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Hallo again to all.

Like sunrise and sunset, Palm Sunday begins in Kiribati and chases around the earth, finishing its planetary run in Samoa. Our own Palm Sunday service is done, the festive luncheon consumed, and the church has been tidied and locked. Holy Week is upon us.

This morning the weather was pleasant enough that we gathered outside the church with pieces of palm branch and waited for the less mobile parishioners to arrive. While we waited, there was some discussion of whether each of us was holding a palm frond or a separated piece of a palm frond. It would have been preposterous for each of us to carry an entire palm branch, as John 12:12-14 tells us the welcoming crowd was carrying as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Whatever it is called, there didn't seem to be any disagreement as to what the palm leaves we were holding signified. We were doing approximately what John reported the 'great crowd' did.

So much of our liturgy involves symbols and symbolism. We teach children the symbolic meaning of the cross, the dove, the little fish icon seen often affixed to automobiles, the chi/rho carved into wooden pews, and lilies. You can take a walk around almost any church in the world and see symbols of the Christian faith for which the church was built. Sometimes it is even possible to remember what they symbolise.

Our half-hour journey from church to home on Sunday afternoon gives time to reflect, both on the worship we have just experienced and on the more-secular world that we are re-entering. Modern Western culture has co-opted so many Christian symbols for commercial purposes that it is easy to forget the time when that symbol actually meant something in Christian practice. While the Easter bunny was not an important religious symbol, nor its cargo of eggs, almost every iota of Paschal iconography has wriggled its way into secular life. Most of them can be justified with a hand-waving 'oh, that is a symbol of resurrection'. Eggs, lilies, new grass, candies, bonfires, doves; lambs, chicks, and other baby animals.*

We remember Easter baskets, Easter bonnets, and Easter parades. Symbols can combine, which yields chocolate rabbits, chocolate eggs, bonnets with yellow cartoon chicks on them, or bonnets made out of baskets. Easter Peeps, which are marshmallow sculptures of baby chicks, are in a category by themselves. In some cultures, Easter eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of the risen Christ, which symbolism has always seemed odd, because it is the hatching of eggs that symbolises the resurrection and not their pre-hatching prettiness.

This being 2017 in a developed Western country, we live in a culture that is increasingly distant from Christian worship, but even lifelong church-avoiders can look at an Easter basket filled with plastic grass, candy eggs, marshmallow chicks, and chocolate rabbits and instantly know what it is. The concepts of 'Easter basket' and 'Easter rabbit' are much more in the forefront of our culture than the concept of Easter itself. Not only are we not going to rant about that, we are happy with it. Whatever form Easter needs to take to remain in people's minds, that is good. If Easter baskets and chocolate Easter rabbits are part of a child's life, there is a chance that child will someday try to find out what it means.

A chance might be all we get, but it might be all we need.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

All of us at Anglicans Online

9 April 2017

*Never mind that in many places the custom is to slaughter and eat the baby animals that symbolise Easter. Greek Easter soup, known as Magiritsa, is made from the parts of the lamb that are otherwise unlikely to be eaten.

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