I think I get asked about how I do Easter with my kids just about every year. When I share the rituals I do with the kids, I hear from so many parents who feel relief and their own creativity emerge at discovering a more contemplative approach to celebrating the Paschal Mystery.
Holy week has become the “high point” of the “rituals” I do with the kids throughout the year. First, a note as to why we call them “Rituals”: After my divorce, and not particularly at home or compatible in any institutional setting, I have sought to find ways to create a meaningful rhythm of practice with my kids (now 9 and 6) during the year. My youngest still gets up early enough to come down and join me during my morning practice, but I was looking for ways to orient toward their rhythm and center it more around them.
For most of the year this amounts to one night a week where we light incense (this being their primary request to “make it official”), sit on the floor while we drum and sing chants , followed by a short sit together.
On occasion we talk about bible stories after our rituals, but 90 percent of the time we talk about nature…about what’s happening in the season, or about history and what they’re wondering about and learning about. I’m never dogmatic about what we talk about, opting instead to let them lead where things go. Often times the kids will sit and just do their own spontaneous drumming time—which, while perhaps lacking the “official” incense—is just as meaningful and valuable as an expression of their own grounding “practice”.
Holy Week, however, is a full week of evening “rituals” that the kids actually geek out about and actually anticipate. I’d like to share them with you in the hopes that you can interpret them in your own creative birthing of your own unique family traditions.
Recently at the CAC we co-created an booklet of Holy Week liturgies with Richard Rohr to illustrate the key themes of his new book, The Universal Christ. You can find the liturgy booklet here, but with his blessing I’m going to share ways in which you can tailor the themes of that powerful liturgy into a family friendly way you can celebrate at home. One brief note: the official Universal Christ Liturgy booklet runs Thursday through Sunday, as we designed it to follow the traditional liturgical celebrations. With kids however, I found that splitting up the anointing and foot washing actually gave more space to focus on the symbolism of each as well as kept our “rituals” realistically brief for younger attention spans. You can also find a really powerful introduction to Mary Magdalene by Cynthia Bourgeault in her online course here, which features her incredibly moving Magdalenic liturgies which also inspired my own versions below.
I also find that its important to communicate to the kids the political and economic realities of Jesus’ time, so that they can equate non-violent resistance to the empire as the spirit of God that evolves. Its important for us to remember how most of his followers hoped for an actual political revolution and liberation instead of understanding or “catching” the vision of the revolutionary spiritual liberation of Jesus’ message. I also want for them to understand that there were very real forces of injustice and oppression in that time, just as there are today, and this path is about having the courage to live a completely different paradigm in our world. John Dominic Crossan’s scholarship on the matter may be a helpful to you in learning about these contextual pieces, but if you want a book that will knock your socks off and reframe how you understand the relationship between Jesus, contemplation and the import of those two on transforming the civic sphere, read The Holy Thursday Revolution by Beatrice Bruteau. I think I have talked about this book to everyone I know for the last two months…it has absolutely moved to my list of five most important books list, so please take my word for it and check it out. I’ll be drawing heavily from her for our Thursday night rituals this year and tomorrow i’ll share why.
Ok, with those background resources in your pocket (or amazon cart), let’s turn to today’s ritual.
WEDNESDAY ANOINTING: “A Christ Soaked World”
This is honestly one of my favorite phrases from Richard’s book, and such a helpful re-orientation to the deep meaning and biblical history of Christ-ening reality, or anointing reality as being Christ-filled. Since you probably don’t have time to quick read the above books I listed before tonight: If you want a quick background read on the important symbolism of anointing, check out the following week of Daily meditations by Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault here.
Like in the Universal Christ liturgy, I love reading the story of Jacob in Haran (Genesis 28:10–19a) with the kids to explain that to anoint is essentially to proclaim “God is in this place, and I didn’t know!”. At the Universal Christ conference where we practiced these liturgies, we anointed a rock at every table to enact the Jacob moment and proclaim Christ as present in material reality. I’m excited to be adding this step with the kids this year. We will be singing the chant that Cynthia composed, “Slowly blooms the rose within, slowly blooms the rose within” (you can hear an mp3 of us singing it at the end of the blog), while passing a rose around and breaking off its petals into the bowl of oil. Richard would likely laugh at this as it marks my enneagram four pension for drama, but the kids really get into it!
Following the passages in the Universal Christ ligury, after we anoint the rock, we will segue into the reading of Mary anointing Jesus (John 12:1–3 ), and the following passage from 2 Corinthians 1:21–22
Remember that it is God who assures us all, and you, of our sure place in Christ and has anointed us, marked us with a seal, giving us the pledge, the Spirit, that we carry in our hearts.
I tell the kids that Christ is in all material reality, in us…but that we forget, and fall asleep.
And when forget that Christ is in us, we forget that Christ is in others….and in the planet, so we maybe don’t treat ourselves and each other and creation as we should. We anoint each other to remember and proclaim courageously as Mary did that we believe we are the body of Christ, and that Christ is revealed in our hearts as we walk into the unknown or toward the suffering places in ourselves, in others and in our world.
Then we sit in a circle on the floor and anoint each other singing, “Place me as a seal upon your heart, Place me as seal upon your heart.” (mp3 embedded at end of blog, I started it a little too low in the recording but you get the idea)
To close, I bow and say “The Christ in me sees the Christ in you” which they respond to with their bow and proclamation, and then we walk around anointing plants, our house, the cat…basically anything they can get their hands on proclaiming “The Christ in me sees the Christ in you.”
This joyful activity can last as long as you want before you’re ready to switch the proclamation to, “The Christ in me would the Christ in you to go to bed.”
A rock (preferably the size of a softball or larger)
A dish or platter the rock can sit in
A bowl with oil, and a vessel to pour the oil.
Roses or a rose (if you want to be a 4 like me, go for the red!)
Props needs for tomorrow:
A large bowl or basin (for foot washing)
More roses (duh, red).
Some type of bread/wafer and grape juice or wine (for communion)
I hope this has been helpful for you and sparks you’re own ideas of how to celebrate Holy Week with your family tonight…stay tuned as I will post each day what my plan is!