Monday dawned cool and overcast. The forecast was for precipitation . . . including snow! As the day wore on it kept threatening, but nothing significant. Tuesday, however, I had to crunch through snow on the way to get the newspaper. The daffodils were blanketed. And, as the day wore on, the snow continued to fall. The (what I thought were) vulnerable daffodil shoots were almost buried. By Wednesday morning, however, the snow had begun to recede; it was gone by that afternoon. And the daffodils stood proudly, survivors, triumphant!
I guess there is no real surprise, then, that for many of the world's religious/spiritual traditions, this time of year is filled with celebrations of renewal, of the triumph of life over death, or freedom from bondage. Ostara, at the Vernal Equinox in March, is the Pagan/Wiccan celebration of the reawakening of the seeds within the earth. Zoroastrian Now Ruz, or New Year, celebrates the renewal of the world and the creation of fire. This evening, Passover begins . . . the Jewish celebration of the departure--the liberation--of the Israelite people from bondage in Israel, and their setting-forth on their journey to the Promised Land. For western Christians, today is Good Friday, marking the death of Jesus, and Sunday is Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus -- his triumph over death.*
The festivals of the triumphs, the victories, at this time are not, however, one-time celebrations. They are repeated every year. And those who pay close attention to the broader stories they celebrate will notice, too, that the triumphs, the victories, are rarely complete. True, the seeds are reawakened in the spring . . . only to flourish, re-seed themselves, and die. True, the Israelites were freed from bondage . . . only to wander for forty years in the wilderness until they reached the Promised land . . . only to struggle mightily to truly inherit it . . . and so on. True, Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his followers, giving them strength . . . only for them to experience multiple cycles of persecution and calm, not just in one land but many. It seems that the rhythm of life is rarely an increasingly upward series of success upon success, but rather more like some kind of sine wave, oscillating betweens highs and lows.
Our holy days reiterate this with their seasonal reminders that we, too, go through many ups and downs, sowing and harvests, enslavements and liberations, deaths and rebirths. They are all reminders of hope in times of despair. They give us what we often desperately need. May these coming days, then, be a time of renewed vision and hope and for you!
For, after the snow fell, it melted. And the daffodils stood proud!
*Eastern Christianity's observance of these same events falls next week this year.