“Good-bye Big Jesus”
by ~ Anita J. Skocz
Easter is a time of resurrection, and each year my mother resurrected the story of my first trip to church. Prior to this visit my exposure to my parents beliefs was limited to a wooden crucifix that hung on their bedroom wall, and my mother’s simple explanation that Jesus was “my friend,” and he loved me very much.
But this day, Good Friday, my mother dressed me in my finest hand-me-downs, and accented them with my new Easter bonnet, and my first pair of shiny “new” black patent leather shoes. I was not a child with reflection fever; my quality time was spent mastering the art of mud pies. Today though, I befriended the mirror, and checked myself from head to toe just like my mom. After a quick “spit on her finger” eyebrow straightening, mom gripped my hand tightly and out the door we pranced. In the language of the times, we were all “dolled up.”
During our walk through the alley ways to St. Ignatius Church, my mother would glance over at me, and with a smile ~ exposed her maternal pride. As for me, my eyes stayed focused on my feet and their pleasantly unfamiliar coverings. Once we reached the front of the church, I finally looked up, and my facial expression revealed my awe. There were people coming from all directions, and the number of steps seemed like an endless climb. With my strong little legs I managed the steep ascent with the help of the iron railings, and mom’s encouragement. In my eyes, everything was bigger than big, and entering through the huge doors left quite an impression on me. The church was a palace, and for the moment, I walked in like a princess.
In the vestibule my mother gently removed my white gloves, and lifted me to the “holy water” fount. My hand was guided to take its first dip, followed by the familiar bedtime ritual ~ the sign of the cross. Still fascinated by the enormity of this space we made our way down the center aisle. My eyes darted every which way; there was just so much to take into my little world. But then I spotted “him,” and my eyes opened wider to express my pure delight. Way up front was “my friend,” and I was amazed by the grand size of “him” as I shout out.
“Hi Jesus! You’re really BIG!”
My mother, a bit embarrassed, walked us further down the aisle. Quickly, my eyes caught sight of my mother’s best friend and her son, and I wanted to break loose and run. At this point church seemed to be a fun place, first Jesus, and now another pal just a couple pews away. With my hand waving out of control, I shouted once again.
“Hey Paul! Look at my new shoes!”
My mother abandoned any ideas of having a refined little girl, and concluded that cute and curious would have to be acceptable. As for the wave I kept it going, deciding to befriend the whole congregation as we made our way to a front pew. My mother likened it to an enthusiastic politician.
In moments, she spied a space close to the front, and helped her enthusiastic “church princess” into a pew. By this time I needed to check my shoes, so I was happy to sit and wiggle my happy feet in front of me. There I sat, next to my beautiful mom, feeling on top of the world. In an attempt to keep me quiet my mother handed me her purse, knowing how I loved exploring its contents.
Once the service started I kept busy shining my shoes with mom’s dainty hanky, looking at the family pictures in her wallet, and playing with the ribbons on my bonnet. I started to get bored, then I became interested in the ladies a couple pews ahead of us all dressed the same. Since all was quiet my question to my mother came out in a whisper.
“Who are they?”
My mother told me they were the “good sisters,” and they taught in school. Before I could ask another question, we were in line for a Good Friday ritual, kissing the feet of Jesus on the cross. My view was obscured by the towering adults, but when it came to my turn I could see the cross, and I had to vocalize my disappointment.
“Hey, I want to kiss the big cross!”
My mother placed her finger to her mouth giving me the shhhhhhhhhh sign, and hoped I did not distract too many during this solemn time. With a bit of encouragement I lovingly kissed the feet of “my friend.” I stood quietly as my mother took part in this Good Friday ritual, and smiled at the priest and altar boys. To get back to our pew we had to cross in front of the nuns in the first row. Excited to know who they were, I decided to greet them.
“Hi good sisters! You…”
Before I could say another word we were headed out the side door, just steps away. With one hand on the door, and the other pulling me toward the exit, my mother felt she was in the clear, but with my free arm I waved and joyfully shouted one more time.
“Good-bye BIG JESUS!”
In grade school, as we learned about “holy week,” I visualized myself as a member of “my friend’s” cheering crowd as he made his way into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday ~ Hosanna! When it came to Easter Sunday, I was thrilled by the miracle of the resurrection, and “my friend” appearing to Mary Magdalene ~ Alleluia! But as a young girl, the betrayal and brutal actions taken against “my friend” on Good Friday tore my heart apart. I could not understand, and would ask myself, what happened between the “Hosanna’s” and the “Alleluia’s?”
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
I learned that this gentile loving man gave us the gift of love and forgiveness on Good Friday. My good friend showed us no matter the horror of the deed, love and forgiveness are our only paths to freedom. What happened between all the “Hosanna’s” and all the “Alleluia’s?”
The gift of knowing the power of unconditional love and forgiveness. Thank you “Big Jesus!”