The bloom is off the lily

Friday 20 April 2018 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Easter weekday

Here we are in the middle of our celebration of the Easter season, but the bloom is already off the lily. Potted Easter lilies are de rigueur at Easter. Omitting them from the Sanctuary would be a heresy of unimaginable proportions. You know me, dear readers. I usually try my best to avoid heresies. 

Just between us, I’m not fond of Easter lilies. I find them boring. With their gangly stalks and unimaginative blossoms, they’re the same-old, same-old. I suspect that those who sell Easter lilies are well-aware of this. That’s why they wrap the pots in gold foil – or purple foil if they are especially daring. 

There’s nothing worse than arriving to the altar at the Solemn Easter Vigil only to find your path blocked by a jungle of Easter lilies. One shouldn’t need a machete to enter the Sanctuary. 

Fortunately, potted Easter lilies don’t last all that long and then you can get rid of them with a clear conscience. The only place I know where Easter lilies last until Pentecost is in convents. I suspect they have an assigned nun hovering over them like a guardian angel. 

I like to include in the Sanctuary display potted hydrangeas as well as Easter lilies. They last much longer and, besides, they are the trademark flower of Cape Cod. They can be replanted outside when the weather is right. Hydrangeas let you know when they need watering by simply letting out a sigh and swooning dramatically. After watering, they snap right back to their glorious selves. The florist supplied deep blue hydrangeas this year. They proved effective.

In addition to the potted plants, we had two large glass vases of cut Asiatic lilies. Their white blooms are twice the size of Easter lilies. Unlike Easter lilies, hybridizers are constantly at work developing new and improved varieties. By adjusting the spotlights to shine directly on the vases, the effect is stunning. Nobody noticed they weren’t Easter lilies. If they did, they said nothing.

It’s the huge arrangements on the back wall of the Sanctuary that steal the show. Usually, pastel flowers are to be avoided because the colors tend to fade out at a distance. But Easter shouts of spring and spring demands pastels: sprouting willow branches, forsythia, tulips, jonquils. 

I learned all this by default. In the seminary college, the Dean of Men ordered me to volunteer for the Schola Cantorum. The choirmaster immediately ascertained I couldn’t sing. I was reassigned to Sacristy/Sanctuary work where monastic silence is the rule. I’ve been doing this work now for more than 50 years. It’s not because of any particular training or talent. It’s because I can’t sing.

Lurch the greyhound loves the spring. Starting at about 6 p.m., his pent-up energy reaches an unbearable level and he begins pestering me to go out in the yard. Lurch will not be ignored, so I eventually let him out. He insists that I accompany him and get some fresh air. He will race around for 10 minutes and then, panting, come back to be let in. Once he has rested and caught his breath, he insists on going back out for a few more laps. The pattern repeats. Sometimes I secretly wish I had adopted a gerbil instead of a greyhound, but I soon get over it.

The first flowers to appear every year on the church grounds are a small clump of snowdrops near the north entrance. These are the only snowdrops on the property. I have no idea how they got there. It doesn’t matter. They are a hopeful sign.

There are a few clumps of daffodils in Lurch’s fenced-in yard. The poor things never get to bloom. They set their buds, but then they get noticed by the greyhound. Lurch doesn’t eat them. He just rips off the greenery and flings it wildly into the air, leaping for joy. He finds this a most delightful game — almost as much fun as digging holes, sniffing the fresh spring earth, and then twirling around like a whirling dervish. I have no idea what he’s thinking, but I can see his heart is full of joy. April is, after all, a month of joy. Lurch knows this.

The clump of daffodils by the rectory’s side door are in bloom. Lurch is unaware of this. I photographed them for memory’s sake. The photo will join the one I took last autumn just a few hours before the killing frost hit. It’s literally a picture of the “last rose of summer.” During the storms of winter, I would sometimes look at the photograph of the rose. It reminds me that the best is yet to come. 

When I was a child, I liked winter. I eventually got over my enthusiasm. With the passing of the years, winter becomes more and more burdensome. Is it just me, or have there always been so many winter storms? It seemed like one nor’easter after another. 

No matter. Winter is over. Welcome spring!

Anchor columnist Father Tim Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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