Thursday, April 9, 2009

will heath, newspaper columnist: take 3

Once again this week, my column for the Lifestyles section never made it to our paper's Web site — thus, here's the complete version, in blog form. Feel free to tell me how terrible I am; compliments are appreciated, also.

“Always at least one more cold snap left before Easter.”

It’s something I heard a co-worker say the other day, as we were all hunkering down for the cold blast that hit early this week (by the time this column is printed, it’ll be Maundy Thursday and the cold snap will have largely passed on).

I thought about it and it’s absolutely perfect. Every year winter — what little of it actually comes to this part of the world — makes one more last stand after the official start of spring.

Indian winter, or something like it, I suppose.

It’s almost always an ambush for people like my wife, who’d already packed away her winter clothes in favor of lighter wear. Suddenly, the lake’s not so enticing any more, and the slushee machine at the local high school football game has to be unplugged to allow the coffee-maker one more turn in the concession stand.

“Always one more cold snap before Easter.”

One of the most important services to attend every year during the Easter season is Tenebrae, the service of darkness (typically it takes place in most churches on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday).

I often stop short of saying it’s “my favorite” service, and only because poring over the death of Jesus leaves one feeling empty and tremendously guilty. The Scriptures are read, the music turns dissonant, the lights go out and then there’s that cold air … chilling to the bone.

“Always one more cold snap before Easter.”

Ever watch a movie with a happy ending, and still there’s that one gut-wrenching scene right there in the middle?

That’s what Tenebrae is like for me. It’s sad and it’s painful and it makes me wish I could turn my head in anguish … and yet, somehow I always find myself right back there on Good Friday, listening to powerful Scripture about sweat drops like blood and a painful death. It’s frankly the lowest moment I experience in most years.

“Always one more cold snap before Easter.”

When Easter finally gets here, there’s truly nothing like it (and I don’t just mean the crowds inevitably filling every seat and possibly overflowing the aisles). At the church where I grew up, Easter always features a cross made from flowers, a rousing rendition of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and, in closing, the finale of Handel’s “Messiah” (better known as the “Hallelujah Chorus”).

(Note: I do recall being at an Easter service one year when the pastor — one Jim Sanders — experienced technical difficulties with his microphone. Attempting to soldier through them, he finally turned toward the balcony where the sound guys were stationed and pleaded, “C’mon, guys. I’ve been working on this sermon for two months.” You can’t beat Easter, frankly.)

And it’s the promise of Easter that keeps the hopelessness of Tenebrae from being unbearable. Particularly when the weather finally warms up for good.

Maybe that one last cold snap is good for us, after all.


-D. said...


Matt Miller said...

I printed this on the back of tonights bulletin for Good Friday. I'm hoping you and your papaet won't file suit. That's a great article.