When looking back upon my Easter experience in Wiki (very late Easter Blog..sorry!), I think a big part of me is afraid that I may too cliched in trying to find the right words to summarize the Holy week experience. But cliche or not, I need to give it language, because it was by far one of the most powerful Easter experiences I've ever had. I could try to contrast it with my Newman center experience of Easter..I think that would be like comparing apples and oranges in some ways...Newman was always extremely fun, energetic and quietly spiritual . My Wiki experience has been deeply spiritual (like a million times more than anything I've known before in my life), even if lacking in the fun department!! I guess at the end of the day, the greatest Easter experience of my life will balance the two...but I think Easter is always a very intense season, so it's hard to compare the various experiences of it that I've had in the past. They're all wonderful in the end, that's all I need to remember I suppose! Christ is Risen..how can that not be wonderful!!!
I could say that my Wiki Holy week experience really began last Monday with my Grade 3 class. I decided I was going to reenact the last supper with the kids and that I would afterwards, show them various pictures of the Stations. Our reenactment of the last supper was quite wonderful. I chose one kid to be Jesus, and the others to be disciples.I basically narrated the story, as the kids acted it out for the whole class! I brought bread crumbs and fruit juice, and we passed both around- we were all seated in a circle-. According to Erik who was visiting, and filming a little of the class, the teacher Mr Howard -who also happens to be the husband of my good friend here in Wiki- was fascinated by the whole experience (either that, or he was weirded out by it..I couldn't tell!!). It wasn't both classes where this worked perfectly well (all it takes is one hyper active kid to ruin the whole thing...), but I overall was quite happy with the experience. It gave the kids a more tangible experience of the Eucharist that they will be receiving in a few weeks time, but it was an enriching experience for me as well!!
The focus of this blog is really what happened Easter Sunday morning, but I could give a brief outline of the rest of the week as well I suppose: Thursday, two major events: I taught my Grade 8s about the Stations of the Cross...but what was cool, is that, my best friend Claire gave me a version of the Stations that reflected the crisis in Japan. I thought this would have a huge impact on my class...but in the end, they were more interested -or at least..more attentive- when I was talking about the more traditional stations...though there were some gasps in the class at some of the pictures for Japan, and they seemed impressed with how it all tied in very neatly - for example, Jesus' first fall was the earthquake, the 2nd fall the Tsunami, the3rd the explosion at the plant-. It was a very poignant presentation, but maybe it was too much for me to expect these kids to have their concentration focused on this subject for longer than 10 minutes!
Of course, Thursday was also Holy Thursday, and I guess I've earned Doug's trust enough that I was given my share of work to do on this day, and for the whole of Holy week. This was interesting for me: I mean, I need to be honest and say that one of the reasons why I am comfortable with my Brother's vocation, is that I'm not THAT interested in participating directly in the liturgy. Maybe it's all my traditionalists friends who have turned me off of Catholic liturgy with their criticism of any Parrish that thinks outside the box and does things differently to accommodate young people or different cultures or even to allow itself to grow in a different direction as a community . For example,I'm sure most traditionalists would have a fit at how things are done in Wiki...but if they did, I'd only say " Ok...you find creative ways of bringing native people into the Church! Because you're old Latin Church sure as hell won't cut it here! At least by mixing native and Catholic traditions, we honor both cultures and allow people to maintain a connection to their traditions while being in a Catholic Church."-. My general feeling towards our liturgy and being involved in it is that I know it's beautiful and can be inspiring, and I am honored to take part in any liturgy at all...but I don't want to be my life's work.
All of that to say: I prefer being in the congregation than behind the scenes helping make Services happen. I was called by God to do Social Justice, not to make sure that the Good Friday service runs properly.
That being said: My Holy week experience would not have been the same if I had not been involved in it's execution. From doing readings and putting the water in bowls for the washing of hands -Anishinabe people don't do washing of feet!!- on Holy Thursday, to getting some of my grade 8's involved with the Service on Good Friday, to singing some of the entrance antiphons during the week, my role was fulfilling, and it gave me a whole new taste of what Easter truly is.. this idea of coming out of Darkness to enter Jesus' light of love and to let that light radiate in everything we do...that was a huge theme for me during this period. They also had a native theater troupe put on the Passion play, which brought tears to my eyes, even to hearing the boy who volunteered from my class say "I think I'm going to start coming to Church more often" after being so moved by the whole service...all of this was incredibly rewarding.However, in the end, 2 events stood out, and I do hope Santiago will be able to add his comments about both, as I'm sure my recollection of both events will be a little incomplete already!
Wake for Jesus: As the Good Friday service ended, a new experience of Easter began for me. This, is the first place I've ever been to where they have a Wake for Jesus. This community, in case I need to remind you, is very accustomed to wakes. They have them often, and they last a long time...and there's very little socializing during them..it's all music and praying. So, what we did for this particular 'wake' is that we set up the crucifix at the altar, put props around it -crown of thorn, nails with blood on them- put about 60 candles of different colour around all of this, some prayerful readings next to the crucifix,. and left some coffee in the back for anyone who would come pray with Jesus during the next 24 hours. There may have been a game on that night -which I think the flyers lost..but they got past that first round in the end. Not so confident about this second round!- so I didn't come till much later, but I stayed a good 3 hours, and it was one of the richest, most invigorating prayers I've ever had. I spent time with the Bible, then when there was no one else in the Church, I'd go kneel at the altar, and just talk with Jesus, and when someone came in, I'd yield my place and go back to the Bible. Very ritualistic, but so enriching at the same time. I look forward to doing another such wake for Jesus in future years!!
On Sunday Morning, we had the Easter sunrise Vigil: I've had such vigils in the past..and they're very special..but in no way was I expecting the powerful experience that I would witness that Sunday morning. We must have stood outside in the chilly April morning for a good hour and a half...but I never once thought about the time, how cold I was, or even the very important game 6 the flyers were playing that night. Rosalla -one of the DOS- lead the service, and I was entranced. I've witnessed in Guelph many people try to connect our Catholic journey to Creation by looking at nature more spiritually...but honestly, the people in Guelph have so much to learn from the Anishinabe in that department. I don't remember any of the words of the text...but I just remember that through it..I was given a very immediate, direct and personal role to play with all of creation. The wind, the fire, the water, the air...the relevance that all the elements have in my faith, the relationship that I have to them on a daily basis, was now being given a voice through this service. I was transfixed by the whole experience...almost as if I was discovering creation for the first time. Perhaps, that also is what Easter is about in the end: Renewal. A new found desire to go...not to water, as the hymn says, but to Fire...it may seem dangerous to go the fire, but that fire becomes a source of light, warmth and perhaps hope that I can not abandon. All of this to say..what a beautiful Easter season!! Thank you Wiki. Thank you great Manitou!