Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

I walked into one of my grad school classes back in 2001 or thereabouts; it was just after Easter. Inside the class were a few classmates who'd arrived earlier than I had, mostly Catholic and ranging in age from late 20s to mid-50s. The other Protestant in the class, a young minister in the American Baptist Church, interrupted the quiet pre-class conversation by saying in a cheerful voice, "He is risen!" Everyone looked at each other, nonplussed; I was, apparently, the only one ready with the response: "He is risen, indeed!"

I know that that ritual exchange, or something close to it, is part of the Catholic liturgy, so I assumed the general lack of response had more to do with the out-of-context nature of my classmate's utterance. It threw people off guard. Anyway, it was an amusing Easter memory.

The Easter event is considered by most Christians to be the focal point on the liturgical calendar: Easter is what Christianity is all about. According to this point of view, Christ's resurrection, which signals his defeat of death and his opening of the way of salvation to all, is essential to Christian belief. If you fail to believe in the historicity of the resurrection, you aren't a Christian.

As my friends know, I'm not a scriptural literalist, nor will anyone ever mistake me for any sort of traditionalist. Politically, I think I'm fairly centrist, but religiously speaking, I recognize that I'm a flaming liberal. I don't take the resurrection to be a literal, historical event. The scriptural accounts of what happened aren't consistent, and what data the scriptures do provide can be interpreted in a variety of contradictory ways.

But this isn't to say that the Easter story doesn't resonate in me. I grew up hearing it, so of course it's a part of my history and psychology, part of who I am. The story of Jesus' self-sacrifice, his death on the cross, presents me with a model that I routinely fail to emulate in my daily life. And the resurrection, historical or not, conveys an ancient message about the nature of endings, which is this: even endings end. Each ending represents a new beginning. And there's hope in that way of thinking.

Whatever your view of Easter may be-- whether Easter represents the risen Christ or a rabbit that has the ability to lay eggs-- may it be a Happy Easter for you. Let the day be a reminder that every moment is a new beginning, and that we should, to borrow a biblical injunction, "rejoice and be glad in it."


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