This is an incredibly sacred time of the year for all religious traditions. It is the time of Spring and the time of NEW LIFE!
The celebration of the mystery of life rising from death is a universal celebration for all religions and for yoga as well. Yoga, as most people know, believes in reincarnation. Life, according to yoga, never ends. WE NEVER DIE! We just go someplace else. Death means moving into a new life, whether (as Christianity says) we go to heaven or hell or purgatory or (as the Hmong and Native Americans say) to the ancestor world or (as Buddhism says) to the Bardo or (as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc. say) to a new physical life on Earth or some other planet. WE NEVER DIE!
In Christian theological terms, this transformation from death to new life is called the Paschal Mystery. This refers to Jesus of Nazareth as the lamb (sinless person) who was sacrificed to bring salvation to all Christians. This sacrificing of the lamb is a direct reference to when the Hebrews in Egypt killed an unblemished lamb and spread its blood on their doorposts so that the angel of death would “pass over” their houses. This event, which is celebrated by Jews today and is called Passover. Hebrews were freed from their slavery/bondage in Egypt so they could go to the promised land. The lamb symbolized their death to slavery in Egypt and their rising to a new life in Palestine.
Spring is an experience of the Paschal mystery, too. Every Spring we plant seeds that die to their “seedness” and rise to a new plant of radishes, or lettuce or spinach or beans. All of life is a paschal mystery.
This past week, Mary and I experienced our close friend, Carol Rottier Voell’s, move from this life to her next life. We witnessed the pain of separation and loss of Carol in this physical world and her movement into the world of Spirit, celebrated in a glorious funeral service at St Lawrence Seminary. As the saying goes, “Planting a seed is a real act of faith.” So too, watching Carol move to the other side of life and knowing that she is alive on the other side of the barrier between material and spiritual, is an act of faith.
Every religion knows this and celebrates it in its own special way. It is the deep disturbance in our “normal” physical world that makes that paschal mystery so hard. We want to hang onto what we have in this physical/material world. So, this time of the year, all the major religions of the world celebrate the coming of new life to help us remember that life does not end but is transformed.
Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians do this celebrating during this week of Holy Week, March 25-March 31, which ends in the Easter celebration on April 1.
Orthodox Christians celebrate during the following week, April 1-7, ending in their Easter Celebration on April 8.
Jewish people celebrate Passover, the movement to freedom, from Friday, March 30 to Saturday, April 7.
Zoroastrians and Baha’is celebrated Naw-Ruz, the New Year of the Persian culture, a time of renewal and rebirth on March 20.
Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists celebrate the release of suffering and the coming of new life with the commemoration of the birth of Kwan Yin, a bodhisattva who saved people from suffering, on March 31.
American Indians honored the coming and going of the seasons at the Spring Feast, with prayer, song, dance and storytelling on the first day of Spring, March 20th.
Muslims will remember the hardship of suffering during the month long fast of Ramadan as they prepare for the glorious new life of Spring with Eid-ul-Fitr feast on June 14th and 15th.
African-Americans celebrate the end of slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation on Juneteenth Day, June 19th.
All religions and cultures celebrate Spring and New Life. All religions ritualize and celebrate the continuation of life, even when death occurs. May you take the time to reflect and spend time with this mystery during this sacred time of the year.
Remember all the pain and suffering of life and all death that is around us will rise to NEW LIFE some day.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Peace! Peace! Peace!