A Markel Family Easter, Isolation Edition

I think we can all agree that Easter was weird this year, right? Without our normal church commitments like choir, acolyting, and serving on altar guild, Holy Week and Easter Sunday fell a bit flat. But whether we were at church or not, we still had reason to celebrate, so I tried to make this time at home as special as possible.

On Maundy Thursday, we enjoyed some beautiful weather while we were out for a walk in our neighborhood before we “went” to church, which we watched from the comfort of our living room.

We were a little busier on Good Friday, with some baking (including homemade hot cross buns for the first time!), and another walk, before we once again watched the church service from our living room.

We were especially busy on Holy Saturday. We did some more baking, including these amazing rosemary dinner rolls, one of my favorite new recipes that I’ve tried:

We also made our new Paschal Candle for the year, as we usually do on Holy Saturday…it was disappointing not being able to take it to the Easter Vigil, though!

We had a fairly last-minute change of Easter dinner plans, because Beast Craft BBQ announced that they were going to be selling hams, so Ryan went and picked that up Saturday afternoon. It smelled amazing, and there was great restraint on the part of everyone in the house, because we left it alone until Easter dinner!

I dug out some extra candles so we could really feel like we were participating in the Great Vigil of Easter:

But once again from our living room:

We always get hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home from the service, so I tried to recreate that experience, as well:

We didn’t “need” Pop-Tarts for breakfast this year (do you ever really need Pop-Tarts?),, because we didn’t have to get up as early for the sunrise service, but tradition is tradition!

I was very happy to get to sing my favorite Easter hymn at the first service, which we attended from, you guessed it, our living room!

We always have Easter breakfast at church between services, so I tried to replicate that experience, too. Homemade biscuits and sausage gravy were the star of the meal (both of which I prepared on Saturday), because that’s what they serve at church, plus sausage patties, eggs, orange juice, and mini donuts:

I always take pictures after breakfast, and this year was no different. Yes, we all got dressed up, even though we were at home!

I really missed taking photos of the children by the baptismal font, but at least I got pictures of them on Easter, right?

I already shared the details of my Easter outfit, but here’s one more picture, with Ladybug, because this was her first occasion to wear a dress from Pinup Girl Clothing!

Back inside, and back to the living room for the second service, where we sang another favorite hymn:

The church part of the day was over much quicker than usual, which was sad. I did have plenty of time to prepare our Easter dinner, though, starting with setting the table with our china and spring table linens:

On the menu: ham, mashed potatoes, a trio of green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans with almonds), cherry Jell-O, and rosemary dinner rolls. It was a delicious meal!

For dessert I made the same lemon cheesecake with lemon-rosemary shortbread crust that I made last year:

We’re not done, yet, though! Since Easter is a celebration that keeps on going, and since our dinner plans had changed after I had already bought what was supposed to be the main course of Easter dinner, we had another special meal tonight…rack of lamb with some new sides (roast potatoes and cauliflower), plus some repeats (Brussels sprouts, green beans, Jell-O, and rolls), plus more cheesecake for dessert!

So there you have what was the strangest Easter I have ever experienced. Of course, our reason for celebrating never changes, but just the same, nothing felt quite right, and I truly hope we never have another Easter like it!

A Markel Family Easter

I’ve shared a lot about what Markel Family holidays look like over the last few years, but I don’t think I’ve gone into any detail about a Markel Family Easter yet. It’s definitely a big event…while most of our holidays are celebrated over two (and occasionally three) days, a Markel Family Easter is a four-day event, because the Great Triduum cannot be separated from Easter Sunday!

Our observance of the Triduum always begins on Holy (Maundy) Thursday. Because the children were singing with their choir in St. Louis, we were not at our home church, but at one of our sister congregations. It was a beautiful service!

We were feeling especially ambitious on Good Friday. We started the day at another sister congregation in Waterloo, where we participated in a Karfreitag service, which is a German Good Friday service. We may not have understood all of the words, but the meaning was clear!

We then attend the Chief Service with our congregation, where we were privileged to receive the Lord’s Supper.

And that evening, we were back in St. Louis, where we again participated in the Chief Service, but this time with Schalk’s “The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. John” sung by the choir.

