Thousands of Easter lilies will adorn the altars, sanctuaries and foyers of churches throughout Pleasanton today as Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection more than 2,000 years ago.
Also called the Paschal season, it often includes decorating Easter eggs during children's services, which symbolize the empty tomb, and decorating churches with lilies, a symbol of the resurrection.
The lily has always been highly regarded in churches.
Jesus referenced the flower, saying, "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." (Luke 12:27).
Moreover, according to pious legend, "after Jesus' death and resurrection, some of these flowers were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray the night before his crucifixion. Legend has it that these flowers sprung up where drops of Jesus' sweat fell as he prayed."
Jacki Auer, a floral designer who provides floral arrangements in the Tri-Valley, including to St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic churches, said that's why in many Christian churches -- and especially in the more liturgical Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal denominations -- the chancels and sanctuaries are decorated with Easter lilies this holy season.
Christians see the flowering lily "reflective of the resurrection, of new beginnings, of purity, of life restored," Auer said.
"White lilies, and only white ones are Easter lilies, represent purity," Auer said, "and they are used not only in churches, but also for weddings, baptisms and other Christian events."
Easter is also the "highest" season of church liturgy as well as the busiest time of year for local florists, she added. Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and Christmas are also busy times for florists, but Easter, with its many days of Lent and holy days leading up, tops them all.
For Auer, who has been designing and creating floral banners, floral crosses, floral candle bases and much more in Pleasanton since 2002, it's a special season for florists to call on their design skills to make churches look and feel their best for Easter morning services.
This week has been especially busy for Auer, who has been procuring and arranging red roses in tribute to Jesus' mother Mary for Holy Thursday services yesterday at St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton, and then white lilies for Easter Sunday masses at 8 and 10 a.m. and at noon at St. Augustine and 9 and 11 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Seton.
At Lynnewood United Methodist Church this Easter, light and dark pink azaleas will adorn the sanctuary. Though the white Easter lily is the traditional flower in American churches, people with allergies are grateful that they are placed only outside the church to welcome guests, explained the Rev. Heather Leslie Hammer, senior pastor, who will preach on how the hope of the Risen Christ changes us today.
Easter services at Lynnewood, located at 4444 Black Ave., will be held at 9 and 10:30 a.m., with children in Sunday school making a large cross filled with cut flowers. At the end of the service, as the congregation sings "Lift High the Cross," the children will carry in their floral cross.
A brass quartet of area high school music students will accompany traditional hymns, such as Charles Wesley's "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," and the Chancel Choir will sing "With a Voice of Singing" under the direction of Donna Kirch. Organist Amelia Han Riegert and pianist Michelle Brown will play special music.
At Our Savior Lutheran Church in Livermore, parishioners will bring flowers from their home gardens to place on a special wooden cross ahead of the 9 a.m. Easter service. Lilies will be placed around the steps of the altar, usually in memory of a loved one.
Other Pleasanton churches with Easter lilies filling their sanctuaries on Sunday include:
* Valley Community Church on Del Valle Parkway, with services at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. A free pancake breakfast will be served all morning and children's programs will be available during each of the three services.
* Trinity Lutheran Church, with its Easter celebration at 9 a.m. Sunday, followed by an Easter egg hunt and potluck breakfast.
* St. Clare's Episcopal, with the Rev. Ronald Douglas Culmer conducting Easter services at 8 and 10:15 a.m.
* Centerpointe Presbyterian Church, which will hold its final Easter service on Cornerstone Court at 10 a.m. before relocating later this year.
* CrossWinds Church on Freisman Road, just east of the San Francisco Premium Outlets next to I-580, will hold Easter services at 8:30, 10 and 11:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. The theme of the message will be that Easter is a time to celebrate life and to "embrace the victory that Jesus has won over every challenge you face ... even death itself."
"The theme of Easter in all Christian churches is hope," Pastor Hammer of Lynnewood said. "The message is an invitation to let the promise of hope change us."