Friday is a special day for me because this is when my weekly "volunteers" pay a visit to the church office. Nathan (9) James (7) and Emily (4) D'Silva and, of course, their elegant and lovely mother, Andrea, spend about an hour a week, checking markers, writing birthday cards, tidying up and, in general, being adorable.
James has just begun to read to himself and was recently cuddled up in bed with a children's picture Bible. A few weeks ago, he came to the section about Jesus death. The story captivated him. So much so that he rose early the next morning, went to the basement and began constructing a cross out of 2 by 4's.
Hearing the frustrated banging, his older brother, Nathan, went to see what was up. "This isn't working!" said James, as he pounded away with a hammer.
"That's because you're trying to hammer in a screw," remarked Nathan. Things progressed more smoothly after this and it wasn't long before James had constructed his very own processional cross and immediately began to work on his very own Good Friday ceremony.
I'm always fascinated to see the way children play to figure out the world around them. I once saw two little girls come into a children's bookstore, carrying baby dolls. They immediately went over to a bench, sat down, and both began to "breast feed" their dolls. Their caregivers explained that both their mothers had recently had babies. The girls were obviously sorting out and processing this new phase in their life through their play.
Given even very basic toys, children will instinctively play, creating worlds that mimic their own homes, with characters who are going through similar experiences as they are. I once saw a little girl use legos to act out the Nativity story, and then promptly give baby Jesus a "time out." We can guess what may have happened to her recently.
While there is an obvious "cute factor" to the stories I've just told, something serious is also revealed in these "plays." Something I, and I believe many adults, can envy in children. It's particularly highlighted in the story of the D'Silva children and the cross. That is, the ability to loose oneself in ritual, in the acting out of a story. To enjoy ceremony and even pomp.
Even day to day, structure and ritual keep us safe and make us feel secure. This is especially true of children, who thrive on ritual and routine. The first thing you will notice about any children's mental health institution worth it's salt is that day to day living is extremely rigid. Children in crisis need this security desperately.
Similarly, the Christian calendar provides us with a structure to guide our lives. Times for pause, self examination, rejoicing, mourning, fasting and feasting. All leading up to the grandest day of all, Resurrection Sunday.
I'm asked every year why I don't host an Easter egg hunt at Little Trinity. I realize many think I'm over analyzing the dangers of hunting for chocolate in the park. I really have nothing against Easter Egg hunts in general, but I do have a problem with having them in church. In my opinion, the "art of playing" is so important to the experience of children, it would do them a disservice to mix metaphors. To play through the grand, high, epic story of the Resurrection in church and then mix it with the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs muddies the experience. I believe it's confusing to children.
Easter is the highest day of the Christian year. Everything else is a prelude to this day, when our Lord, who was dead, is made alive again. I have always wished we lived in a Christian culture that reflected this. I've always found it puzzling that Christmas seems to trump Easter in terms of excitement and anticipation, both in our Christian culture and in our secular one. I would love to experience an Easter, and in fact, all the time leading up to Ascension, that was full of shouting and singing and dancing and sharing and feasting and laughing. Something to give the wider community (and perhaps even the Easter Bunny) pause.
"Look at those crazy Christians and their lavish party!" So we could have to opportunity to tell them, "We are celebrating our Lord and Brother, who was dead and is alive again!"
That is truly something worth celebrating!
Children and Family Ministries Coordinator
Little Trinity Anglican Church