Easter continues to bring light in spite of darkness

Walt Mares File Photo/Gila Herald: A statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe is adorned as it sits in a shrine built against a rock cliff face in Clifton. It is a part of town formerly known as Paterson’s Addition. The interior has portraits of the Virgin on one wall and on another wall of Jesus Christ holding the flaming sacred heart. Barely visible at the base of the statue is candle with a flame.

It means hope, renewal of life in different forms

By Walt Mares

“In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it you’ll  be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.”

From the song Easter Parade

CLIFTON – As Easter is among the holiest days of Christianity it symbolizes sacrifice, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and hope of new life. May that life be filled with renewed love among mankind, especially in these days of darkness. 

How does that fit in with the Easter Bunny, Easter eggs and hunting them? Those, too, are based on the symbol of new life, albeit it is a secular tradition. It actually means more than rabbit-shaped candy wrapped in colorful foil.

So, what happens if churches are closed, preventing worship by the faithful? What happens if even the secular symbol of new life via the Easter Bunny is put on the shelf? 

Churches are closed and families are urged to sit tight at home. That is the current situation as people avoid the possibility of transferring or being stricken by the potentially deadly novel coronavirus COVID-19 that has spread around the world.   

There is indeed fear, and rightfully so, of becoming a virus victim. There exists not only deep fear but also great anxiety. Our world is not what it was two months ago. We are advised to stay away from groups of more than six people. It is highly advisable to stay home and hopefully stay out of harm’s way.

We are warned to stay apart, other than perhaps with our families, Thus, the complexion of Easter has been entirely changed but that does not mean faith has to be lessened in any way. Perhaps our faith will be strengthened as we face what may be the gravest challenge of our lifetimes. The threat we face may hopefully cause us to closely look at the world and our lives and appreciate more the simple things – things we take or have taken for granted.

Walt Mares File Photo/Gila Herald: This elaborate shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe is located in a remote part of Clifton, once known as Paterson’s Addition, which was wiped out n the October 1983 flood. However, this shrine puts the past to rest and sits as a strong symbol of faith and hope. The shrine is extremely elaborate from the simple shrine that originally existed there.

What are really the most important things in life aside from that which is material?

Then again when the threat passes will we return to a high degree of self-importance and perhaps measure our worth by what material things we possess?

Perhaps we will pay closer attention to such things as the shrine in a remote part of Clifton. It is beautiful.  It is a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a symbol of the Catholic faith. There is a small statue of the Lady at the rear of the shrine. On one wall of the shrine is a portrait of Jesus Christ holding the Sacred Heart topped with a small flame.

Until a few years ago, the shrine was simply a cavity in the rock cliff wall. It was carved out just enough to hold the statue. That it has become a much larger and detailed structure signifies the devotion, love, and faith that it took to create what the shrine is today.

It is located in what was Paterson’s Addition in Clifton. It is located across the Polly Rosenbaum Bridge spanning the San Francisco River and is only a couple of hundred yards from the North Clifton RV Park. The shrine sits along a dirt road that was once referred to as the “Million Dollar Highway,” referring to a long-ago plan to build a highway through there.    

One need not be a Catholic to appreciate and enjoy the shrine’s symbolism. Its subject matter and the work of devotion that went into creating it can be appreciated by all of the Christian faith. 

It is very quiet at the shrine. The loudest sound is the whisper of the river as it flows by. Other than on the day of the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe there are very, very few people there at any one time. It is an ideal place to visit this Easter Sunday without having to worry about contact with other people.

Walt Mares File Photo/Gila Herald: Father Nathaniel Mma walks alongside children carrying a symbolic cross during a 2017 pilgrimage to the Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Clifton. The pilgrimage is an annual event held on Good Friday in anticipation of Easter Sunday. However, the event has been canceled for 2020 due to the threat posed by the potentially deadly Corona Virus pandemic. Gatherings of several people such as the one pictured here are not being held to hopefully prevent the spread of the virus.

Along with regular Easter Sunday services, an annual Good Friday pilgrimage from Holy Cross Church in Morenci to Sacred heart Cemetery in Clifton has been canceled this year. The ceremony involves hundreds of people walking beside or behind a large cross made of saguaro cactus. 

Several people take turns carrying the cross on the winding uphill trek to the cemetery. It is a distance of about three miles. As the crowd approaches its destination, children become among those who bear the cross. Again, regardless of one’s religion, the event is well worth attending, especially when one considers the meaning of the event and its great significance to the Christian faith.

                                               Easter eggs

 Morenci Community Services sponsors an annual Easter egg hunt, except for this year. The hunt is held at night on a practice field near the Morenci High School football stadium. Hundreds, if not thousands, of eggs, are placed around the field, some are in plain sight, as children rush to gather them and collect at many as they can. There are prizes inside each plastic egg. 

Walt Mares File Photo/Gila Herald: A girl dressed in her Easter finery attempts to open one of the many eggs she collected during an Easter egg hunt in Morenci during a past event. Morenci Community Services has sponsored the event for several years. However, this year children will not experience the delight and fun of the traditional hunt. It has been canceled in 2020 due to the threat of the potentially lethal COVID-19 global pandemic.

Many of the children are dressed in what will be their Sunday best. It has long been a tradition that parents and children, women and girls, in particular, wear the most beautiful and brightest clothing they can. And they look the grandest they can as is said in the uplifting song “Easter Parade.” The word “adorable” is often used to describe the young ones as they excitedly go about seeking their small treasures and wearing their holiday best.

The Easter Bunny and eggs are based on a tradition brought to the United States by German immigrants in the 1700s. Legend has it that the Easter Bunny lays eggs, decorates and hides them and that represents a symbol of new life. Part of the tradition is also based on how rabbits usually give birth to big litters and that is also a symbol of new life.

As the Easter Bunny represents what it does, may that lighter side of Easter touch our hearts and minds as we contemplate the renewal of life and more closely examine the spiritual side of it. 

Virtual Farm Easter Egg Hunt