Passover and Easter ~ this year they are very close! April 03 2015

Each year, like a symbol of the burgeoning spring itself, religious celebrations mark the season of the rebirth of the Earth.

Christians celebrate Easter and Hebrews celebrate Passover. Both holidays express the wonder of new things and the confidence in the regenerative power of the Earth and of human possibilities.

Passover is one of the oldest rituals known, and a remembrance of a story from five thousand years ago, or more. After many generations of enslavement by Egyptian Pharaohs as a people, the Jewish nation planned to leave this life of slavery forever.

Moses, one of the most celebrated spiritual leaders in human history, negotiated with the mighty Pharaoh to allow the Jewish people to leave Egypt to reclaim their native country in Judea and to live free there. The Pharaoh agreed after ten accursed blight and plagues, each worse than the preceding horror, set upon Egypt each time the Pharaoh refused. There is an inspiring spiritual song, “Let my People Go,” that expresses soulfully the anguish of the enslaved nation and of Moses’s determination.

While the Pharaoh’s wish to keep his slaves weakened with each demonstration of the power of Jehovah, the God of Israel, that last of the ten plagues was most terrible and devastating: the death of the first born throughout Egypt. God through Moses instructed his people to kill a lamb, and mark their doorposts with the blood of the lamb. This was the sign that the Angel of death would recognize to pass over the homes of God’s people and spare their firstborn children from her relentless hand.

Moses further instructed that the people should be ready to escape quickly. Hence the traditional unleavened bread or Matzo so identified with the Passover meal. Moses knew that the grief might gain permission for the tribe of Israel to escape, but the following wrath would be deadly. He was correct, but the Jewish people escaped enslavement and diligently toiled through the desert to find their Promised Land.

The 14th day of the month of Nisan, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar is the first day of Passover. In 2015, this falls on April 3rd. So the holiday will begin at sundown on that day.

Easter in the Western world, falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. The Western orthodoxy uses the Gregorian calendar to establish the date and the Eastern Orthodox Church establishes this using the older, Julian calendar. So sometimes (as in 2014) the dates are the same, and this year they are a week apart April 5, and April 12, 2015.

This holiday is also in remembrance of the crucifixion, death and subsequent resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus, the Christ (savior). The story is long and complex and filled with envy, betrayal, and intervention from the spiritual world. Christ was accused of blasphemy by the Sanhedrin and was declared worthy of death. Jesus Christ had openly declaimed the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the spiritual leaders in the Jewish community as hypocrites. They were understandably angry and plotted to kill him. One of Christ’s disciples, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Jesus Christ to the Sanhedrin and took, for his betrayal, 30 pieces of silver. Jesus was arrested on the fourteenth day in the month of Nisan which is an interesting interface of the two stories, Jewish and Christian.

On the day after the opening day of Passover, Jesus was crucified, with the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate as Roman endorser of the death sentence – Jewish law could not put a man to death _ against his will. He publicly proclaimed that he saw no fault in the accused and openly called for a basin of water and washed his hands of the affair. He couldn’t stop the momentum of the crowd, whipped into sentiments against Jesus Christ, and with a frightening fury Pilate could not control.

Three days after Christ died and was buried, his body disappeared from the tomb that was used to bury him. His apostles and relatives saw him several times and he appeared to them as he did in life – he ate and drank wit them, vestiges of the wounds from his crucifixion still visible, and he spoke to them of the future.

The overcoming of death is the meaning behind the festival of Easter. Like the spring it resonates with new birth, new life, and the overcoming of death.

So both festivals help us restore our weary souls after long winters: the celebration of avoiding the loss of first born children with a signal of blood with escape from slavery into the desert for a journey ending in a Promised Land; and resurrection after death, new life, and the promise of eternal rewards in the spiritual world beyond any imaginings possible in this earthly life.

Whichever you celebrate, do it with all your hearts and with gratitude. The beautiful earth, stirred once again to life, the commotion under the ground and the earth stirs again after long frozen inactivity, and our own indomitable spirits, able to rouse our quiet blood to new activity with the warming of the sun’s rays and the promise of new life, new land, new possibilities!