Easter on MS Amsterdam

Easter on Amsterdam

I was not sure I would go to Easter Services on the Amsterdam.  First of all it was at sunrise.  My spiritual needs have largely met this trip by Rabbi Gan.  I’m attending his daily lectures and also went to the Purim celebration and attended Seder.  But at Seder Reverend Al and Father John read from Torah.  So I decided to go even though, being on a cruise ship, I did not observe Lent at all, which I usually do.  I was not sure, without Lent, if Easter would mean much.

There is another reason I was reluctant to attend.  Church services at sea bring back memories of travel with my grandfather.  The first time he took me on a liner was in 1957.  It was on a British ship, Queen of Bermuda, three days and two nights of stormy North Atlantic seas crossing the Gulf Stream.  We traveled over Easter break and on Sunday we went to “Divine Services” conducted by the Captain in the main lounge.

The Service opened with “Our God Our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for years to come.”  The boat was pitching and rolling in a kind of corkscrew motion.  In front the page boys, all in crisp uniform, white gloves tucked into the epilates on their shoulders, their pillbox hats at just the right jaunty angle stood in a line across the front, legs apart, their bodies swaying and corkscrewing with the ship’s motion, which was not in sync with the meter of the hymn.   By the time we got to “…and shelter from the storm” people started leaving.  Some made it to the restroom, some to the rail outside on the promenade deck; some didn’t make it out of the room.  Divine services on ships bring back memories of people gagging, stumbling for the exit and well…  By the time we sang the final hymn “…for those in peril on the sea.”  I was not comforted.

This Easter Sunday may have replaced the image.  Services were on the lido deck.  The dome was closed, the room was hot and the ship was rocking, not nearly as bad as on that past voyage, but enough to evoke the memory.  With the dome closed sound was bouncing and reverberating.  I couldn’t understand most of what was said or read.

The HAL Chorale, a passenger choir that organizes on long cruises, sang the anthem, which I knew so intelligibility was not a problem.  And a preacher I didn’t know, who must have been a guest on board, read the Gospel of Luke with a cadence and dynamism that held my attention.  I knew the words but had never heard such a delivery.

Then the Catholic Priest, Father John Murphy (I’m feeling a bit at home) started his homily.  Listening hard I caught the words “the tomb was opened.” Just then there was a horrible racket, a loud metallic crack followed by a low rumbling.  The dome over the lido was opening, interrupting the homily and letting in a breeze that caught Father John’s stole.  He deftly caught it with one hand.  The room immediately cooled off, I for one was feeling better, and all speech became intelligible.  Father smiled and resumed his homily.  “timing is everything, …and the tomb was opened!”

What Father said spoke to my Unitarian soul.  “The resurrection teaches us to live in hope, not just in hope of heaven and the afterlife, “that is a cop out,” but hope to LIVE our lives in constant resurrection.

Amen!  And a Happy and blessed Easter.

Of course Easter on Amsterdam is more than a sunrise service.  Later in the morning the Mormons are gathering and there will be a Catholic Mass.

And there are secular activities.  During Breakfast the Easter Bunny visited our room (in the form, I suspect, of our room steward) to leave us some wonderful Seattle Chocolates.  Floral displays celebrate Easter all around the ship.  There is a big Easter Brunch (which we are skipping) and a lecture on Faberge Easter Eggs.  But being in the southern hemisphere it is a fine fall day, we are sailing away from the equator and summer towards the cooler autumn at Cape Town.

Yesterday we were in Maputo, Mozambique.  We loved our day.  There will be posts once I process my thoughts and pictures.

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