Much of Holy Saturday is a day of preparation, where I attempted to make as much of our Easter meal ready as possible. I baked bread and made a cake, and trimmed the lamb for our dinner. Once all that was done, we turned our attention to our big Holy Saturday tradition…the making of the Paschal candle for the year:

We then took our candle to the Great Vigil of Easter at another sister congregation, where we had it lit for the first time at the beginning of the service. This is definitely my favorite church service of the year, and it’s always over far too quickly. We did stop for hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home, as we have for close to a decade, though, to keep the celebration going!

And that brings us to this morning, where we were up very early on the first day of the week for the Easter Sunrise service.

Bunny was not only the acolyte but the crucifer!

After the service was one of my favorite breakfasts of the year…our church makes great biscuits and gravy!

I have to take pictures after breakfast:

And then it’s time for the Divine Service. We were privileged to serve on the altar guild this morning, and we took extra care trying to make sure things were just right for this festival of festivals!

All four of The Bigs were able to assist in this service. Moose and Ladybug were acolytes and torchbearers, Bunny carried in the much-missed Alleluia banner, and Turkey was the crucifer:

After church and lunch at home, I got started on our Easter dinner:

This recipe for lamb stew was started on the stove top, and then finished cooking in the oven:

We had some beautiful new tables linens this year courtesy of my generous in-laws. The children loved being able to choose their own napkin color! I loved how spring-like the table looked!!!

Our dinner of lamb stew, homemade French baguettes, cherry Jell-O “salad”, and sparkling apple cider was a fairly simple holiday meal in some ways, and yet it was something everyone wanted and something I don’t usually make, so in the end, I think it was the perfect holiday meal!

Did I mention it was also delicious?

For dessert, we had a sponge cake soaked in lemon syrup, filled with lemon curd and filled and frosted with a lemon mascarpone cream:

It was also delicious!

It has been a busy, reverent, exhausting few days. But I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I’m so happy to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection the way we do!

Easter 2017

Blessed Easter!

Our Easter observance really began last night. As we do every year, we made our family Paschal candle:

And took it with us to one of our sister congregations, where we lit it for the first time during the Great Vigil of Easter. This is my favorite service of the church year…I love how it begins with firelight outside at sunset, and ends with the full lights on inside the church as we celebrate the Resurrection!

We were at our church very early in the morning today, for the sunrise service. Bunny, Moose, and Ladybug participated in the outdoor reenactment prior to the service…the rain stayed away, and it was a beautiful morning!

After the first service, and a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy, we took pictures (much to my family’s chagrin), and attended the Easter Divine Service, which is probably my second favorite service of the church year. I love the abundance of Alleluias!

We’ve had a low-key afternoon at home since church, but the big Easter dinner feast is yet to come!

Easter Vigil – Sisters of Katie Luther

Today there’s an article on the Sisters of Katie Luther about my favorite church service of the year, the Great Vigil of Easter. If you’re unfamiliar with this service, or you’ve just always wanted to learn more about it, I encourage you to take a few moments on this Holy Saturday to read about what makes it such a beautiful, unique bridge between Good Friday and Easter Sunday!

So, what does the Great Vigil of Easter look like? What is a vigil, anyway? (That one is easy…it’s a devotional watching, often the night before a church festival.) Why should you go to a service on Saturday night (sometimes quite late, although often in the early evening instead), when you’re going to be up early on Easter Sunday morning anyway? What is the benefit of this service?

Now, I may be biased, but the Great Vigil of Easter is my favorite service of the church year, and the one I have learned the most from over the years. The service is divided into four main parts: The Service of Light; Readings; The Baptismal Remembrance; and The Service of The Lord’s Supper. (Some churches also count the Service of Prayer, and the Service of The Word as unique parts). Each part of the Easter Vigil has a unique purpose, and the totality of the service bridges the gap from Good Friday to Easter morning.

via Easter Vigil – Sisters of Katie Luther.

The Great Vigil of Easter

Not only are we blessed with a wonderful congregation which we call home, we are also blessed to have a local sister congregation with whom we occasionally celebrate special services, including Epiphany, Ascension, and my favorite service of the year, the Great Vigil of Easter. I love the transition from darkness to light that this service brings, the symbolism and remembrances. It feels like an extended time of the Sacrament, when Heaven and Earth intersect.

