April 17, 2022
To everything there is a season
And a time for every purpose under Heaven
This week’s special Easter blog post is from LifeWays’ Founder, Cynthia Aldinger:
In preparing to write this blog, I made my way down to the river to pray – well, not exactly to pray but to seek inspiration. And three great things happened. On my way, I lost my glasses and found that I was able to calmly trust that I would find them on the way back (and I did). So, I continued on to the beautiful live oak where my grandchildren love to play, right on the shore of the American River, and found the almost-on-the-ground branch that served as my muse bench. Then, having just settled myself, along came Skunk who was taking his master Steve for a walk. They were both eager to visit with the lady sitting on the tree. And so it was that the cute wiggly-tailed Pomeranian, the newly-retired Steve, and I had a refreshing conversation until Steve noted to Skunk that it was time for them to move on and allow this dear lady her Walden moment! Ha! How did he know that I had come there to draw forth from Nature ideals that represent what Easter means to me? Thus, the third great thing that happened was that it worked! My senses were stirred by the tree, the flowing river, and the encounter with man and animal that reminded me of what truly matters in life.
A first thought was my awareness that three religions are currently celebrating events represented in their yearly practices. This year Ramadan is April 2-May 1, Passover April 15-23, and Easter Day is April 17 (although I offer that Easter is truly more than the singular day). Perhaps this intersection of festivals happens more often than I am aware, but it was a welcome reminder to me that it is lovely to focus on what we share, especially these days when there is so much emphasis in the world on how we differ. After a tiny bit of research, I found out that one thing these three festivals share is that their dates are not fixed; they change from year to year. That is because one thing they have in common is their relationship to the celestial body of the Moon! Ramadan is in relationship to the crescent moon and Passover and Easter are set according to the full moon.
Whether the main focus is service to others and God, gratitude for freedom, and/or sacrifice, one might find Love as a foundational principle in these celebrations. This was easy to access sitting on a beautiful spring day, surrounded by Nature’s bounty. Suddenly, I noticed a single leaf growing out the side of the huge tree trunk. It was not connected to a branch, nor to a group of leaves, but stood alone, like a messenger calling out, “As my mother, full of ancient wisdom, holds me in the landscape of her life, I also bravely stand alone in this moment until the time comes for me to merge with others or yield to whatever solitude brings.” In that moment I felt a strong kinship with this lovely creation. Certainly there were other new leaves on the trunk sprouting in clusters, and that, too, felt comforting. Whether in solitude (from the Latin root ‘loneliness’) or community (‘belonging to all’), both echoed the Easter mood to me.
One of my favorite creatures in the Easter milieu is the hare, a somewhat solitary creature who also extends itself in service to community. You see, a hare and a rabbit are not the same creature. Legend has it that a hare, which lives above ground rather than in a burrow, will sacrifice itself in order to save a fellow hare. I love to tell the story of the hare being chased by the hounds and on the verge of succumbing to exhaustion, when suddenly it experiences a vibration and hears the thumping of another hare signaling to it as if to say, “Come, you who are tired and weary, and I will give you rest.” The exhausted hare is offered the tamped down nest and the other hare takes off into the chase of the hounds. Refreshed it may manage to ditch the hunters, but there is no guarantee! This willingness to sacrifice tugs at me. Can I do that for my fellow creatures? Will I do it if called upon? When I became a mother, that is likely the first time the idea that I could sacrifice myself was a visceral experience! Again, as a grandmother, it was clear that indeed there are people for whom I would lay down my life! But wait! What about individuals I do not know, the weary and burdened of the world, the one staring out from a street corner holding a sign saying, “I’m hungry”. They’re not even asking me to physically surrender my life! Yet, can I pause and notice, stop the inner dialogue that says,’honey, you can’t save the whole world’, allow the inconvenience of interrupting the flow of my day? At least pull out a five-dollar-bill, offer a Kind bar sitting in the side of the car door just for such an occasion, or perhaps even ask, ‘how can I help you?’ as I had the luxury of doing this winter with a young man who really needed a blanket for the night. We had a lovely conversation when I returned to him with blankets and a package of new socks. I received far more than he. For me, it was like an Easter experience; however, it did not feel like sacrifice, it felt like resurrection, renewal!
One other hare story I love is the one about how the hare was chosen as the Easter messenger who delivers eggs to the children around the world The legend is that a number of proud creatures claimed to be the strongest, the swiftest or the most surefooted of all creatures, yet did not manage to prove themselves up to the calling. It was the “lowly” humble hare who offered to try its best and succeeded due to its diligence and ability to not be distracted. Thus, it was given the task and reminded that what the egg carried inside of it, the golden yolk, represented yet another celestial body, the Sun that shines upon us all and invokes us to truly love one another.
In working with and loving young children, these nature stories of sacrifice and love have always felt just right to me. It is for their families to decide when/if they want to bring in the Big Story of death and resurrection. My grandchildren and I make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday and make sure we leave enough for Easter Sunday dinner! We dance the circle game – remember, “one-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot cross buns.” We dye eggs with the whole family in various ways. One of my favorites was the year we used bleeding tissue paper to wrap around them. All the eggs looked like stained glass windows! And, of course, we have a grand time hunting for the eggs off and on all day on Easter. We keep it simple and allow the stories, songs and games to bathe us in the sweetness of simplicity and beauty.
As adults, we are called upon to take up the bigger aspects of what these festivals, and their foundational stories, call out from us. Nothing less than to reach out to one another with open hearts and minds.
Easter Blessings, Dear Friends,