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To Easter, Spring, and New Beginnings

By Yvonne Nyenhuis

Fri, Apr 18th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

It was Easter Sunday. I was 4 when a furry bundle was thrust into my arms. “Tippy Toe” was snow white with a pink nose, long silky ears lined with pale pink and eyes the color of red wine. My two older sisters and I delighted in watching him munch on carrot shavings and lettuce leaves.

My parents loved tradition and celebrating. My sisters and I could count on a yearly visit from the Easter bunny. We scurried around the house Easter morning looking in cupboards, under beds and behind furniture for the Easter basket that had our name on it. There were squeals of delight as each was discovered. There was a chocolate bunny, yellow marshmallow chicks, brightly colored hardboiled eggs, jelly beans and a large orange.

After a breakfast of banana pancakes we went to church. The service was held in the Bryn Athyn Cathedral. (Anyone who is interested can look up “Bryn Athyn Cathedral” on the internet for pictures.) It was built of granite in the Gothic style found in Cathedrals in Europe. It stood majestically on a hill with spires reaching into the sky, landscaped with trees and rolling lawns. Boxwood bushes nestled against the walls and there were gardens, a host of brilliant tulips, daffodils and crocus` swaying slightly, their colors flashing and changing in the early morning sun.

In two of the towers there were young men in white robes playing trumpets.

I was wearing a new dress my mother made for me, pale pink voile with tiny pink roses and smocking, white socks and black patent shoes.

I joined the other children in the choir hall where we were given flowers to carry in a procession. We walked along an inside wall of the church and up a center pathway through the congregation where we were greeted by young women in white robes who arranged the flowers in vases on stands, making a pyramid on either side of the aisle.

The church was designed in three parts. The main part where the congregation sat opened on to a smaller area where the choir was seated. The massive pipe organ was behind the choir and there were two lecterns used by the ministers. The first part of the service was a reading from the Bible which we called “the Word” (of God). The second reading was from the writings of Swedenborg. Beyond this was the sanctuary, the final area, where there was an altar on which the Word was placed, surrounded by seven candle sticks. Before every service a young man or woman came out in a white robe with a wand and lit the candles.

I always loved sitting in the wooden pews with royal blue velvet cushions, listening to the organ, the smell of the boxwood and stone of the building and watching the beams of light pouring through the stain glass windows bathing us in rainbows of color. In the sanctuary the light through the blue and red glass cast a lavender glow over the white robes of the clergy. The hymns were familiar and singing was a joy for me.

The church was built during the depression. Artisans and craftsmen were brought from Europe. The formula for making the stained glass was a well guarded secret and the work was done on the premises. There was hand carving of wood and sculpting of stone as well as wrought iron work.

The children’s service on Easter Sunday was informal. The minister walked down on the floor to be closer to the children. He told the story of how Mary Magdalene and others came early in the morning and found the stone that blocked the entrance to the sepulcher had been rolled away and the body of Jesus was gone. Where the body had been lying, were two angels who told them “He is not here. He has risen!” The joy of Easter is the triumph of life over death.

My husband sees the main theme of Easter as being “Forgiveness”. Indeed we are told that included in his parting words Jesus said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do!”

There are no crosses in the “New Church”. The emphasis is on the resurrection of Christ not on his death on the cross. Swedenborg teaches that we can all go to heaven, regardless of what we believe, if we live a life of charity toward others. He describes the spiritual world as a place of causes and the natural world as a place of effects.

I have long pondered the idea that while our lives are all about love, and the pursuit of truth (or the opposite there of), we can’t measure love and truth, weigh them or hold them in our hands. The origin of life itself is a mystery. Life is contained in the body as tea is held in a cup.

Many people embrace the belief in God as the “source” of love and truth and life itself. Another reason they believe in God is the amazing order we see in nature:” creation” implies the existence of a “creator”, a superior intelligence.

For Swedenborg there is no conflict between Religion and Science’ He sees Spiritual law as existing within natural law. He warns of the “danger of Faith alone”. He encourages reason and critical thinking: that while truth is “absolute”, we all have our own “perception” of truth according to our own personal experience. What makes us human is the ability to choose between good and evil.We find happiness when we live in harmony with the creative process.

As our three boys joined the family Glenn and I continued the tradition of Easter, dying hardboiled eggs and hiding baskets filled with goodies. I was surprised one day as the holiday grew near. Our oldest son, then a little boy, came to me clearly worried. He was afraid that his father, who is a hunter, might kill the Easter bunny by mistake! He seemed unconvinced when I tried to reassure him that his father could tell the difference: that the Easter bunny was not in danger.

Now our sons hide baskets for their children. Last year our granddaughter who is three, had her first experience hunting for plastic eggs hidden around the house. She took the search quite seriously and was good at it. She had help from her two older brothers and her cousins.

Easter and spring are about new beginnings. In 1966 Glenn and I packed a 14 foot trailer with all our earthly belongings and headed west to make our home in Minneapolis. It was raining when we arrived, April 15. We moved slowly along the Parkway. Looking down I saw piles of ice between us and Minnehaha creek. Our road to the future included buying our first home on Colfax Avenue and having three sons. We were surrounded by parks and lakes. There were caring teachers and great neighbors.

After 23 years it was time for a new chapter in our lives and we came to live in Lanesboro. It was March when Glenn first joined Olive and Art Haugan preparing to take over the White Front.

Here’s to spring and to the open road. We follow along not knowing what is ahead.

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