Easter, Passover: Changing Seasons, Enduring Freedoms
At least two of the world’s great religions will celebrate holy days in their particular calendars this week. Passover 2011 began at sunset Monday, April 18 and continues through April 26. To Christians, be they Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant, this is Holy Week, starting with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, going on to his trial and crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter morning. Providing additional significance to the ceremonies and celebrations, this year, the Orthodox and Western Easter seasons coincide, a phenomenon that will next occur in 2014. (The other major religion to hold a festival at about this time, Hinduism, celebrates the Sri Ram Navami, heralding the birth of Lord Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya of Ayodhya and the marriage of Lord Rama to Sita; the celebrations began April 12 and continue until tomorrow.)
Passover celebrates the Israelites’ release from bondage in Egypt and the start of their journey to the Promised Land of Canaan. Easter celebrates the promise of life eternal and release from sin and death. Sri Ram Navami also embraces new life and new beginnings. Coming as they do this year at the end of a long, harsh winter, all these celebrations remind us that no matter what hardships we endured from the start of winter to now, we can look forward to liberation from the bonds of cold temperatures and snow, sleet and freezing rain. We can doff our winter coats and jackets, put away scarves, boots and gloves and rejoice in the feeling of the sun’s warmth on our faces and in anticipation of all that spring and summer can bring.
The key element in the religious festivals and celebrations that are the foundations of this season for us is freedom– freedom from slavery to tyrannical authority and freedom to rise above whatever constraints such authority would place upon us for daring to follow our consciences and do what we think is right in the face of persecution. The freedoms outlined in the story of Passover in the Old Testament and Jesus’ death and resurrection in the New Testament gave rise to the Judeo-Christian teachings followed by the Founding Fathers and their predecessors, the signers of the Flushing Remonstrance, that led to inclusion of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.
Whether you follow the precepts of any of the world’s religions or have no faithbased belief system, at this season of resurrection and renewal, it is appropriate that we pause, however briefly, savor our freedoms, including our freedom to elect whom we choose to office at the city, state and federal level, and send our hopes and good wishes to those who seek those same freedoms. Our wish for all is that those freedoms may be preserved and thrive for everyone everywhere, at Easter/Passover and throughout the year.