It is Easter Sunday morning, 2012!
And around the world, Christians and Jews are celebrating their respective and traditional calendar events, one of the Resurrection, the other of the passing out of slavery into freedom.
Liturgies, and special meals and re-enactments of various aspects of these dramas constitute much of the remembering in both groups. And while there is some research evidence that suggests that those who practice a formal religion with all of its attendant ceremonies, foods, liturgies and community of belief, are happier individually and live longer lives, one would be hard pressed to find a cumulative impact of collective, committed liberating movements anywhere in the name of, or under the sponsorship of any specific world religion.
Christians are often told that God speaks to individuals only, and not to groups. I have never quite grasped how such a perception, belief(?) came to be, or how it spoke to Christians, given that, because we are unable to ascertain the mind of God, we can thereby segregate the various messages one believes "come from God" as once came to Moses, for example. I recall a debate, at a church conference, in which capital punishment was the topic. As a very naive and politically incorrect neophyte to these discussions, I recall speaking into the microphone words to the effect that 'Jesus would support the abolishment of capital punishment!'
A hushed silence came over the room, and subsequently, I was literally laughed at for my presumption.
Of course, there were "Christians" in that room who firmly held the belief that Jesus would do no such thing, that the gospel spoke to punishment for wrong-doing, and that punishment included the death penalty.
The Christian church, even yesterday through its global pontifical voice in Rome, unequivocally rendered both married priests and female priests unacceptable, under this watch, as if that posture were the one sanctioned by God him-her-it-SELF. How does Benedict know this? Or, rather, is it a case of not so much knowing as of ruling, in order to preserve the history, tradition, and discipline of the faith?
Freedom from slavery and new birth, in the name of Jesus Christ Resurrected...these are very significant themes and developments in the life of every human being, and thereby in the life of the global community.
We can and do so easily fall into multiple forms of slavery, all of them seductive and powerful, and needing more than our individual power of will to shake. Also, we fall into a pattern of perhaps one or two epiphanies in our lives, as our evidence of the possibility of new birth. And if we have been raised Christian, we ascribe those epiphanies to the work of God, since they are clearly outside our power to choose and to bring to pass. So, this season of Passover and Easter, when we celebrate events the mystery of which we cannot comprehend intellectually, and we attempt to ascribe meaning of those events to our individual lives, perhaps it would behoove us to consider how our faith is impacting, has impacted and will impact our interactions on those other 360-plus days in the year, as the light of both the Passover and the Resurrection continue to burn in our unconscious.
Clearly, the institutions designed to deliver the message of hope and love and forgiveness that accompanies this season have lost much of their vitality, if not their truth. And also clearly, the events remembered now are beyond the capacity of each of us to grasp fully. Nevertheless, our willingness to reach out into the mystery, and to begin to wonder at the potential impact those mysteries could have on our lives, and on the lives of those around us, is not dependent on those institutions nor on the books and the dogma and the liturgies that surround the celebrations of those events.
Smarter people than any of us have spent their lives contemplating these mysteries, and given us much to reflect on and to contemplate and to implement as we perceive that need. And even to pause to wonder why it is that so many centuries later we are continuing to pay homage to this re-birthing aspect of our founding faiths, is an act worthy of considerable time, reflection, prayer and even reflection.
It is the spirit of rebirth, freedom and full life that we are attempting to bring into the present, in the name and the honour of those who went before us, including the voice of God, whoever and however we conceptualize that power. And even the Easter eggs, painted chocolate, could for the very young, still be a reasonable suggestion of the core meaning of the season.
Happy Passover and Happy Easter, 2012