L in the Southeast

L in the Southeast
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
November 04
Retired PR Director
I am a retired Public Relations professional who now writes purely for fun and catharsis. I covered most of my memoir-type pieces in the first three years here. Lately I have dabbled in politics, current affairs, pop culture and movie reviews. Life is my muse.


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APRIL 6, 2012 12:33PM

A Former Catholic's Easter Thoughts

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Jesus’s resurrection is the central point of the Christian faith, and for those who hold that faith, it is the most important moment in human history. “Whether Jesus merely was or whether he also is, depends on the resurrection” Pope Benedict XVI writes in Jesus of Nazareth II.

The Easters of my childhood in the Catholic Church were all about joy.  We accepted on faith that Jesus of Nazareth was born, he lived, he was murdered and he arose from the dead three days later.  It wasn’t until around age ten that my relentless questioning about all things mysterious took over and I began to doubt that literal account of The Resurrection.

My favorite flower to this day is the velvety calla lily with its yard long stalk and ivory curves that elicit a forbidden sensuality for a child once searching for piety.  It was the flower the girls of confirmation age carried down the center aisle during the Holy Thursday procession.  Their white dresses punctuated the assumed purity of their spirits.

My memories are of cloying incense that made me queasy as I tried hard to make my child’s body hold still during the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.  The purple vestments of mourning the priests wore were reflected in the purple shroud draped around the giant crucifix above the altar.

I can still sing all the words to the rousing hymns reserved for Easter morning masses: 

Christ has risen from the dead

Alleluia, Alleluia

Risen as He truly said

Alleluia, Alleluia

It is actually one of my many earworms, those songs you discover yourself humming or whistling at the most inappropriate times, like the Fourth of July or Tuesday. 

Even more thrilling than the elaborate Easter basket I had discovered behind the sofa or in the hall closet that morning and the orgy of candy consumption allowed on that day and Halloween only, was the much anticipated “Easter outfit.”  Everything on my body that Sunday at mass was brand spanking new.  My hair had been tortured into Shirley Temple curls the day before so that the flower laden bonnet on my head was set off just so.

I still love new clothes, new shoes and new hair dos.  And calla lilies.

All the rest has been packed away among the traditions I used to believe in.  I believe there was a man on Earth 2012 years or so ago who was probably called Jesus, and I believe he was a very special man.  I believe he was persecuted, not necessarily for what he said and did, but for what the things he said and did made the people who listened say about him – that he was the messiah.  I believe he was crucified, which was the executioner’s method of choice at the time, and I believe he died on that cross.

I don’t think it matters whether Jesus’s dead and shrouded body left that tomb through normal means like stealing or by a miracle granted by God.  I know it matters very much to those whose entire faith is based solely on that one event.  But to me, what matters is the teachings of the man who was Jesus of Nazareth like these from his Sermon on the Mount: 

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.

If every person who claims to be Christian would remind himself or herself of these eight simple recipes for a good life; if each would concentrate on making himself or herself the best person possible and not try to control the thoughts and behavior of others; if justice could come to mean what is fair and just for ALL people; then,for the first time since his violent death on that cross, the spirit that was once Jesus of Nazareth could finally have a Happy Easter.  Let’s start now.

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I am always saddened when I hear people who claim to be Christian talk about hate and supporting the use of guns for everyday living.
I am no longer Catholic but I still love the parts of my former religion that remind us to love and care for others.
Beautiful Easter Post
rated with love
RP: I many ways, it was a good foundation for life. I'm glad I had it.
"Eli Eli lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46, Mark15:34, & Psalm22:1
A thousand years from King David to Jesus "King of the Jews" so much sacrifice, doubt, death and redemption...
"Father forgive them; for they know not what they do. " Luke 23:34

All any of can ever do is to abide by the invocation of the law... "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn." - Hillel the Elder and Rabbi Akiva.

Passover and Good Friday days of remembrance in convergence.
I hope you have a very, very hoppy Easter, L. As for me and my fellow coneys, we shall continue hunting good-willed eggs. ;) Wish I were able to SEE God but for the life of me I don't know what gave me the idea that the Creator would remotely resemble an assembled image of itself. Talk about vanity! ;)
Blessed are the peacekeepers. :)
jmac: It is right and fitting. Peace to you, my friend.

Belinda: Would you believe I had to look up "coney?!" I had no idea it was a rabbit. Anyway, I know I found a good egg when you showed up. Happy Easter.
I loved Easter when I was a Catholic kid. I loved the Stations of the Cross, especially on Friday when we'd be in church from early afternoon until 6:00, when the altars were stripped and stark, bells banished & replaced with blocks of wood sharply clapped together, the choir silenced. I loved Holy Saturday at midnight when the church was darkened and suddenly I could see candles coming to light, one by one until all the lights came up and bright candles glowed in a mass on the altar, three priests solemnly marched down the center aisle waving sensors of incense, flanked by altar boys bearing more candles. Without all that Easter didn't and doesn't matter to me except as the one time of the year when I overindulge in jellybeans.

That pope's statement: “Whether Jesus merely was or whether he also is says exactly why the church doesn't matter. I just can't see Jesus caring about that sort of thing and if he matters at all he matters equally either way.
We are blessed to have you in our OS fold.
nerd cred: I didn't remember that we shared a similar upbringing. I remember much of the ritual of the Catholic Church with fondness. It took me to a place of peace.

