PRE-NOTE: I recommend the on-line program Monday March 25.  Details, scroll down here.

This morning (Saturday March 23) at 6 a.m. I was arriving at my coffee shop, and directly ahead of me was the most striking view of a full moon I have ever seen.  It was about tree top level, soon to set.  The atmospheric conditions were apparently perfect.  (Technically, the full moon is actually Monday morning, March 25, but no difference.  This mornings was spectacular, even given the hand-held snapshot. )

Woodbury MN 6 a.m. CDT March 23, 2024 Dick Bernard

Easter is next Sunday, March 31.  Each year, Easter  moves around on the calendar.  By definition, it is set as the Sunday after the first full moon of the Vernal Equinox (Spring).  I asked my computer about the dates of Easter: “The earliest possible date for Easter is March 22 and the latest possible date is April 25. Easter can never come as early as March 21, though. That’s because, by ecclesiastical rules, the vernal equinox is fixed on March 21“.  (The earliest vernal equinox is March 19).

Out at the farm in North Dakota, in the early 1900s, my grandparents received and kept pictorial cards received from the home folks in Wisconsin.  The family was Catholic.  About half of the well-over 200 cards received and kept were Christmas themed; about one-fourth Easter themed.  40% of the Easter cards had a religious orientation.  (Only about 10% of the Christmas cards had religious orientation.)

Easter was a time of rebirth everywhere: Spring, Baby Chicks, snow melt, Easter bunnies, re-greening of the earth.

Of course, everyone reading this can fill in the abundant blanks about how Easter has played out in their own lives over the years.  (Often Passover comes at about the same time as Easter.  This year Passover is April 22-30.   Ramadan this year is March 11 – April 9.  The three intersect about once every 33 years, the last was in 2023.

In my particular faith, Easter weeks starts with Palm Sunday, tomorrow; thence Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  Here is the schedule at my church.  Always and still central is the Passion, which this year can be read here (scroll down to the gospel).  This will be read on Palm Sunday.   Herein comes the reference to the Jews, which has created so much tragedy for the Jews over history.  As a lifelong Catholic, I’ve witnessed the assorted ways this narrative has been handled by my church – the words are the same, but how they are presented have differed.  (Normally, we’d be at Church tomorrow.  A winter storm is predicted here overnight.  We’ll see.)

At my church, Basilica of St. Mary’s in Minneapolis, for over 20 years, there has annually been an evening service (7 p.m.) on the Friday before Easter called Tenebrae (see schedule in preceding paragraph).  I have not attended this every year, but traditionally, and I believe this year as well, it is customary for a Rabbi from nearby Temple Israel to speak.  This year, Tenebrae, March 29, 7 p.m., will be live-streamed, as will most of the other rituals during the week.  To access, go to the Basilica website at the time/day of the event.  The reading of the Passion will be live-streamed as part of the 9:30 Mass on March 24.

early 1900s postal greeting to the ND farm

COMMENTS (more at the end):

from Joyce: From a Jewish perspective, Easter is quite fraught; it was, historically, an extremely dangerous time because of the blood libel, which resulted in mass murders. I love Fiddler on the Roof, but it depicted a pogrom as nothing more sinister than property destruction. Pogroms were deadly; even infants were killed. It was because of pogroms that my grandparents came to the US at the end of the 19th century.

Another Jewish holiday starts after sunset tonight, Purim. Most of our holidays can be explained as: they tried to kill us, we survived, so let’s eat. Purim is a bit different; they tried to kill us, we survived, so let’s party. If the weather allows I’m going to the children’s Purim service at _____ with my grandchildren tomorrow; there should be a lot of laughter. The children will all be in costume; traditionally, children wear costumes and go from door to door giving out sweets.

