The Easter basket is the focus of my earliest memories of the spring holiday. We had to find the basket, which the Easter Bunny would hide in the obvious places. Inside the basket was a bed of colored cellophane grass on which sat the chocolate eggs and bunnies, yellow marshmallow chicks, and the many-colored jellybeans. The baskets outlived the fairy tale by several years.
I have fond Easter memories of the sunrise services on Rag Rock in Woburn. I walked, alone, and followed the rocky path up the hill, among the first arrivals to wait together for the sun to rise. I don’t recall much about the content of the service. I just remember being there and feeling happy to be alive. New meanings emerge every year, but the basic theme is the same-the joy of being alive!
Passover is about being alive. God tells the people of Israel to sacrifice a clean lamb and mark the doorpost with the lamb’s blood as a sign for the Angel of Death to pass over this house. Then it’s the story of liberation of the people of Israel-the freedom march from bondage in Egypt, through the Red Sea, toward the land of milk and honey. Get it? Then it’s your story.
Easter is a variation on the theme. The new Passover story says that Jesus is the sacrificed lamb that believers use to overcome death. There’s nothing new in the New Testament. Passover and Easter are the Jewish and Christian stories of death and resurrection. It’s about Life-yours and mine.
I won’t be looking for an Easter basket with chocolate bunnies, but I’m still searching for the deeper meanings of this thing we call Life. I want to be able to watch a sunrise and have that deep feeling of appreciation for being alive. That kind of deep joy is not about having answers, and to tell the truth it’s not simply about loving the questions. Sometimes the questions are really bothersome. Unnerving.
The joy I mean is an intuition, a deep sense of knowing, beyond and beneath the intellect. It’s what makes me realize that I am part of everything that is and ever was or will be. It’s way beyond my capacity to explain. It is hinted at by all the religions, but captured by none. It’s a child-like joy.
Grief gets in the way, but I’ve come to realize that it is a requisite to that deep joy. Lory and Carlyn and I went to the Broadway production Movin’ Out on Sunday to celebrate Lory’s birthday. Twyla Tharp fashioned basic Billy Joel music into a daring dance that moved me into the depths of the grief I’ve been carrying this past month. It’s a coming-of-age story of three couples who struggle with love and loss. They graduate from high school and the young men go off to war in Vietnam and participate in the same kind of death and destruction we’ve witnessed in Iraq.
I was moved into the depths of my grief as I watched these young men deal with the death of comrades. Those who weren’t killed return home to plunge into the torment they carried, pushing down despair with mind-numbing drugs and angry, empty sexuality.
The breathtaking performance, with no dialogue except for Michael Cavanaugh’s Joel-like renditions of the songs, helped me to grieve and then to turn mourning into praise. It was an experience of renewal, which is the essential spiritual task–the responsibility we owe to those we love, and, perhaps, to Life. I hope you’ve found ways to grieve so that you can cleanse and renew your spirit. Let it be a dance!