They say Easter is canceled this year, due to the stay-at-home orders. And I pretty much agree that it should be (for the sake of flattening the curve), at least as we know it. I fear that Easter is mostly superficially understood.
What do we think of when we think Easter? Candy, Easter eggs, the Easter bunny, and for church folks, the resurrection of Jesus. For one thing, how the heck did Jesus’ resurrection get tied in with a bunny, eggs, and chocolate?! I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not completely coincidental. As we can see, there’s almost 2 completely different Easters celebrated at the same time. Though they may seem completely different, there’s some strong interconnecting themes. There’s the cultural Easter, and there’s the Christian Easter. Let’s talk about the Christian one first.
Easter originally took place the Sunday after the Passover feast (a Jewish holiday). Exodus tells us that Israel had to sacrifice a spotless lamb, and paint their doorposts with it’s blood. This would be so that the Angel of Death would know not to enter into their homes during the last plague. Easter marks the day of Jesus’ resurrection after having died on the Cross three days prior. He paid the ultimate price by being the Passover lamb for us. Another common view of His death is simply him being the sacrifice for our sins’ ultimate atonement. Both are valid. If His death is what mattered, then what’s the whole point in the resurrection? I’ll get to that later.
Now, let’s talk about the cultural Easter. The traditions of the Easter bunny leaving eggs can be traced back to German culture actually. Here’s a great article explaining that in more detail. Furthermore, the name Easter is derived from a Saxon goddess Eastra, to whom sacrifices were made around the spring equinox. But why would a bunny leave eggs? (Quick note, bunnies don’t lay eggs.) The spring equinox was celebrated in many cultures throughout time. The furthest we can go back is to the Sumerian goddess of Inanna/Ishtar, the goddess of life and fertility. Long story short, Ishtar would descend to the underworld and around the time of the spring equinox, she would come back up to bring light and life. Throughout history, you can see that the spring equinox was celebrated for light overcoming darkness, and for life to start proliferating once again. That’s probably the reason behind the bunny and egg symbols. Bunnies are known for their ability to multiply, and the egg is a symbol of rebirth.
It’s time to get back to the resurrection. When Jesus rose from the grave, he defeated death. Death can no longer hold victory over those He died for. But what does this mean? Of course, we still have to face a physical death, but not a spiritual one. I personally think that whether Jesus had literally rose from the grave or not is not nearly as important as what the resurrection means for us, put into practice. How can we do that?
The secret lies in the cultural traditions of Easter. It’s a holiday of fertility, *cough, cough*, sex. Now I’m not proposing that you celebrate Easter by having lots of sex, just hear me out. What is sex exactly? It could be said that it’s the union of opposites to bring forth life. Can you see that? Similarly, I suggest that we unite opposites to bring forth the light of Christ into our daily lives. Swami Yogananda had a maxim of “being passively active, and actively passive.” This is a key to be used, as I’ll explain in a minute.
We’re instructed to take up our Cross and crucify our flesh. Yes, Jesus died, but we have to also. This is putting to death our carnal nature, our egos. If we do that, then the light of Christ can shine through us, and Christ will live in and through us. This can be practiced if you’re Christian or not actually. And now, with this COVID pandemic, we have ample opportunity. And you don’t have to even be Christian to enjoy practicing Easter.
In order to crucify the flesh, you simply say no to your sinful nature. Since the very nature of God/the Divine is Love, then the sinful nature is hate and selfishness. It’s hard to look out for those things unless you try to keep in mind Love. Love shines light on selfishness, and it casts away hate as water does to fire and light to darkness.
Metta is a wonderful type of meditation that can help. Metta is a contemplative meditation on love/compassion. To do it, try to summon the feeling of love/compassion, and intensify that feeling as much as you can. Then try to “send” it to yourself, then loved ones, then strangers you may not know, then people you don’t even like, and eventually spread it out to the whole world. If meditation isn’t your thing and you are a Christian, just resort to the good ole’ WWJD throughout the day.
That covers crucifying the flesh, but what about experiencing the resurrection of Christ within you? In order to that, you have to have contact with the Spirit. Obviously it’s not physical contact, it’s contact with the mind and heart. The Spirit of God is everywhere, and there’s not a time nor a place that we can’t make contact. We use the key above, and that helps open us up to His Presence. For you non-Christians, practice something similar to Zen. Deep communion with the Holy Spirit and Zen are actually the same type of experience (I speak from experience).In fact, I whole-heartedly believe that incorporating a mind-body practice (such as qigong) can make it easier to access these states.
So, while we’re all on a light lockdown this Easter, don’t forget to PRACTICE Easter, even though we may not celebrate it. Use this time to suppress the ego, meditate on love, and make contact with the Spirit. As you go about your day, be passively active as you contemplate on love. Be actively passive as you set aside time for communion with the Spirit. This time is our Easter egg. Using this practice opens up the egg and allows the resurrected life of Christ to shine into our lives. And if you ask me, that’s sweeter than chocolate.