The more I try to recall whether I was three or four, the more convinced I become that I must have been four, because I was wearing a new, blue seersucker suit. I remember that suit distinctly, and recall wearing it to Sunday School at Catonsville Presbyterian Church. The only period during which I regularly attended that church was from late 1948 until August of 1949, when we moved out of my grandparent’s house, and to the place on Greenspring Avenue. So I’m sure I must have been four. It was a pretty day, and very warm. Mom, Dad, and I piled into the ’33 Plymouth, and drove to the church. We didn’t ride with Grambooth, Grandpop and Birdie; Grambooth and Grandpop were in the choir, and had to be there early.
I don’t recall a single thing about Sunday School that day, except that my tie fell off, and one of the other boys, probably Gary Ealer, helped me get it clipped back on again. But what I do remember is sitting way up in the balcony of the church during the service. We could see everyone in the choir quite clearly from up there, and I was able to watch my grandfather, and Mr. Lawrence, as they turned pages while they sang. The organist was behind a large console, but from up in the balcony, I could see the pedals move as they were depressed.
We were in the same seats as just a day or two before, when we saw the choir perform a long piece which I remember was called “From Calvary To Olivet”. Of course, being a small child, and having my usual high pitched squeal in my ears, I thought they had said it was “From Cavalry to Olivet” and I was disappointed when there were no horses in it. I still have that high pitched squeal in my ears; over the years, it has become a constant standard of pitch. It is an E, two octaves above the third octave E on a piccolo. But I digress … I enjoyed the music, especially when the organist played with the full organ. I could hear all of those notes really well. I didn’t recognize any of the music, and there weren’t any horses, but still, I liked it. I remember there was one part where the choir sang over, and over, in very loud voice, “Cru-ci-FY him! Cru-ci-FY him!” I really liked that part of the music. It had force, and made a strong statement.
The choir had all been wearing dark robes for that concert, and the church was dimly lit, but this day, it was bright. I could see that all their robes were royal blue. The Church was filled with white and yellow flowers, and all of the women had on bright dresses. My mom had a yellow hat with a very wide brim that curved down, and she was wearing an off-white (to the gray side) dress that had blue flowers all over it. Mom always favored the combination of gray and yellow; she painted her kitchen with those colors.
When we first sat down, she said something to dad about taking off her hat, because the brim made it hard for people behind her to see, and I remember him saying, “I don’t think anyone will mind that you take it off.”
I remember, while the preacher was droning on about something, looking down at my mom’s hands. She was wearing white gloves, and holding the hat in her lap with both hands. I was interested in how the color of the yellow hat, contrasted against the color of the blue flowers. And I remember wondering if the person who drew those flowers on that dress had ever seen a real one.
But then the preacher finished, and suddenly the organ was playing really loud full chords, that I could hear perfectly well and the choir sang what has become one of my favorite religious musical pieces.
“Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!”
I am not much of a church-goer. And I don’t believe that Jesus, although I think he was a very good person, and a smart man, was the savior he is touted to be by those who call themselves Christians. And no, I don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus; certainly not in the corporeal sense, as do many who are called “Fundamentalists” or “what in history studies we would call “literalists”.
But I do suppose there could be considered a spiritual resurrection, if one believes as I do that Newton’s first law of thermodynamics is Universal. For those of you who don’t know, it states essentially, that energy and matter can be neither created nor destroyed. I believe that. And I believe that when we die, the energy and matter that were the corporeal person change; transubstantiate, if you will, and continue on as part of the sum total of energy and matter in the universe. And if energy and matter are constant, then God, if there be such a thing, must logically be a part of that energy/matter. So, in that sense, when we die, we do become one with God.
And I see about me every year at this time, the resurrection of the earth; the ground warms and becomes mud. The plants begin to stand a little straighter as their stems carry water up into them, filling the cells with new life. The animals begin to skitter about in the underbrush, and the birds twitter and flit about. Throughout man’s existence on this planet we have witnessed this resurrection; this annual rebirth, and we have taken happiness and internal warmth in the knowledge that the growing season has again begun.
And so important is it to us; in every human culture, there is a celebration of this rebirth. We sing, and we rejoice that the growing season is again here. Many great, (and, surely some not-so-great) musical works have been written and performed to celebrate this season. So whether you are Wiccan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Zen, Shinto, Atheist, Agnostic, Deist or hold with any other philosophy, let’s sing a song of joy in celebration of this time of year.
“Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!"