Easter is more than chocolate and bunny-rabbits. This spring festival is important to Christians, nature-worshippers and to anyone aware of deeper meanings in life.
This article looks at:
• Sacrifice, and what it really means
• Resurrection – all the ways we can find rebirth
• Variable festival – adapting to the tides of life
Running up to Easter there is s strong theme of sacrifice. We give up things for Lent, the forty days leading up to the festival, in acknowledgement of all that Christians believe Jesus gave up for us. Sometimes it seems that the message of ‘sacrifice’ is that ‘suffering is good for the soul’, but there are very different aspects at work.
Sacrifice is not about punishing yourself for being or doing – whatever. It’s about recognizing more long-term priorities, and a bigger picture. So something relatively small has to be given up for greater gain. This can mean that the petty concerns of the ego have to give way to something spiritual.
Sacrifice isn’t essentially about suffering. It means surrendering to something that means more. Sacrifice can be very joyful. For instance, some people may sacrifice much in the way of comfort in order to achieve Enlightenment. Hours and days spent in the austere surroundings of a monastery or ashram are a sacrifice, but also fulfilling.
In a much smaller way, sacrifice is an essential part of life. Without sacrificing spare time and devoting hours to study you have little hope of passing an exam. So qualifications need sacrifice. Saving to buy a house may mean considerable sacrifice, as you stop spending on treats and outings, putting money aside for what matters more.
So sacrifice can be a recognition of spiritual values and/or a sign that the ego and short-term desires do not control us. Either way, this means freedom and happiness.
The wonderful story of Easter centres on resurrection. This is a promise that all that dies shall be reborn. Many ancient religions have stories of a sacrificial god that dies, later to reappear in a different role. This parallels the cycle of the seasons, where plants die, to spring up again the following year, crops are harvested to be ‘reborn’ as produce, and the seasons themselves go through a cycle of ‘death’ to come back to life around Easter time.
Rebirth is also promised for humans. We all go through times in life when everything seems dire, but sooner or later circumstances improve, and we are able to reinvent our lives. Deep within each of us there is the potential to change, to move on at a profound level, to learn lessons and take a totally different approach to life.
Even more important, we can take the Easter story as a symbol of reincarnation. Do we live only one life, or are we reborn time and time again, learning lessons and gaining experiences as the soul evolves? Many millions of people the world over believe in reincarnation and there is plenty of documented evidence of successive lives, worldwide.
Of course, the Christian message isn’t about physical reincarnation but about us all being spiritually reborn, freed from the problems we experience as earthly beings, and all the illusions that entails. Easter is a resurrection of the spirit, a message of hope and the knowledge that life, light and love continue, and always triumph.
We all know that Easter Sunday falls on a different date every year. This is because it is tied to the cycles of the Moon. It falls on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox.
There have been many calls to abolish this. It adds an awkward quality of unpredictability to our modern lives, that we prefer to control so tightly. In addition it is difficult for teachers, who have to cope with school terms of unequal length.
However, the variability of Easter is a valuable message to us, telling us that the natural world has its own laws and does not always run to the command of our civilization. In the West, Easter is the only festival that is tied to the Moon. The Moon is linked by many people to the more instinctual sides of our nature, and these are parts of us that we often neglect, to the detriment of health and well-being.
Although we may not realise this consciously, the variability of Easter is a little nudge towards surrendering to forces that are bigger than ourselves, adapting to the fluctuating seasons and celebrating resurrection, in whatever place or time we find it.
In this article we have looked at sacrifice, rebirth and the refreshing idea that sometimes it feels good to surrender to cycles over which we don’t have control, but which have their own kind of magic. However you look at it, Easter is a time of joy. Ask yourself what Easter means to you and live it to the full, this year and every year.
PUBLISHED: 6 March 2016