Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Eggs

Not too long ago we stood in our kitchen on the Saturday before Easter. Our kids are grown and gone. We have grandchildren now and they were visiting us for Easter. And we went through the old ritual. Natalie, then sixteen and Libby then twelve--stood there in deep concentration dyeing the eggs. Natalie looked up from her task and said, "Grandpa, why are we doing this?" She had a twinkle in her eye. "Well," I said, "it's part of Easter. People have been doing this a long time. When I was a little boy we loved dyeing eggs. It was so much fun." As I told our family story the memories of a little boy in another place came rushing back. I remembered coloring eggs and putting them tenderly in my Easter basket filled with green straw. I told her about hiding the eggs the next day and all the fun we had and how weeks later we would find an old egg, left over from Easter, under the eve of the porch or out by the rosebush.

But that wasn't all I told both girls as they stood dousing their eggs in water and vinegar. "Easter is about new life," I said. Trying not to sound preachy I told them, "It's about starting over. It's knowing that after a long hard winter when things are cold and the ground outside seems dead--something begins to stir. The crocus and snowdrops come out of the hard ground. Daffodils seemed to pop up everywhere. Even the dogwoods that had looked like stick trees are turning green." Why do we do this? We do this to remember that being together and sharing a special task with one's loved ones for the sheer pleasure of the moment, really is a holy time. To see our old traditions carried forward to yet another generation has its own special holiness.

I told my granddaughters about seeing the Passion Play in Germany. I told them about how Jesus was nailed to a cross. On Easter morning in the play it was dark onstage. Everything was quiet until a group of women came to the tomb crying because their Lord was dead. While they stood there weeping the great stone door slowly began to creak open. Out of the darkness light came from that open door. The door kept opening wider until the whole stage was filled with a blinding light. The light was so strong everyone in the theatre was touched by the light. Then through the open door came this figure in white with a dark beard. Looking closely we knew who he was. The women fell down before him in wonder and awe. From every alcove hundreds of children came rushing forward on stage and hugged his legs saying over and over, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" What seemed dead was not dead. What seemed finished was not finished at all. What seemed like the end was only the beginning.

And I told Natalie and Libby, still coloring eggs, "I can't quite explain it, but this is why we dye eggs." They looked at me and smiled. And I smiled back.

(This is part of an article that appeared in the Sunday Commentary section of the Birmingham News some time ago. The years have passed but the memory remains.)