Easter’s messages

Apr. 19, 2014 @ 05:53 PM

Perhaps you’ll mark today with an Easter egg hunt, in your home or with a larger group.

Perhaps you’ll gather around the dinner table – or the picnic table – for ham and other traditional Easter dishes, chocolate bunnies included.

Chances are good, if you are a Christian, your day will include some time in church, even if you’re one of those sometimes referred to as “C and Es.” If you’re an early riser, you may already have taken part in a traditional sunrise service.

Today wraps up Holy Week for Christians – and for many, 40 days of Lenten reflection and sacrifice. And today is nearing the end of Passover, the eight-day commemoration of Jews emancipation from slavery in Egypt.

For both faith traditions, these are spiritually important days, but even for those of other faiths, or no faith, this season is one of rebirth and renewal, as longer days, warmer temperatures, budding trees and blossoming flowers announce that spring, that most hopeful of seasons, is truly here.

Like that other most sacred of Christian observances, Christmas, Easter has been enveloped in the commercial nature of modern society. It’s easy to lose sight of theological meaning when we are bombarded with news of special sales and enticed by the lure of something new for the season.

And like many observances, this one has roots that reach back far more than 2,000 years and has antecedents that have been blended into the modern religious traditions.

As a writer put it in the British newspaper, The Guardian, earlier this month, “the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.”

If you are put off by some aspects of today’s celebrations – whether because they are too sacred or too secular for your tastes – best to adopt the attitude attributed to those early clergy –give up and immerse yourself in the day in whatever strikes you as the most appropriate way.

For our part, we think today is an excellent time to reflect on the message of the faith born of the story of sacrifice and resurrection. It’s a good day to remember the least among us, to commit to work for peace and justice, to take as an affront to that who we worship that one in four of our city’s residents are poor and to try to live by that central tenet of the faith, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.