Easter is difficult for me to write about. Partly because I can’t think of anything to say I haven’t already said. I’d love to tell you a story about my favorite Easter as a child, but I don’t have one! We were Christians but we didn’t celebrate Easter in our house when I was growing up. Except for one year when my uncle dropped by and surprised Jimmy and me with Easter baskets. They probably had chocolate bunnies wrapped in foil, and yellow marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans, and green plastic grass. Until then I had no idea such things existed. Maybe that was my favorite Easter….
I don’t remember Daddy ever being home at Easter, although he must have been there for my tenth birthday in April. I know he was home for at least part of that month because his mother, Grandma Benedict, had come to stay with us while he was home recuperating from his second heart attack and she made me the first birthday cake I ever had. I remember that well! It was angel food with strawberries in it. She served it with strawberry ice cream, and everybody sang Happy Birthday to me, and I got to blow out the candles. I had never felt so important in my life. But since Easter is on a different date every year and not all of them are in April, I can’t be certain Daddy was home for that. If he was, we would have gone to church if he was well enough, and I might even have gotten a new dress. That would probably have been my favorite Easter. But I don’t remember.
I do remember one Easter when our children were around 5 and 3 years old. Mostly I remember because my daughter still tells me it was her favorite Easter. The Easter Bunny must have noticed that we had a new sand box in the backyard because s/he brought the candy and grass in two large plastic toy dump trucks! The children played with them long after the candy was gone.
The other reason I find it difficult to write about Easter is because not everyone who reads my blog is Christian. Moreover, I don’t want to offend those who are. Because here’s the thing. I’ve been studying Jungian psychology and my inner life for 24 years. During that time, I’ve experienced enormous growth and change. For example, I’ve gone from being terrified to look at my dreams lest they show me something that was wrong with me, or that might scare me, or heaven forbid, that might predict my imminent death, to being so excited every time I remember a dream that I can’t wait to write it down and start working on it!
So here’s my point. As I’ve changed, so have my religious ideas. Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t lost my faith. Far from it! I’ve never been so convinced of the reality of the Great Mystery some call God, and I’ve never felt so connected to it. But I’ve discovered that the less afraid I am of the unknown “otherness” in myself, the less afraid I am of the otherness in different people, different cultures, and different religions. Best of all, the more I forgive myself for being flawed and human, the more compassion I feel for myself and others. To me, this is what religion is supposed to be about and what Jesus meant when he said the kingdom of God is within. So I find it hard to take the ideas I was taught about original sin and our need for punishment and redemption literally any more. To me, Easter is a metaphor for two corresponding realities: the miraculous birth/death/rebirth cycles of life that recur in nature every year, and the archetypal reality of our need for psychological birth/death/rebirth from out of our old unconscious and self-centered instinctual natures into new levels of understanding, awareness and compassion.
Well, I guess this wasn’t so difficult after all. If you’d like to read more, check out last year’s post called “Easter to the Soul.” Wishing you all a happy, hopeful spring filled with greening, budding new life within and without.
You can find my latest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
Ah… Jean, Thank you 🙂 Last night, here in the Southern hemisphere, the moon seemed full as my husband and I drove back from a g’child ‘mind.’ In previous years it might have been the beginning of 3 days of gathering with our Catholic community to remember, ponder, wait and celebrate. These days, reflection on the mystery of life/death/life (especially via a Clarissa Pinkola Estes myth) seems more helpful. Atonement theory is as dry as ash. Your image of the spring flower emerging after splitting and cracking underground to enable new life to emerge speaks to my life experiences. Yes, may ‘greening’ be your Easter gift too!
Dear Catherine, Your wonderful response from “down under” prompted me to make a few changes to what I’d originally written because you’ve said exactly what I really wanted to say but couldn’t find the words for. Yes, Easter speaks much more profoundly to my life experiences than to man-made theories as well. And I think the reason we find such deep resonance in nature’s cycles is because they reflect our own. Thank you.
I was one of those children who always received a decorated chocolate egg on Easter Sunday, but one of my most memorable Easter experiences was in the late sixties during a visit to friends who were living the hippie lifestyle in the Kootenay region of Southeastern British Columbia, an area well known for its Doukhobor settlers. It was Easter Sunday and the sun was shining brightly, but there was still snow on the ground and the trees were bare of leaves. As we drove along, we came across a hand painted sign covered with what looked like Greek letters in the most exuberant blue colour. One of the people in the car said that the writing was Cyrillic script and translated the message as “Christ is risen”. The image of that sign and the uncomplicated joy that I felt on that day have come to be a symbol of the meaning of Easter for me.
What a beautiful memory and feeling to associate with Easter! Thank you for sharing it with us! May this and all Easters be like this for you. Jeanie
I’m glad you found something to say about Easter, Jeanne, beyond the sentimental memories of childhood excitement. I approach the topic of religion with great trepidation among my peers, because the sensitivities of discussing beliefs is high – most of us were raised with our parents’ beliefs and few of us strayed from their chosen path. Yet the more I learn about other beliefs, and the more I ponder the concept of believing, the more I realize that we lose something important when we become too attached to one story. I was reading from a book of Osho this morning. He reminds us that we don’t need to believe in something when we know it to be true – just as we don’t need to say “I believe in the sun.” We just know it’s there, and it’s real. This encourages me to experience reality free from the confines of belief, go out into the world and explore – then share my experiences with others, while being open to theirs. It’s not easy to be true to yourself, is it?
Thank you, Lorrie. I love what you’ve said about experiencing reality free from the confines of belief. Living from our heads has a way of dulling the magic and mystery of our lives and, yes, preventing us from being true to ourselves. Jeanie