Celebrating my favourite time of year

Below the Surface 

By Brianna Thomas

AS A child, I was bitterly competitive. I wanted to win everything, and I turned the world into a contest. I even made a habit of telling friends who my favourites were and why (I’ve changed, trust me).

In primary school, I named Christmas my favourite over Easter.

Presents trumped chocolate and six weeks off school ran rings around a long weekend. Christmas was widely accepted, including its religious heritage, but Easter felt bolder and more awkward for my 10-year-old self. I couldn’t say to my friends who went luxury camping over Easter that I went to two Masses, a veneration and a passion play. Everyone loved Christmas, but Easter didn’t feel like it had much to offer.

For whatever reason (maturity perhaps, or Jesus), Easter has now become my favourite event in the Church year.

We are all crazily busy and even with Lent, we can hit Holy Thursday like ‘Oh, I wasn’t ready!’ I find myself at Holy Thursday Mass each year unprepared and catching my breath from the day, but met with a grace of invitation. Jesus welcomes us into that Last Supper, wanting us there with him, however we have come. It ends with a darkness that draws us into the sorrow Jesus must have felt in the garden – alone, with no one near.

The candle-lit Saturday Vigil Mass is a highlight of the Easter Triduum for many Catholics. PHOTO: ONLINE

The candle-lit Saturday Vigil Mass is a highlight of the Easter Triduum for many Catholics. PHOTO: ONLINE

For some businesses, Good Friday is the only day of the year they close. It demands a respect, even if not fully understood. I find I wake up with a quiet sadness or reverence hanging in the air, that accompanies me throughout the day and into the afternoon liturgy.

Long readings normally make me fidget, but on Good Friday, the veneration reading of Jesus’ experience on the cross is totally captivating. In that moment, we relive flashes of the crucifixion scene 2,000 years ago.

We so often hear that ‘Jesus died for us’, and that we’re at risk of becoming numb to the concept. I get complacent and can give more of a response to someone buying me coffee than to the knowledge that Jesus gave his life to save me from darkness. On Good Friday though, something wakes up inside me and I see the story differently. I find myself more alert and attentive to the nails through his hands. He didn’t have to do it; he let it happen, for us. Let’s not be numb to that.

My favourite part of all (I still have favourites) is when everyone processes into the church on Saturday night, candlelight rippling through the crowd, singing alleluias. That joyful word we’ve essentially fasted from during Lent seems to break through all the grief and darkness from the last few days. Here the hope is tangible and the impact of Easter becomes obvious – Jesus broke death into pieces and made a way for us to be free.

I have beautiful memories of Easter liturgies, retreats and family traditions over the years, but one story will never leave me. My creative mum designed an enormous treasure hunt each year with cryptic clues that pointed us around the block, each station holding chocolate and the next clue. My six siblings and I worked together to fly through and find the last prize, which was always the biggest.

One year we were led to the kitchen table only to find it bare. Dropping to our knees, we eventually found our bunnies resting above our heads on the beams under the table. Next to the bunnies though, we discovered piles of shriveled mush that busted some ungrateful vegetable-hater for stashing food under the table during meals. The mush had been there some time and no longer resembled the peas-and-carrot formation it once had.

This kept us laughing for years to come, and reminds me that although Easter can feel quite solemn, the whole point is Sunday morning, with the good news of the empty grave. Rather than living our lives from the seriousness and heaviness of Good Friday, we have to be living from the joy and hope of Easter Sunday.