On Good Friday, which this year falls on April 6, many Christians commemorate Christ’s voluntary sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world. On Easter Sunday these same Christians celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Often these holy days embrace believers through the use of symbolism. In Catholic churches, for example, Good Friday finds the altar stripped bare, the tabernacle left open and empty, and the cross venerated, all signs of mourning at Christ‘s death. On Saturday evening, however, the Vigil Mass begins with a small bonfire outside of church, followed by the lighting of candles within the church, to symbolize the return of Christ’s light to the world. Many Protestant churches offer Easter sunrise services, again with the symbol of resurrection firmly in mind. In Winston-Salem, where I grew up, Moravian brass bands typically played their way through many neighborhoods before dawn to announce the empty tomb, the risen savior.
You don’t have to be a believer, or even a Christian, to appreciate the beauty and history of these services. For a look at a belief that has bound our culture together for nearly two thousand years, you could do worse than to find a seat in a church on Easter weekend and listen to the ancient words from an old book.
Most of us live in a world that resembles a hamster’s wheel — we run and run but don’t go anywhere. Breaking the cycle of our hectic lives sometimes means just slowing down or changing direction for a while. Picnics strike me as a way to take a quick vacation from the workaday world. No need to make a fuss about it: throw some utensils in a bag, go to the delicatessen of your local grocery store, buy whatever you need for sandwiches and beverages, and strike out for the nearest park or mountaintop. Leave the cell phone at home (or at least in the car).
Confederate Memorial Day
North Carolina marks May 10 as Confederate Memorial Day. (Jan. 19, which is Lee-Jackson Day, commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Lee.) This holiday, doubtless remembered by only a few, should give us pause to reflect on who we are as a people. The War Between the States was an enormous breaking point in American history, comparable to the Revolutionary War or to the creation of our present bureaucratic state. Whether we remember this day by reading Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg or Lee’s farewell to his army matters less than that we remember it. Think on it. Ponder its meaning for ourselves and our children.
— By Jeff Minick