Easter at Home: Living Spring Liturgically
Making Room for Feasting and Flowers
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that it is the “nicest word there is.” A popular idiom reminds us that it is also “where the heart is.” But what is this place called home that so many seek to describe? And what purpose does it serve other than a place to hang our hats and rest our heads?
A home tells the story of those who inhabit the space: a doorway marked with the growth of children over the years, framed maps highlighting beloved destinations, and a couch worn by countless hours spent reading aloud.
Quite simply, a home is the mise-en-scène that frames the unfolding of our lives.
As a dwelling place for the domestic church, its natural rhythm mirrors Mother Church and prefigures our heavenly home. Home is where members of the Church work to restore harmony between God and his creation. As it is such an important part of our lives, it requires particular attention and care. Getting our homes in order with the dawning of spring feels instinctive. Indeed, this cathartic practice has deep roots tracing back to the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Jewish homes are still cleaned in preparation for Passover. Catholic Tradition also holds that the first three days of Holy Week are dedicated to deep cleaning in anticipation of the Triduum. These annual rituals hold long-standing traditions of making room for God.
There is wisdom in the design of the ebb and flow of the seasons. Home, Church and creation are ordered into a particular rhythm. These early days of spring are a time of preparation for the emergence of new life. As the third chapter in Ecclesiastes begins, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
Spring showcases all that is rightly arranged in the world: Flowers bloom in particular succession according to the sun’s warmth, Christ’s life on earth is fulfilled with the crescendo of Easter Sunday, and our innate inclination is to order our homes as these wonders unfold.
When things become disordered, like an unseasonable frost after buds have begun to bloom, the proper ordering of things is disrupted, and flowers perish.
The cold days of winter behave as a post-holiday season hangover. Following the many gatherings that take place throughout the fall and early winter, we become ready for a reprieve from the busyness of social life and outdoor activity.
Nature, too, goes to sleep as the cold pulverizes all that is noxious from the landscape. Around the hearth, we seek warmth and refuge. The quieting of winter is not just found in the landscape and within the home, but also within the Church. It is during this time that Lent takes place. Mortifications are undertaken, and parts of the Mass are toned down. As we fast from chocolate and Alleluias, we spend our time removing spiritual clutter and rearranging things to better participate in the new life born from Christ’s side. It is at this spiritual dawning that spring on the landscape breaks through the once-frozen earth and the social calendar slowly begins to fill again.
We have difficulty relaxing when things feel cluttered and disordered. We hesitate to open our home when it isn’t tidy. We innately recognize that clutter prevents any space, whether it be heart or home, to receive something (or someone) “more,” just as a garden overrun with weeds cannot accept seeds.
As our souls and gardens need weeding, so does the home.
The connection between the preparation of the physical and spiritual elements of life in the spring is relevant. Marie Kondo and her “spark joy” concept of decluttering was a wild success because, deep down, we recognize that our worldly attachments are a burden. It is necessary to take time to consider the unnecessary burdens we carry with the accumulation of things, as we do throughout Lent with sin. The physical excesses we carry spill over into the emotional realm: When we have too much to take care of, we become burdened and irritable. We make use of confession to declutter and make space to receive Our Lord sacramentally. When we simplify life within the home by cleaning and decluttering, we are able to become stewards of hospitality and share in the foretaste of the heavenly wedding banquet as we welcome guests into our homes.
The reawakening of life in nature is invigorating; we are always excited to see the return of flora and fauna from the winter’s long slumber. The patient waiting through the cold tension of winter (and, liturgically, Lent) pays off with the first glimpses of spring (and the Easter season). Outdoor life resumes as well: Children play outside while we return to the garden. We celebrate nature’s resurrection by adorning our homes with the flowers that are transforming the landscape. As we bring inside those first witnesses to the changing of the seasons, we are reminded that beauty isn’t an out-of-reach abstraction, but a concrete reality that transforms both heart and home. Moreover, it calls to mind the One who made heaven and earth and made them beautiful.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the prospect of spring cleaning, but, as wisdom holds, slow and steady wins the race. Just as the spiritual masters advise us to grow one virtue at a time, we apply this same principle to taking care of the home. By tackling one room or garden bed at a time, so much will be accomplished by simply focusing on the task at hand.
Tackling too much at once leads to becoming overwhelmed and discouraged and often failing.
By making the primary focus on removing excess or clutter by purging the things we don’t need, we remove the chain around our ankles that binds us. We can then proceed to clean the spaces left behind and ready them to receive.
As our homes are transformed by making room for God, the life contained within the walls is accentuated by the blooming examples of his creation.
As we accommodate the newness that comes with spring liturgically and in nature, we allow beauty to permeate and transform us as we bask in the splendor of the landscape’s reawakening.
The garden is an important part of the home and where we can meet God in his creation.
As it is easy to find God in quiet recesses of nature, we find little difficulty creating a prayerful space outside, particularly with a Mary Garden, a tradition stemming from the Middle Ages.
To build a Mary Garden, establish a focal point in the planting with a statue or alpine shrine of Our Lady, placing flowers around to draw the eye back to Mary.
A common question I receive is regarding which flowers are “Marian.” In reality, a great number of flowers originally had the title honoring “Our Lady,” preceding the names we know today: Foxgloves were “Our Lady’s Glove,” Lady’s Mantle was “Our Lady’s Mantle,” and Marigold was known as “Mary’s Gold.”
The examples of flowers cultivated out of love for Mary are numerous. Research your planting zone, as well as the blooming times of different flowers throughout the growing season, as it is great to always have something blooming in the garden.
My favorite way of decorating the home in the Easter season is to mirror the Church and nature, both in full bloom and celebration.
The incorporation of Easter flowers like hyacinths, narcissi and lilies is a subtle but profound way of adorning the home in this season. The celebratory fragrance of these flowers announces the arrival of new life as it dances throughout the house.
As Christian poet Helen Steiner Rice penned, “Every time you pick a daffodil,/ Or gather violets on some hill,/ Or tough a leaf, or see a tree,/ It’s all God whispering, ‘This is me.’”