Sarah: Thank you so much! I feel the same about you.
One of my most lasting Easter memories is the from the time I attended a Nazarene church service with a schoolmate whose dad was the pastor. Gladiola bulbs were passed out to everyone as a symbol of the resurrection. I took mine home, planted it and appreciated the symbolism when the plant sprouted and grew into a beautiful flower.
There are so many good lessons that we seem to muddle up, or maybe just pick and choose. It's a disconnect that I can't understand. I miss the innocence of viewing it through a child's eyes.
I'm obviously not going to argue with any of this. It is exactly why I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jesus. In so many respects, he got Judaism right.
Like you, I am a lapsed/former Catholic, Lezlie. I share many of your beliefs. The beatitudes say it all. Thank you for this lovely Easter post. R.
I have never been able to get why his life isn't what matters to those who believe...and I am one who believes. If he weren't who he was during his life, then the rest wouldn't have happened either. That's how I see it and that's the foundation of my belief:
His life.
Thanks for posting this Beatitudes.
Would that we humans all paid attention to these words, whether Christian, Atheist, Humanist, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Evangelist.
We'd be much better off.
Happy Easter, L !!
Chicken Maan: I'd not heard of that custom. Nice!

jlsathre: Childhood had many magical aspects that I miss, too.

Kosh: So true! He was a Jew, after all, and based on what you've taught me about Judaism, he was a darned good one.

Erica K: Thank you. Have a Happy Easter.
Love what you say about "forbidden sensuality' of the lily. As you know I was raised Catholic too Lezlie but never fit in the church, so I don't say I'm an ex-Catholic ... never really felt I was one. However, I've certainly carried some of the trappings. I do believe in a Christ consciousness that is separate from what organized religion offers us most of the time. I also follow Buddha's teachings ... many teachers along the path.
I love the Beatitudes. Always have, always will. Love your last paragraph.
Except for weddings and funerals, I haven't been in a Catholic church since I was a teenager. I have never regretted my fleeing of the Church. I always quote the line from (I believe) Max Von Sydow in "Hannah and Her Sisters": "If Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up."
I once sat through eight weeks of sermons one summer when the preacher took each of these Beatitudes and broke them into individual lessons, referencing other biblical material, the original languaging, and other information about the times in which Jesus was reported to have said these words, all of which helped make the each of these distilled lines more meaningful. It was inspirational enough to catch my attention. It was more of a lesson than a sermon. Too little of that these days, but then I am a student at heart - not a zealot. Happy Easter holiday L. Thanks for these thoughts.
Interesting to read of a background that I was unfamiliar with Lezlie. And as a non-believer I can recognize that there are a number of moral truths in Christianity and other religions that if sincerely practiced, would make the world a much better place.
JT: All the major religions of the world hold to the same or similar tenets. All we’d have to do is practice our religion of choice. That’s all it would take.

Scarlett: Organized religions are more interested in controlling people than leading them through a good life.

Mime: Thanks, Sharon.

Cranky: It would be incessant projectile vomiting, for sure.
Gabby: That sounds like a fascinating stretch of study. I would have enjoyed something like that.

Abra: See my reply to Just Thinking. We are in agreement.
Except for that business in the Temple with the moneychangers, Jesus was a man of peace. (talk about your righteous indignation.) Agree that the world would be a better place if people of all religions (whether or not they accept His diety) accepted the principles of peace and love and caring for the poor. Peace.
I'm a true heathen, L. You inspire me with your wisdom and grace. Ladies always do that for me. :)
What a beautiful post! I love what you took from your childhood memories of Easter. Thank you for sharing them, and this very powerful reminder of what should really be at the heart of Christianity.
Your post holds a lovely message for us all. Have a wonderful Easter.
Bea: Peace to you and your family, too. Happy Easter.

Belinda: :D

Alysa: Thank you!

Witchywmn: Same to you!
From a former Methodist: Amen. If I - an atheist -- understand that compassion (compassion til it hurts; compassion toward those who don't deserve compassion) is the core principle of Christianity , I don't get why so many of those still practicing are concerned with labeling, judging and who DESERVES compassion. My only other takeaway from a religious childhood was a love of well-tailored clothing and the desire for occasions to wear them. I also miss gloves.
Lezlie, I couldn't agree more!
I was raised Methodist, too. When I left home I went non-denominational, then I decided I didn't like the superficiality of church so I don't go any more. I wish people would live the tenents they claim to believe.

You have some lovely Easter memories. Thanks for sharing.
Lezlie...the joy you experienced at this time of year as a child transcends time and religion. It evokes happiness in others and has obviously helped to produce a happy, healthy, secure adult - which you clearly are! While we may not share the same beliefs - it has no bearing on my ability to respect your healthy faith - and enjoy reading your optimistic words! Write on, L!
In Buddhism there is a similar list, the eight-fold path. If every person agreed to choose just one item from their faith's list, and promise to live by it– e.g. don't kill, speak with kindness and skill–imagine what the world might be like. Many items on the lists are so very hard, but to me, the don't kill one is easy. Why can't we all agree to do that?!
Wow! What a powerful post! Those goosebumps are dancing all over! At first I didn't want to read this post because I thought it was going to be another put down of the Church. Instead, it was a fairly accurate description of what goes on in the Catholic Church. Not only that, it was written with respect and a powerful punch at the end. I agree with you that if we only followed His words (whether you believe He is God or not) this world would indeed be a better place to live. We certainly have a long way to grow....
Simply beautiful. I am in complete agreement with your thoughts, even though I am not a former Catholic. The Sermon on the Mount speaks to everyone. Happy Easter, Lezlie. ~r
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