Today is Easter and I am thinking not so much about what that holiday/holy day means as about what religious symbolism in general can mean.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a good friend who has a remarkable sense of ceremony and symbolism. Although she doesn’t identify herself as a Christian, and in fact regularly meditates at a Buddhist zendo, she is intrigued with the Christian mystery stories. Yesterday, she was telling me how she observes the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, a time she finds deeply meaningful on both the psychological and spiritual levels. For example, on the night of Good Friday, she attends a vigil at a cathedral, sitting in the contemplative silence of waiting during the threshold time after Jesus is killed and before he rises. On Easter, she invites friends to join her in celebrating the new life that is the promise of this day by making small animals and other figures out of clay and natural materials and creating a little village by the brook that runs through her back garden.
Many people who profess to be spiritual seekers and who enthusiastically study Buddhism and indigenous spirituality reject Christianity. I suppose that’s partly because evangelical proselytizing is so annoying—the people who stop you on the street or come to your door and try to convince you you’re going to hell if you don’t embrace Jesus. But, really, that’s condemning the many for the few.
I don’t consider myself a Christian either, though I was brought up in the Episcopal Church. However, I’ve always been a seeker after paths of mystery, transcendence, and connection with the potent and animistic world beyond the world of the everyday. For that reason I love the ceremonies and the search for meaning in many religions, from Navajo to Yoruba, Hindu to Aboriginal. When I was in elementary school, I envied my Jewish friend Marilyn because of all the rich and meaningful ceremonies her family participated in at holidays. To me, my church services were pale and dull compared to Judaism.
And I confess that I have tended to ignore Christianity for years—taking a sort of, Yeah, yeah, I know all about that already attitude. My friend’s description of her deep and personal observance of Easter touched me and I’ve been thinking all day about how I might get reacquainted with Christianity on a different, more meaningful level. individual and culture psyche.