Are you wanting to make your Easter celebrations more meaningful? Here’s a simple, inexpensive tradition to adopt with your family to more keenly feel the joy of Easter morning on your homestead. Why does Maundy Thursday in the farmhouse matter?
What is Maundy Thursday?
Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, officially commemorates the observance of the Last Supper (significantly occurring on Passover the year the Lord established it) and the institution of the Sacrament (which different denominations perform differently, but which is a sacred ordinance for Christendom). You can learn more about the details of Maundy Thursda from this Wikipedia article, click here. Remembering the Last Supper and learning more about Passover can both increase your family’s appreciation for the Easter celebrations but it’s what happened after the Last Supper that holds special significance when you contemplate the horror that Christ would walk through to achieve that Easter morning, only a few days later.
It was Thursday night that the Lord made his way to the Garden of Gethsemane to begin his infinite Atonement for the sins, pains, illnesses, weaknesses fears and, in short, every dark and damning thing that mankind would ever experience. After His excruciating Intercessory prayer, he was then betrayed by Judas into the hands of the his enemies. He was illegally tried, beaten and condemned to death, all of which culminated in the events of Good Friday when he was crucified. We sometimes focus only on the suffering at the cross, but really, it all began that Thursday night with the knowledge that one of His friends would betray Him as He made His way to a garden to experience punishments He didn’t deserve. Maundy Thursday teaches us that from darkness will always come light and that the light will always win. But, the darkness will have its day first and, sometimes, the only way to get to the Light is through the big, black thing standing in our way.
Making Easter More Meaningful
Several children ago I realized that, although we took a month of our homeschool plans and devoted them to Christmas preparations and service projects, we really didn’t spend much time on Easter. Easter is the point of Christmas, after all, and I suddenly felt that I was missing a precious opportunity to connect my family to the beauty of the Easter-tide and even the rebirth of the earth each spring. There’s no better place than a homestead or farm to witness, first hand, the miracle of each new growing season beginning.
About that time I was reading the Mitford series by Jan Karon. These books chronicle the simple days of an Episcopalian minister named Father Tim and the ups and downs of small town life in the fictional North Carolina town of Mitford. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE these books – they restore something in my soul that I don’t realized I’ve lost until I pick them back up. A word of warning, though, should you chose to read them, too – they’re highly addictive and the series is long. (I have very little self-control with good books and end up reading them into the wee hours of the night when I should be sleeping.)
Father Tim takes Easter very seriously and has several traditions that he follows every year to connect himself with the holy day (holiday). Isn’t that the purpose that wholesome traditions serve? To teach us and edify us with special experiences that repeat each year to make them effective? For example, each year Father Tim reads the Easter week accounts in the Four Gospels. Father Tim contemplates what Christ was doing each day of His last week on earth and keeps it close to his heart as goes throughout his days. Maundy Thursday is particularly meaningful to Father Tim and as I read about his observances, I realized that I could do the same thing in my home to help my family feel Easter more strongly.
Maundy Thursday in the Farmhouse
Every Maundy Thursday, Father Time shutters his windows and closes out the natural light of the new season. He’s a gardener, like you and I, and loves the joys of spring, so this sacrifice makes the darkness a more personal affront. I doubt the practice of darkening windows and mirrors on Maundy Thursday, the night the Atonement began, is unique to Father Tim – it’s an old custom observed by many cultures when a loved one has passed away. However, reading the Mitford books was the first time I’d encountered the idea connected to Easter. I decided I wanted us to try it in our own home.
Spring is full of wonder of the homestead and seeing the blooms and new leaves and greening grass is one of the true joys of homestead living. The winters are long and the return of light at this time of year is comforting. The idea of closing our home off to that light seemed a little over the top at first. Nevertheless, I got out all of our darkest blankets and began the process of covering the windows all over the house. Eventually, I ran out of blankets and had to use black garbage bags – the only other dark thing I had on hand. The garbage bags didn’t give us total coverage but they were better than nothing.
If you’d like to do this, too, you’ll need:
- Dark blankets, table cloths, black garbage bags and even towels
- Strong thumb tacks for hanging cloth
- Clear tape for taping garbage bags to mirrors
The Lesson in Maundy Thursday
As I started blocking out the light, the children very naturally asked me what I was doing. This was one time where I didn’t discuss my plans with them ahead of time. They’re usually in the thick of holidays and traditions, helping me plan and set up. This time, though, I kept it to myself. I wanted them (and me) to really feel the why of what was happening. It wasn’t until I’d covered up each window and glass door that I explained why I’d just blocked out the light.
We recounted the events of the last week of the Savior’s life, sitting around the kitchen table. When we got to the crucifixion, I asked what happened when Christ “gave up the ghost”. When He died, the Light left the earth for a time. For days, His body lay in a tomb and the darkness felt by His people was palpable. He’d said He would come back but, in defense of the disciples, no one had ever done what Jesus was about to do – resurrection was a new concept for these people and they didn’t get it. When He reappeared and administered to His friends, all of a sudden, there was Light in their hearts again. Everything was reborn – their courage, their conviction, their hope.
For three days we leave our house dark, each window covered, so that we can feel what it would be like if we had to live without the Light of spring, the Light of the world. The first day is weird but not too hard. By the afternoon of the second day, we’re starting to feel claustrophobic. By the end of the third day, we’re going a little crazy wanting to see the light, see outside the confines of what now feels like a cage but is, in fact, our home. About this time, we’re really feeling grateful for sunbeams, fresh air and the view from our windows. My husband and I try to follow up these sentiments with spiritual parallels.
Imagine what it would be like if you were always trapped in darkness, with no hope of Light? What would it be like to know that you could never repent of the wrong you’d done; that you’d never be able to feel Light again? Without Christ’s sacrifice, this is how our hearts would be feeling all the time. What does this knowledge make you want to do? How does it make you want to behave? To live?
Come Sunday morning, we rip those blankets down, desperately uncovering every window and every door. I’ve never seen my kids move so fast! Down with the darkness, in with the Light! We open the windows, even if it’s still cold, and let in the fresh air. We run around outside like lunatics and breathe in Easter morning hollering “He is Risen!” to each other. Spring has become more specifically a time of renewal for me and my family since we started observing Maundy Thursday in this way. The point of Easter is driven home, literally. We are so very grateful for the Light.
There is a law of opposition that states that in order to know good, you must first understand evil. In order to feel happiness, you must first feel sadness. In order to be grateful for wholeness, you must first know what it is to be broken. Light from darkness, beauty from ashes. This is the miracle of the season in its uncomplicated beauty.
He is Risen, my friends – Happy Easter.
From all of us at Winterpast Farm, my family to yours.
More Easter Traditions and Activities
To read about a few more traditions and activities for the season, you’re invited to visit the links below.
A More Sustainable Easter Basket by Attainable Sustainable
Make a Sock Lamb – Turn Your Socks Into Flocks (no machine sewing required) by Joybilee Farm
Put together and Easter Activity Bag with your kids, along with other activities for a month of inspiration by the Friend Magazine
If you’d care to learn more about the importance of traditions on the homestead throughout the year, as well as a myriad of other modern day homesteading topics, feel free to join our Book Circle to learn about the release of our upcoming book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. From gardening to cooking to finances to family life, this book covers so many homesteading topics and each is tailored to the needs of the reader by being separated into four different levels of homesteadyness (a totally made up word). Joining our Book Circle will also make you privy to special deals and offers when the book is released. Simply click below.
Cover image graphic attributed to this Wikipedia User.