In April we come upon both Passover and Easter. I like to take the symbols at the heart of these stories and do what I can to make sense of them—to crack the metaphors open that we can that to which they point with greater clarity.
The word Easter derives from an Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, Eastre. The goddess reminds us of the East, where the sun rises, and thus where the power of ongoing life and light originate. In the spring, after months of colder weather, each one of us feels our spirits lift with the return of longer, brighter days. We watch flowers bend and stretch toward this energy, sometimes even defying ice and frost. All our scientific knowledge does not diminish the sense of mystery and devotion we feel toward our beautiful planet. Our growing ecological consciousness reinforces our need to celebrate and uphold the great interdependence we have with the Earth and all its creatures. Eastre is fertile, rich with promise and potential life. Her symbol is the egg, symbolizing fertility in nature and rebirth from the long winter months. In myth, Eastre is said to have amused children by turning her bird into a rabbit; the rabbit then laid colored eggs much to the delight of the children.
Eastre’s colorful eggs symbolize the spirited, almost magical contributions we make to community (including this, our church community) whenever we openly and vulnerably engage with one another. Pam Orbach’s deftly facilitated restorative circles invite us to do just that. For Eastre is not a one-time thing; it’s cyclical. It recurs in nature and—as human beings are part of nature—internally, too. Eastre represents new life springing forth from earth, of course, but Eastre also represents the blossoming of new awareness out of one’s wintry heart or imagination. Dark times in our lives are succeeded by brighter ones. Life surely is filled with loneliness, brutality, hatred, selfishness, insecurity, abandonment, fear, cruelty, and suffering. Yet despite this, and though destructive forces often carry the day, there are countervailing forces: forces that may appear to be dead, but that rise again. Invariably.
Countries crushed under the tyrant’s rule rise up to claim freedom and self-government. Truth silenced by court order, police force, or military might eventually comes to light by the dogged efforts of women and men who will live by no other standard. Natural beauty “upgraded,” developed, and sold on spec—no matter how tawdry or cheap—reveals itself and shines through anew. Love buried beneath years of loathing and abuse somehow rises again (as though a stone were suddenly rolled away), takes us by the hand, and leads us into risk and caring once more. Courage imprisoned in the dankest and dreariest of dungeons—Guantánamos both of the world and of the heart—springs anew every day in the hearts of oppressed people. And efforts on behalf of justice (though often denied, delayed, twisted, and corrupted) even now bring people hope.
The power of life-affirming values and principles cannot be killed. Freedom, Truth, Democracy, Beauty, Love, Courage, and Justice live and inspire and redeem human life. Whenever we remember them and reorder our lives accordingly, Easter lives in us—She/He/They has risen! Again. Hallelujah!
Yours in Faith,