image“Is Jesus Christ your political Lord and Savior?” – Marcus Borg

I hated Easter.  Even as a young child, when I was supposed to be filled with elation in light of the impending visit from the Easter bunny, I dreaded this holiday.  The colors bugged me.  The candy didn’t appeal to me (and I was a candy nut!).  The celebration of Easter was just one gray, boring day, even in the bright spring of April.  I hated Easter.

Every year, my family put on a large Easter brunch filled with Polish kielbasa, pierogies, potato salad, ham, and all the trimmings.  It was a gastronomic delight then, but now it’s a gastronomic nightmare in my thirty-somethings, but that’s another story entirely.  Easter Sunday was a day to gather and celebrate.  But, to celebrate what?  Jesus’ death and resurrection?  Or the Easter bunny’s return with that junky basket of chocolates?  It didn’t matter at all to me at the time.  I hated Easter.

Growing into my preteen years, my mom finally took notice of my adverse reaction to Easter.  So, in response, in a typical mom way, she decided to switch things up for me.  She decided to make Easter a spring Christmas.  Perhaps this would make me happy?  I didn’t like the bunny bringing candy, and, by this point, I definitely did not believe in the hare any longer.  The Easter bunny went the way of fairy tales earlier than Santa had for me.  A bunny bringing baskets just didn’t make it with me, yet, a fat, bearded man in a red suit sliding down our chimney to put presents under our tree seemed perfectly plausible.  My mother made Easter a gift-giving extravaganza almost rivaling the other infamous religious holiday.  Instead of giving me candy, I got bikes.  Instead of searching for baskets, I searched for plastic eggs filled with as much as twenty dollars.  It was like some perverse game show.  Easter Sunday, then, mutated into this familial competition to see who could find the most money in my backyard.  It was insanity.  Yet, I still hated Easter.

As our family connections faded, so did Easter.  After leaving home trying to find my way in the world with the wild blue yonder, Easter became a Sunday when it seemed like the day was actually a multiplication of many Sundays.  Easily the most boring day of the year, Easter had yet found another way to creep its way under my skin.  It had become a day of family phone calls, boring small talk, and immense sleepiness.  Indeed, I still hated Easter.

Easter changed a bit for me once children entered my life.  It was more of a fun holiday, taking joy in my children’s happiness and love for the baskets.  As a dad, I can reconcile this holiday as a function of sorts.  It presents a ritual of new life and renewal.  It is a day to set time aside to remember how things do change and how they will change.  Having kids to celebrate the holiday with has shown me a few things but has posed some questions.  My children have shown me that those baskets are pretty neat.  Easter, much like Christmas, has shown me that the pagan and Christian origins of the conglomerate holiday provide a great deal of fertile ground for questioning everything about life and religion; about our world and our time; about our souls and our spirit.

This year, Easter has taken on a completely new meaning to me.  All the previous revelry with my children remains, but my understanding of Easter and the Lenten season preceding it have become renewed or, perhaps, even born.  Ash Wednesday was a turning point for me in many ways.  It was the day that I had decided fully to pursue a greater understanding of Christianity, in ways I’d not yet had the will or fortitude to examine.  As a symbol of my beginning devotion, I’d bandied about the idea of performing the highly symbolic ritual of the Lenten Fast.  I weighed the pros and the cons and researched the methods in which both lay Catholics and Catholic monks observe the ritual and decided to slowly insert myself into the rite, beginning Ash Wednesday.  Making a longer story shorter, by this past Good Friday, I’d arrived at the point where I would consume nothing but water or juice until the early evening when I would break the daily fast with a dinner of (mostly) sensible proportions.  Now, I’m not saying I was an angel the entire forty days, especially taking St. Patrick’s day into consideration, but this exercise in ritual and spiritual renewal proved to be a fortuitous one not only for my own health, but for my spirit.  The last three days of Lent, I spent a great deal of time at Trinity Cathedral, following the last steps of Jesus from the Last Supper, the crucifixion, and, finally, to the Resurrection.  Many of my loose assumptions concerning Jesus’ penchant for being an anti-empirical figure of protest became not just this, but became truths to me.  What I’d missed in the many years of paying attention to the supernatural aspects of Jesus’ story had cleaved away the obvious political aspects.  As Marcus Borg mentioned in his Good Friday sermon, Jesus is the only religious icon that was killed for his beliefs.  He was killed under the rule of the Roman empire as a figurehead of a movement for peace.  He was killed under the religious leadership of certain Jewish leaders who deemed his progressive views of Judaism as forbidden and blasphemous.  Jesus was killed because he stood up not for himself and his beliefs alone, but for the lowliest of us all.

Today I broke my fast.  I ate meat and reveled in this day of renewal.  I’m actually sad to leave my days of fasting and contemplation behind, but my forty days have taught me many things.  I learned that I don’t need to eat all the time.  I’m just not that hungry.  I learned that although I really love the starchy, meaty holiday feast, my stomach hates me for partaking.  I learned that my growing, continuous contemplation of God and Jesus do not need to take only the supernatural in consideration.  I learned that my politics are of true, complex Christian values.  Lastly, I learned that Jesus died a political death and the resurrection of Christ is what we do in understanding this.  Can we be like Jesus and defy all social, religious, and political convention in order to serve the lowliest of us?

Behold the wood of the cross whereon hung the world’s Salvation.