Today is a big church going day. According to a recent poll, 6 out of 10 Americans will go to Church on Easter. 7 out of 10 Catholics will attend. The “Easter Duty” is still live and well. Last year at this time I was in Bratislava, Slovakia with my friend Susan. We braved a torrential rainstorm to attend an Easter Vigil service at the Jesuit church there. Although the Christmas season seems to be the bigger holiday because of all the shopping and the annual crisis known only to Fox viewers as the “War on Christmas” it is really Easter that is the more important of the two holidays (Holy Days). It is the Spring festival of new life and the beginning of the planting season. It is a season for hope and renewal. Easter is celebrated after a long cold winter. Of course, if you live in California you know that winter bypassed us again and went directly from fall to spring with little snow and practically no rain to speak of for the 4th year in a row. Mandatory water rationing has already been instituted in the state. But I digress…
The word “Easter” comes from a pagan festival of spring by the Saxons, commemorating the goddess “Eastre” (sometimes spelled “Oestre”). Her symbol was the rabbit. Consider yourselves educated and you’re welcome.
Since it is the the most important religious holiday on the Christian calendar what does it all mean? Well I’ve noticed over the years that there has been a trend to have your kids’ picture taken on the lap of a giant bunny in malls and stuff ( Which begs the question: do rabbits have laps?). This is a bit more creepy than having them sit on the lap of a stranger dressed in a red suit around November and December. Apparently the giant bunny doesn’t ask the children what they want for Easter. He just sits there with vacant eyes holding your precious offspring while pictures are taken. Maybe the ritual is to secretly honor the goddess Oestre. I hope the goddess is pleased and will grant an abundant harvest when the time comes. So much for the “Christian” in Christian Nation. (Where is the outrage from Fox News?) Old habits die hard. It must be in the DNA of those Anglo-Saxons that keep this “tradition” going. If one chooses not to force their offspring sit on a giant bunny’s lap there’s always the candy, chocolate bunnies, eggs and peeps (whatever they are made out of). Bite the ears off first then eat the rest of the rabbit. Yes it’s been a long Lent without sweets. It’s time to make up for the lack of a six week sugar rush and visits to the dentist. But as Peggy Lee sang in ’69, is that all it is?
Fame! I’m gonna live forever…
The message we heard on Ash Wednesday about “you’re gonna die” (very rough translation of the Hebrew in Genesis) does a turn around on Easter Sunday. After 6 weeks of repenting and preparing for death we want to see what the payoff is. The possibility of immortality has been haunting us for ages. How do we live forever? “Sic transit gloria mundi” is the oft quoted phrase that keeps us grounded in the here and now as well as “You can’t take it with you.” The body stays, the spirit goes…where? After a period of time the richest the most powerful the most talented the most…whatever of us will cease to exist in this mortal world. As Percy Bysshe Shelley says in his sonnet “Ozymandias”
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away. —Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Gospel promises the great equalizer in death. Rich and poor will suffer the same fate. But is that the end? The Gospel goes on to say that no, this is not the end, the spirit lives on. Is this wishful thinking?
Believers who can’t really prove this to be true still cling to the idea as a promise of eternal life. I guess that is why people believe in ghosts and the spirits of loved ones who make their “presence” known through “feelings.” This phenomenon is hard to explain in this age of science and logic and is usually dismissed (except, of course, on Ghost Hunters). But there seems to be some hope to our inevitable demise as Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians:
in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Cor 15:52)
Rising from the dead takes on a creepy yet hopeful and wonderful dimension. Sometimes one can say that love itself is irrational so who’s to say that eternal love is not possible? It is such a powerful force in this life and as such perhaps it itself is transcendent in the next. If that is true, then maybe the dead are still alive somehow. Where? I don’t know. “It’s a mystery” is usually the response to the empirically unprovable.
To those who have faith, no explanation is necessary. To those who don’t have faith, no explanation is possible.
But in all of this, there is a glimmer of hope. Is hope irrational? Happy Easter!
and so it goes…