The bulletin from the Vigil had a great explanation of the parts of which the service is made up, and I thought I’d share that here:

“The Vigil has four parts. (1) It begins with the Service of Light. The Paschal (Passover) candle is lighted from new fire. Then we light our candles from the Paschal Candle. Following a procession, the Exsultet (Proclamation) joyously sounds the theme for the evening. (2) During the second part of the Vigil, a series of Readings from the Old Testament recalls God’s saving acts for his people throughout history. These readings and the accompanying prayers, psalms, and canticles, are the “vigil” portion of the service. Vigil means patiently but expectantly waiting for a celebration. During this service we ignore time. The Vigil has no set length, it lasts as long as it lasts. (3) The third part of the Service focuses on Baptismal Remembrance. We rejoice again in the blessings God gave to us in Baptism. We confess again the faith that the Holy Spirit gave to us in Baptism. And we promise again to live faithfully as God’s baptized people. Often we have the privilege of witnessing Baptisms or Confirmations. (4) The Vigil comes to a joyous conclusion in the Service of the Lord’s Supper, which begins tonight and is completed at the Festival Divine Service on Easter morning.”

It is a great blessing to go to this service and have the chance to “peak in the tomb” before Easter Sunday’s services, and hear the Word proclaimed so completely.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

The Triduum

Once referred to as the “still days,” the Triduum marks the three-day period from Maundy Thursday to Holy Saturday. The services of those three days are actually three parts of one long service, culminating in the Great Vigil of Easter.

On Thursday, we are blessed with the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament one last time before the altar is stripped in preparation of the solemn services of Good Friday.

On Friday, we enter the now-bare sanctuary, to hear the words of our Lord’s suffering and death, and hear the Bible slammed shut as we ponder Him giving up His Spirit for us.

On Saturday, is the agonizing wait, as we hold our breaths throughout Jesus’s rest in the tomb. And then the Great Vigil, in which the Light is brought back, and the first glimpse of the opening tomb is observed.

The Paschal Triduum marks the highest and holiest point of the church year. From Thursday through Saturday, we walk with Jesus from the Upper Room to Gethsemane to the trial, and finally to Golgotha. We watch as His body is placed in the tomb, and we weep with his mother and disciples. But we know the Story doesn’t end there, and we wait, with all the company of heaven, holding our breath, and waiting for that glorious festival on Easter Sunday…

The Great Vigil of Easter

I don’t think I could ever find words to describe how much I love this service. The return of the Light, the readings from Holy Scripture, the remembrance of Baptism, the return of the Alleluias, the Lord’s Supper–I love it all.

I still remember the first time I attended the Easter Vigil–it was when I was in college, and it was something my church was doing either for the first time, or one of the first times…we certainly didn’t do it when I was growing up there. I remember sitting in the pew, in the darkness (that service started at 11:00 p.m., so it was really dark!), and thinking that I wished it would never end.

I still feel that way. If it weren’t for worrying about how loud my children are being, or how much longer they can make it through the service, I could stay forever. There is something so ancient and beautiful about the way the service is arranged, and the readings that are chosen–it is the perfect transition from darkness into Light, from Lent to Easter–and also provides so much in the way of Word and Sacrament.

Surely it is the Church on Earth at Her best!

The Great Vigil of Easter

Without a doubt, this is my favorite church service.  I look forward to it all year long (although, there have been plenty of years where there was no service available for me to attend).  Don’t get me wrong, I love Easter morning and Christmas Eve services, and all the other festival Sundays, but the Vigil will always be my favorite.  The return of the Light, the Scripture readings, remembering our Baptism, the Lord’s Supper…going from the tomb to the resurrection. So ancient and beautiful, with all of the chanting, and the sprinkling of Baptismal water, the Sacrament, and especially that moment where we can finally say again “He is risen indeed.  Alleluia.”  And the return of the joyful chords of Jesus Christ is Risen Today, which chokes me up every Easter, after the long wait of Lent.

There’s just nothing else like it.