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Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday in Your Family - Guest Post

Kate Allen, who blogs at Life, Love, Liturgy and at CornDog Mama, has agreed to talk about Good Friday and its implications to all, religious and not. She's amazing, and if you have any theological qualms or questions, I would point you to her blogs. A very intelligent lady.

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In the past couple of weeks I've seen moms post about a holiday dilemma: what do I do with my kids on Easter if I'm not religious?  Do I impose my non-religiosity on them?  Or do I fake religiosity and offer them religious concepts I don't believe in so they can experience religiosity for themselves?

I'm a religious mom, but I face a similar problem.  What do I do with my almost two-and-a-half-year-old today, Good Friday, which is one of the most important days of the Christian year?  It's a day that means a great deal to me at age thirty, but what can a two-year-old get out of a Good Friday service aside from the desire to squirm and run and fuss when she's shushed?  Good Friday involves, among other things, lots of kneeling, lots of silence, and lots and lots of words in between the silences.  Oh, and a procession to the cross so that each person can make her or his veneration of it.  Apart from the procession to the cross, there's positively nothing for a two-year-old to do, much less understand.  

So what am I supposed to teach my child about the brutal death of a Jewish man who lived 2,000 years ago--and how?  How am I supposed to explain the concept of sacrifice?  How do I show her that Good Friday is something more than kissing a piece of wood without resorting to a cerebral (and, for her, unintelligible) explanation, on the one hand, or leaving her out altogether, on the other?

Exposing a toddler to religiosity in helpful ways is a difficult business, even for this theologian-by-trade.   The trick I've discovered, thanks to Maria Montessori (the famed Italian educator who was herself Catholic and wrote a great deal about religiosity in small children), is to start where my child is, rather than requiring her to start where I am.  With that in mind, I've come up with a two-fold solution for my toddler.

My first step was to ask myself, "What does Anastasia (my toddler daughter) love?"  Off the top of my head, she loves to sing, she loves to dance, she loves to move, she loves learning new words, she loves a good animated movie or show, she loves to learn new rituals, she loves to eat, and she loves to learn new ways to relate to Mom and Dad. 

So far, so good.  But what do I do with that?

A good friend of mine who has two kiddos of her own asked me if I would want to join her at her church for a special Good Friday service this evening.  Often Good Friday services are held at noon, but this service is to be a Taizé service of light, shadow, and song, with a veneration of the cross as well.  Taizé religious services, named after the French town in which they sprung up, involve singing brief phrases from Christian scripture in memorable melodies and harmonies.  Because the music is simple and repeated over and over, a person of any age can pick it up.  It's a bit like singing Annie's famous "Tomorrow, tomorrow!" (which, by the way, Anastasia loves to do).  Anastasia loves the flicker of candles, and Taizé services are usually lit solely by candlelight--another win.  The procession to the cross will come in the midst of singing and light.  I have the feeling that Anastasia will, with her whole two-year-old self, totally dig this service, not because she'll "get" what it's about, but because the service will honor her two-year-old-self just as she is.

That still leaves the question of how to help her understand the point of it all.  She won't "get" sacrifice from this service.  But sacrifice isn't foreign to her.  To help her, I'm going to turn to one of her other favorite things: Disney and Pixar's latest great film, Brave.  (Note: this is the point at which you shouldn't read on if you want to avoid spoilers.)

Before anything else, let me say that Brave is an outstanding achievement--not just in terms of animation, but in terms of story.  Finally, we have a Disney princess who can stand her own ground--Merida's got talents, interests, creativity, and a mind of her own.  If you've seen Brave, you know that Merida's strengths lead her to butt heads with her mother, the queen, more often than not.  When her mum's plans for her are about to come to fruition, Merida seeks a witch's assistance in changing her mother in order to change her planned fate to something more palatable.  To Merida's dismay, her mum gets turned into a raw-fish-eating, non-talking bear, and Merida has to figure out how to undo the witch's spell before it becomes permanent.

So what's Brave got to do with Good Friday?  Turn to the very last scene, when Merida's well-intentioned dad and all the men of the neighboring clans are trying to kill the bear that is Merida's mum.  They've got the queen-bear bound up and ready to destroy when  Mor'Du, the monstrous bear who has the strength of ten men, shows up.  The men can't hold Mor'Du back, and Mor'Du's attention turns to Merida.  Mor'Du has Merida pinned to the ground and is about to devour her when Merida's bear-mum rises up, defeating the strength of the twenty men who are holding her back with ropes, and roars to Merida's rescue.  This queen, who didn't think it was lady-like or fitting for a princess to have weapons of her own, fights Mor'Du tooth and claw, coming back again and again when Mor'Du has strikes her aside to get at Merida.  In the end, the queen sacrifices her queenly self-expectations to embrace her more important identity--that of mother-bear--to save her daughter's life.

That, friends, is sacrifice my toddler "gets."  Merida's mum sacrifices her queenly inhibitions and propriety to become a roaring bear so that her daughter may live--in a strikingly similar way, according to Christian tradition, Jesus sacrifices his kingly right to honor and esteem and dies the death of a criminal so that others may live.  What I love so much about this parallel is that it means my daughter doesn't have to have background in ancient Jewish customs or social rules or anyone's theology in order to "get" what's happening on Good Friday.  She only has to have a mom whose love for her, in the end, supersedes everything else.  And she does.

 
M. Kate Allen ~ www.lifeloveliturgy.com 






 

3 comments:

  1. I love Taize. Did I ever tell you I went to one of their new year meet-ups? It was in Paris in 1994. Amazing. 100 000 people, and I guess they must have had us in multistorey carparks, now that I think about it. We would just sit there singing and chanting. Beautiful. Very meditative and peaceful.

    And I love Brave, too :)

    This was a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing it!

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    1. I didn't know that you were into Taize, my friend! But yes, meditative and peaceful sounds like the Taize experience for me, too. :) It's one of the few kinds of prayer a person can enter into without feeling the weight of someone's judgment hanging over them, I find. <3

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