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Guiding children through the Passion


One Easter, not long after moving to Australia from the United States, my husband and I made a big mistake. We bought our children bikes so that they could play outside but they took it as a sign that Easter was a time for receiving gifts. Every Easter since they have provided us with a wish list and we find ourselves in an unwanted battle.

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As church musicians, my husband and I have never used the Easter long weekend as a time for vacation as these days are the most important in the liturgical year and the busiest weekend for musicians. The sacred triduum is a three-day liturgy that begins at dusk on Holy Thursday and ends at dusk on Easter Sunday. Our children have experienced a few Holy Thursday Masses and remember the story of the Last Supper and the ritual of the foot washing. They have seen the altar stripped and flowers removed in preparation for the starkest liturgy in our Church calendar.

On Good Friday we make hot cross buns or bake bread at home to mark the crucifixion and anticipate the resurrection – the two hinges on which our entire faith is centred. We take part in the Stations of the Cross, journeying with Jesus on the way of his Passion. At the Good Friday liturgy we observe the lack of an entrance hymn; we are simply continuing on from Holy Thursday.

As a parent you may feel the need to shield your child from words about death and despair. Listening to the story of the Passion is rather confronting, and it is okay to tell your young child that Jesus did indeed die, but we must also reassure them that Jesus rose from the dead and asked us to go and share this Good News. With an older child you can talk about how Jesus was bullied and tortured and put to death in public, but that he accepted it because he knew something that no-one else knew.

The Good Friday liturgy could leave us feeling heavy and downhearted, but as parents we must guide our children through that by focusing on the hope that God gives us and our need to trust Him as we walk through the valley of death.

Conversations about new life and why we use eggs as a symbol of newness can be a good start in getting children to reflect on the Easter story, because Easter really is a calling – a calling to new life, to a time of rejoicing and a time to be in awe of the resurrection, a time to sing Alleluia!

It is at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night that this is most obvious. We begin in the darkness but then the Easter candle is lit from the fire and we follow it in procession into the church. As each person’s candle is lit from the Easter candle we slowly become aware of the light of Christ and are reminded that Christ IS our light. No matter what shadows or burdens are in our own lives, Jesus is there to walk with us. This is a beautiful image to paint for our children: no matter what life throws at us, Jesus is at our side as our teacher and guide. He is the one who showed us how to love and how to forgive; he is the one who is calling us to follow him.

There may be an abundance of chocolate over the Easter weekend and you may have found yourself navigating a wish list of gifts, but there is also the opportunity to invite the family into the mystery of our faith by participating in this three-day liturgy that reveals the story of our rescuer, our redeemer. He is calling!

Lauren Bierer is liturgy educator with the Office for Worship

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