where some Christians reflect on their relationship with Jesus Christ by giving up carbohydrates) I vow to get my family to church every Sunday so as not to be one of the holiday-only Catholics most priests revile. Indeed I’ve been to countless Christmas services where a priest had made a point of singling out us bi-annual attendees with a disapproving lecture in place of the homily. Despite our best efforts to fit in among the regulars we are not hard to find in the crowd. We’re the ones whose children are talking in their outside voices, climbing pews and asking if they can go swimming in the baptismal fountain.
So every Ash Wednesday (For Christians, the official start of Lent. For laymen, the day after Mardis Gras) JP and I go to services intent on repeating these efforts every Sunday. It doesn’t seem like a big sacrifice at the time and indeed for the first few Sundays I’ll lecture him on how one hour a week is quite literally the least amount of time we can devote to our spiritual selves. I’ll follow up with a line about how Jesus loved us so much that he died for our sins. (Side note: Because Easter is only months after Jesus’ official December birthday, this year JP exclaimed, “Wait! The baby Jesus is dead??!!”) Anyway, we’ll usually attend Mass for the first few weeks but inevitably something comes up to sidetrack my best-laid plans. Rain maybe. Or, like earlier this month, a pathetic attempt on my part to place our religious practices in the hands of a 4 year old. “What do you say we head over to Mass?” I half-heartedly said to JP minutes before the church bells tolled while I sat in my pajamas. To which he replied, “I don’t want to go to Mass. Mass is boooooooring!” I looked over at my husband, rolled my eyes and gave him a look as if to say, “See, I try. But this kid is impossible.”
I felt bad for a little while, disappointed with how little it took to undo my resolve. But then I noticed a full pot of piping hot coffee in the kitchen, an unread pile of that day’s paper on the table in front of me and a Scooby-Doo marathon on television to which my sleepy-eyed son was unconditionally married. It was my perfect Sunday and I was with my family, the two guys I love more than anything in the world. There’s something divine about that, right? Right??
Still I’m committed to attending Mass this Easter Sunday, even if I will have to undergo the humiliation of a guilt-inducing homily. Like any good Catholic I will listen in silence, nod at the appropriate times and do my best to keep JP from running on the altar by bribing him with loads of sugary Easter candy.
Ellen Bailey is a contributor to mamasagainstdrama.com, a cafeteria-style Catholic and a mother of a cavity-free 4 year old.