With Easter and Passover overlapping this year, the different images of each holiday are in striking contrast in my mind.
I enjoyed sharing Easter dinner with my sister’s family, hosted by her mother-in-law, who I hadn’t seen in many years. I picked up my mother to bring her to the dinner party, and on the way, I asked her if it felt like Easter to her. She said, without hesitation, “Yes!”, followed by a comment about the flowers blooming, and how springlike everything looked. Which wasn’t really my idea of the response I expected to the question.
My recollection of Easter, with the weeks of Lent to prepare oneself, was the idea of new life (yes, that is represented by Spring, and certainly, the renewal of the season emerging from the cold and rain of winter is an important element in Easter), but also of shedding old/bad habits, transformation – like the butterfly emerging from the cocoon, and Hope. I recall Easter morning services, especially sunrise services, feeling like there was a lightness – in the message, in the music. Also, some of the hymns of my Methodist youth have a triumphal tone:
This was the song that came to my mind first, when thinking about Easter hymns.
In contrast, but complementary, Passover is centered on stripping away the irrelevant, getting rid of the Chametz (Bread or any food that has been leavened or contains a leavening agent – prohibited on Passover), which can be extrapolated to getting rid of the frivolous in our selves, stripping down to the core, and recognizing and remembering the ways that we are enslaved. Breaking free from slavery is the central theme, but another image that I find compelling is the notion of journeying through narrow straits.
Last year, Passover was the start of a huge change in my life, and it was also the first year that I counted the Omer all 49 days from Passover to Shavuot. I also enrolled in a year-long course of readings from Rumi, and today, I read the 365th one. This year has felt, at times, like a long journey through a long dark narrow strait, and there were times when I felt like emergence into light was never going to happen (although I think I always had a small hope). And, here, now, at the one-year mark, I do, in fact, feel like I’ve passed through, and am expanding into a new sense of myself, with new, healthier habits (with the help of my health coach, Robin K, I lost 30 pounds, and am exercising regularly, and feel great). I’m getting more comfortable with the idea of being on my own (which felt terrifying a year ago), and I am confident that I can move forward and pave my own way.
I’ve always liked defining my life and myself in relation to another person – as an adolescent, that person was my best friend Sarah, and then it was my first husband. The limbo period between the end of my first marriage and the beginning of my second, my grounding was always in my daughter – which was particularly noticeable to me when she was absent from my life and was with her father, at which times, I would tend to lose my sense of self, and spin out of control (long drives to the beach in the middle of the night, too much alcohol, wallowing in melancholy). And, for the past 22+ years, it was my second husband who defined me.
Now, it’s on me to define myself. About time. Better late than never, eh?
So, the transformative images of Easter, and the Passover story of passage through slavery into freedom both resonate for me this year in a very personal way. Every year we pass through these seasons, and our changes inform new insights into the traditions.
I hope you experience transformation in a positive direction this year.