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Easter Sunday: This is the day the Lord has made. Be not afraid.

Pine Mountain, Ga.-The crucifix hanging above the altar inside the sanctuary of Christ the King Church, Pine Mountain is unique. Not because of it’s apparent beauty -it is in fact quite beautiful- or it’s size -it is indeed large- but rather because of what it is made of. The crucifix is made of Honduran mahogany, a rare and precious source of wood so precious in fact that according to wood-datebase.com there are restrictions to how much of it makes its way to the United States from Southern Mexico and Central America. “Isn’t it beautiful?,” asked Christ the King pastor Father John R. Madden. “You can’t get Honduran mahogany anymore.”

Christ the King Church had suffered a fire a few years ago and the crucifix in all of it’s symbolic and actual durability remained above the altar. Honduran mahogany, who knew? 

The Easter Sunday Mass at Christ the King, Father Madden’s homily and the crucifix hanging above the altar with the help of a pair of steel cords are all about being risen. “Good morning, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” said Madden to a capacity congregation. “Happy Easter. It’s an amazing day, I hope we all have joy in our hearts. This is a day like no other.”

Easter Masses took place all over the diocese and at Christ the King, where an overflow room had to be set up for what was a huge turnout of families and couples of all ages, the Mass had the feeling of a family gathering. “Easter ensures us that the future happens,” said Madden. “Those of us that have lost loved ones, we’ll be able to see them again. Death was not the end. Today we remember the final act in the Lord’s passion. I hope that you truly believe that.”

Madden told the congregation a story about watching a documentary where a comparison to Easter and Passover was discussed. In both religions, Catholicism and Judaism, Moses parts the Red Sea (in Hebrew the event is calledKriat Yam Suph) to help the Israelites escape slaughter from the Egyptians. The stories are different in many ways depending on what text you read but similar in how they ended. Madden’s point was simple: Moses was brave beyond belief. He was not afraid. 

“It took a brave man to begin the process,” said Madden of Moses. “One brave man to believe God’s word. Fear not anxiety. Do not be afraid appears 365 times in the Old Testament. Let us always treasure this as we go forward in our lives. 

Madden closed his homily with simple yet powerful advice. “Don’t get stuck here on Earth,” he said. “Cast your eyes on the journey home with God.”

Following his homily Madden asked all in attendance to renew the promise of Holy Baptism. A day earlier during Holy Saturday Mass a number of parishioners were baptized and Madden wanted to extend that opportunity to those in attendance. Along with other questions he asked the congregation, “Do you remove Satan and all his works?” and the congregation answered in unison, “I do.”

“Let us remember who we are,” said Madden. “We are sons and daughters of God and heirs to God’s Church. Let us not be afraid. I hope something you heard today will last longer than the Easter Bunny." Following that statement the laughter could be heard throughout the church. 

Moments later Madden walked the nave of the church and sprinkled the congregation with the Holy Water he blessed the night before. As the Holy Water made its way from Madden's aspergil to the parishioners assembled throughout the church no one was afraid. 

What goes up must come down, and fast

Savannah, Ga. - Bart Traywick took a few minutes from what he was doing to talk to the reporter at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the altar at the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Church, Savannah. Traywick, a longtime parishioner and a volunteer coordinator was in the middle of taking apart the structure that held the Nativity scene. Made of a dozen or so wooden platforms that he built in the basement of the church a few years ago, he and five other volunteers including longtime Cathedral parishioner John Pryor, Joe Moriarty and John Atwell had been working since early that morning to get the Christmas decorations from inside and outside of the church back into storage boxes and on carts to go to a storage facility. “We have to be finished by the first Sunday of Ordinary Time,” said Traywick about the team’s deadline.

On Tuesday morning there were 490 poinsettia plants in the Cathedral and each and every one of them needed to find a new home before Sunday Mass. There were also 18 quarter reefs in the windows, 13 large reefs on the columns and the walls, four large Christmas trees; two on the altar and two others outside of the sanctuary, not to mention garland and ribbons as far as the eye could see. The job that is decorating one of the most popular religious structures in the state of Georgia, and arguably the south, is a task that takes dozens of volunteers. From the floral displays to the miniature statuettes of baby Jesus and his parents, the Virgin Mary and Joseph the carpenter, there is a lot of work that goes into making an already beautifully decorated parish even more beautiful for the holidays. “Just watching it develop is just heartwarming,” said Traywick. “It’s beautiful.”

Being a part of the team that helps put it together is pretty special as well. “It’s a unique experience,” said Pryor. “You feel very proud when people come through here and say how good everything looks.” That day as the team took the displays down, a ceramic camel rested on a cart by the elevator, visitors to the Cathedral were looking on, taking photographs of the altar. “It feels good.”

The design and artistic visualization of displays comes courtesy of former parishioner Orlando Cuadra, a art teacher and graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design who now lives in Lake Worth, Florida. Cuadra comes back to Savannah every year to tell a Christmas story, somehow different from the one he helped design the year before. “Every year it’s slightly different,” added Traywick. “Orlando is the artistic genius behind it and we’re the pack mules. We couldn’t do it without him and he couldn’t do it without us.”

Cuadra and the team began working on the Christmas display, particularly beyond the altar, December 8. A team of 6-12 volunteers at a time helped take Cuadra’s vision and make it a reality. There are usually more volunteers looking to help but smaller crews allow Traywick to better manage the work that needs to be done. Those that do get a chance to help are usually coming back year after year according to Traywick. “These guys love it once you can trick them into doing it,” joked Traywick who is retired. “Some of the guys have come back time after time.”

It took eight days to put all of the decorations and decorative structures together at the Cathedral. It will take three to take it apart.

“Next Christmas we’ll repeat it again, said Traywick.”

 

 

 

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Southern Cross
Catholic Pastoral Center
2170 East Victory Drive
Savannah, GA 31404
Phone: 912-201-4054
888-295-7144 Toll-Free (in GA)

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