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Children and the twist in the tale

March 28, 2013

The week leading up to Easter always feels to me like a time for quietness and deep reflection. Some chance of that in the school holidays! My husband and I both feel that we have been too busy this week, that ‘the world is too much with us’. And it is difficult to get to all the church services we’d like to attend. The great liturgical drama of Christ’s betrayal, trial and crucifixion is too much to expect a seven-year-old to sit through day after day.

I take refuge, therefore, in some of the sublime music written for Holy Week over the centuries: the Lamentations of Jeremiah for Maundy Thursday by Orlando de Lassus; the searing intensity of Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, which I have come to appreciate through rehearsing it for a concert; the unsettling, shifting harmonies of Gesualdo’s Responsories for the Office of Tenebrae for Holy Saturday. A trip to the doctor becomes an opportunity to immerse myself in music, in an emotional response to the Christian drama.

The children, too, want to prepare in their own way. ‘Why haven’t we done any Easter decorations yet?’ asked one of the boys yesterday. While we don’t decorate the house on the scale of Christmas, I always try to ensure that there are one or two touches such as fresh flowers for Easter Day, and some baskets of decorative eggs around the place. So I thought, and tried to explain that Holy Week begins with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Passion Sunday, but then rapidly descends into growing dread and foreboding,  the horror of his betrayal by a friend, his trial and crucifixion. I tried to imagine with my children how the disciples must have felt on Holy Saturday. They had abandoned homes, livelihoods, family to follow the Christ, and now he was dead. Their dreams of the future had crumbled to ashes. They must have been dreadfully afraid, too: who would be next for arrest and execution? No wonder we don’t much feel like decorating the house for a party. 

Except that all of a sudden, we do. Holy Week culminates not in death, but in what J.R.R. Tolkien termed a ‘eucatastrophe‘: the opposite of a catastrophe, a sudden and extraordinary snatching of victory from the jaws of despair; a twist in the tale which brings a piercing joy so intense that it makes one weep. On a mundane note, that means that there will be a lot of last minute decorating and egg-finding for us to do after Saturday night’s Easter Vigil or on the morning of Easter Day, before my little bunnies come downstairs.

The theme of eucatastrophe has been much in my mind this Holy Week. Not all of our friends have the luxury of being distracted from their reflections by noisy children bouncing around the house. One family we know have a child who is very sick indeed at the moment, in intensive care in a hospital far from home. We pray that she and her family will experience their own twist in the tale soon, their own eucatastrophe for Easter.


17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2013 12:55 am

    Praying for the sick child and their family. I hope all turns out well.

  2. March 29, 2013 11:41 am

    Very thought-provoking for someone like me who is a non-Christian but feeling increasingly ‘pursued’.
    Joining you thinking of your friends and their child.

    • March 29, 2013 11:39 pm

      Ahh, is it the Hounds of Heaven that pursue you? Just remember, they might turn out to be friendly guide dogs after all. 🙂
      Thank you for your thoughts for our friends.

  3. March 30, 2013 7:40 am

    It sounds as if you are doing very well despite the leading such busy lives. What instrument do you play, by the way? I share your hopes and prayers for the child who is ill.

    • March 30, 2013 4:30 pm

      Thank you, Jo.
      I don’t play anything these days except the occasional burst of schoolgirl-level piano; but I sing as a soprano in a city choir. I’ve loved being in choirs all through my life, wherever I have lived, since the formative experience of being picked to sing for Songs of Praise when I was about ten! Do you play or sing at all?

      • March 31, 2013 9:21 am

        That sounds wonderful! I wish I could sing. No, I don’t play an instrument any more but I did learn to play the piano a while back – sadly, I have let it slip and I left our piano behind when we moved from Wales.

  4. March 30, 2013 6:21 pm

    Thank you for this DB I’m glad music helped you to keep Holy Week when family responsibilities intervened. I remember so well what it was like when our children were small. I shall think of you this evening after the emptiness of Holy Saturday, busily decorating for Easter and knowing that you’re about to lose an hour’s sleep too.

    Your friends and their child will be in my prayers too.

    • March 31, 2013 7:59 pm

      Thank you very much. It was indeed a short night last night, but the Easter bunny duly arrived after Vigil Mass!

  5. Caroline Waterlow permalink
    March 30, 2013 11:17 pm

    Thank you Dancing Beastie, for those reflections for Easter. I have been distracted by a visit to Paris this week, so out of my usual run -up to Easter ‘routine’ . Tomorrow will be an early morning bake of simnel cake before sharing it with friends in the afternoon. There is music I like to play during Lent, too, one of them being Steiner’s Crucifixition. My grandfather used to get his choir to sing it every year. Other music is Gurdjieff/De Hartmann Hymns for Holy Week. And for me a must read is Dario Fo’s Mistero Buffo, the Passion Plays section especially. Once banned by a pope, I find reading it devastating, funny, raw and poignant – it puts the events leading up to the crucifixition in the everyday market place of our lives now. Friday was a good day to read it. I took it to Paris especially to do so. I once watched Dario Fo perform a section from it. I found myself in tears with laughter one moment, and tears of grief, at the horror of it all, the next.

    (If you are interested you might like to look in my website, and under the section Biblical Images, there are an image called The Fool on the Cross which is directly related to the Mystero Buffo)

    But tomorrow is Easter Day and therefore all good wishes to you and your family for a joyful time. And well wishes for your friend’s daughter.



    • March 31, 2013 8:02 pm

      Thanks for the well wishes, Caroline, and also for these literary and musical suggestions. The Dario Fo is not a work I know but it sounds like one well worth following up.

  6. April 4, 2013 1:30 am

    “eucatastrophe” I like that – thanks for the word
    Do hope the child is better. Will remember in our prayers
    (Old Timers in East TX always say that there will be a storm or difficult times right before Easter no matter when the date is – it’s done to remind us of the sacrifice and promise of redemption)
    Your Easter preparations sound nice – a little calm and reflection as the “world is too much with us here” too.

    • April 7, 2013 7:34 pm

      Thanks, Philosopher Mouse. Interesting, the old saying from East Texas: I like the thinking.

      Our friends’ child is still very ill, but better enough to have been moved to a hospital closer to home, which is a good thing. And she is conscious again, thank heavens, thank doctors and everyone who has prayed for her.


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