Response to Joyce from Dick: I think your growing up background was in a major U.S. city.  Mine was tiny (literally) midwest towns – I once went to a high school with two seniors.  These towns were basically homogeneous – usually basically Catholic or Lutheran dominated, and rarely very mixed.  Jews only appeared in the Passion story, and if there were speaking parts for the reading, Jesus was always the Priest, the “Father”.  Palestinians were not even an abstract idea….  I have thought quite a bit about this over the years.  The only message we got about Jews was that they killed Jesus, and this was basically at this important season, and it wasn’t elaborated on to my recollection, anyway.  I don’t remember any reference of any kind to Father Coughlin, the anti-semite radio Priest who was very powerful in the 1930s and into the 1940s.  I guess the bothersome part of this particularly in this tribal age is the intensification of labeling of the ‘other’, whoever that might happen to be.  We do it all the time – Super Bowl, Final Four, Muslims, and on and on and on.  That’s one reason why I want to listen in on the talk on Monday (above) and why I want to see how or even if the issue is addressed by the Rabbi at the Basilica on Friday.

Thank you for your willingness to be in dialogue.

from Flo: Easter certainly has mixed meanings for many people. I’m now attending Sunday worship alone at RUMC, but also with friends who pick me up at home or bring me home after the service. Carter is also my driver, occasionally. During this Easter I decided to read the Bible beginning from the first page. It’s definitely not my favorite reading, but it certainly makes it clear that Adam and Eve started something that has kept “The Faithful” floundering! I forgot to bring my Bible with me to our Thursday-Saturday stay at the cabin, so now I have a lot of make-up reading ahead of me. Wonder how long I’ll stick with the effort…

from Florence: thanks, wonderful picture.

5 replies
  1. Larry Gauper
    Larry Gauper says:

    As a child, my grandmother – who raised me – always outfitted me in brand-new clothes prior to each Easter. Sometimes it was an actual suit and sometimes a new sport coat. I was a young lad, not quite middle school age. But despite working for minimum wage as a short-order cook at Woody’s Cafe and trying to earn enough “quarters” to obtain a meager Social Security check, she found enough money to buy me new dress clothes for Easter Sunday. When one gets on in years, a vivid appreciation for those who raised us enters our thoughts and hearts. Perhaps it was your parents or, as in my case, my maternal grandmother. God bless her memory.

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      Many thanks. You know my personal experience from many years ago. When I became a single parent of an infant, survival quickly became a ‘team sport’. People who didn’t know me in places we had never lived ‘stepped up to the plate’ and made it possible to slog through the swamp. They were people like Eleanor and Art, Marion and Louis, Bitsy, Sue and Dave, Florence and Carter, and the colleague workers and managers at the Lincoln Deli, and person after person I didn’t even know were unseen helpers. We might think we’re doing it on our own. Not so, ever.

  2. Brian Gately
    Brian Gately says:

    We live here in Crown Heights/Bed Stuy Brooklyn. There are a lot of conservative Jewish people we have as neighbors. At a certain time of year one of them will come up and politely ask me if I am Jewish. I used to just say “no” (I’m Catholic) but now I say “No, but my God is.” They laugh after when they get my joke.

    This is a great country. On our money it says “E pluribus unum”. From many, one. So true! On my street there is a synagogue, two churches and a mosque. We all get along!

  3. Jeff Pricco
    Jeff Pricco says:

    Dick, I remember one more thing during I think Good Friday services wasnt there a litany of saints and petitions? And one of those was to pray for the “conversion of the Jews”? Maybe it was another holy day, and maybe I misremember, but I suppose this one ain’t in the prayer books of HMC anymore?

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      I am watching the Palm Sunday service on-line, and the reading of the Passion has just concluded. In response to your query, I seem to recall the “conversion of the Jews” prayer, but I can’t be specific. The ritual changed through the years. We simply participated.
      I noted specifically today, in the reading of the Passion, that none of the three narrators was designated to speak the words of Jesus; the Pastor was not one of the narrators; and the woman who was narrator was in the Pulpit. Each of these I consider to be significant and intentional and positive changes. There was no sermon, but that is the norm, as the reading takes a half hour (Mk 14:1 – 15:47). At the petitions point, prayers were offered for the victims of the terrorist attack in Moscow, but only that. Of course, we don’t participate in decision making about such things, but I am certain there was decision making at some level about what I described. When I was younger, none of what I just said would have been noteworthy to me. Now I notice.


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