This week, we’ll be posting ideas and traditions from our Multiply Goodness authors on how they remember the Savior and prepare their hearts for Easter during this holiest of weeks. We hope you’ll join us and find some inspiration. And we hope you’ll share your traditions and ideas with us as well.
Twenty years ago this Easter, I was studying in the Holy Land with a group of university students. On Easter Eve we walked into the old city to join an Easter vigil service at the Church of St. Anne’s in Jerusalem. The church was built over water basins thought to be from the Pool of Bethesda near Lion’s Gate.
Made of white stone, the basilica was largely unadorned, simple. We listened and sang hymns with other believers and when the service was over, small white candles were passed out to all in attendance. One flame, flickering in the nave, lit another, and from hand to hand, we passed light then made a reverent procession out of the chapel into the courtyard.
That evening something changed in me; my perspective widened. Having grown up a mormon in Salt Lake City, the only non-mormon church service I had attended was a bat mitzvah for my jewish neighbor. It was the first time I realized how deeply other religions love God, and know Him. I was touched by their devotion and the spirit I felt as a crowd of different people came together to worship, take light from a stranger’s candle.
Since then I have attended numerous services in various cathedrals, chapels, synagogues, and churches. I have come to love, and even long for, some of the Easter traditions practiced by other faiths.
So four years ago, in an effort to make Holy Week meaningful for my family, I started some new traditions: We cut boughs on Palm Sunday and made an Easter Tree, visited one of our temples on Tuesday, did our Easter Walk on Wednesday (an outside scavenger hunt that teaches the meaning and symbols of Easter), ate a Passover dinner on Holy Thursday, baked hot cross buns on Good Friday, and on Saturday evening, hung Easter Lanterns in our tree. Our own Easter vigil.
As I twisted wire and tied ribbons around mason jars, I thought of “the tree with the lights in it” that Annie Dillard wrote about. The backyard cedar, “charged and transfigured…every cell buzzing with flame.”Annie stands on the “grass with the lights in it,” the grass that is “wholly fire,” and watches the tree. Watches until its colors die and the cells unflame.
Her tree, blazing at every nook, is a symbol for God abreast in the world. A divine presence flaring right at her feet. And on Easter Eve, our lanterns mean just that. A sparkling, silent vigil. An offering to the unlit streets of our knowing that the Light of the World lives.
“I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”
Before the sky pitched black, I brought my children out to look at our tree with the lights in it. They were enamored by the floating lanterns. We talked about the resurrection, the stone rolled away, and our anticipation of Easter morning.
I told them how Saturday was a day of waiting and wondering. The women and apostles who loved Jesus were waiting for the sun to rise so they could tend to his body. But in reality, it was the Son who rose, flooding the earth with light, bringing hope to a darkened world.
The lanterns were still glowing outside our window, swinging in the night breeze, when I went to bed that night. And on Easter morning, the sunlight splintering over the mountain meant more to us than it had before.
Our Easter vigil has become a favorite Easter tradition. Maybe you’d like to join us? Make your own Easter lanterns?
It’s simple. Fill a mason jar with pinto beans. Place a small votive inside. Twist wire and ribbons around the top of the jar and make a wire loop for carrying or hanging. Set them on your porch, line your driveway, hang them along a fence. One small way to quietly proclaim that He lives. He is Risen.