Easter

At Easter, Poetry Helps Us Remember

Photo via Getty Images.
Photo via Getty Images.

Poetry is language made material.

It presents us with objects and the world, yes, that is part of its materiality, but it also – and perhaps fundamentally – makes our very language into a thing, rather than simply a medium. Like remembering that you exist in time, and becoming aware of your temporality, poetry takes what we are always immersed in and says, Remember; become aware.

Thus it is like all art a meditative practice. You must slow down, quiet yourself, and actively receive – a strange gesture, perhaps paradoxical, but one that is, if nothing else, prayer. And so for Holy Week, I want to present four (mostly) contemporary poems that can direct meditation without limiting it, that can engage prayer in our physical existence and the existence of the Resurrection as event, that can slow one down, that can build sensual memory of the acts we do and life we live in constant remembrance of it, of Him.

President Obama on Passover, Easter: 'Common Thread of Humanity'

http://youtu.be/Qig0DYKJo3U

In his weeky address, President Obama said in part:

"For millions of Americans, this weekend is a time to celebrate redemption at God’s hand. Tonight, Jews will gather for a second Seder, where they will retell the story of the Exodus. And tomorrow, my family will join Christians around the world as we thank God for the all-important gift of grace through the resurrection of His son, and experience the wonder of Easter morning.

"These holidays have their roots in miracles that took place thousands of years ago. They connect us to our past and give us strength as we face the future. And they remind us of the common thread of humanity that connects us all.

"For me, and for countless other Christians, Easter weekend is a time to reflect and rejoice...."

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Religious procession on good Friday in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, Germany. Via Wik
Religious procession on good Friday in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, Germany. Via Wiki Commons (http://bit.ly/HUeRVg)

I’ve never liked the fact that we call the day on which we remember Jesus’ crucifixion “Good Friday.” What’s so good about it anyway? Personally I find the entirety of Holy Week – save for Easter – pretty depressing. Sure, the days are getting longer and things have started to grow all around us, but until Easter, the focus of the week is the suffering and death of an innocent man.

It turns out that, although plenty of folks have their own explanations, nobody actually knows why we call it Good Friday. I think the Germans are spot-on by calling it Karfreitag, which means “Suffering Friday.”

Figures the Germans would be more content to sit with suffering than the rest of us. They’re so serious! But I digress…

President Obama: Easter Celebrates 'That Glorious Overcoming'

Photo via Win McNamee/Getty Images
Preident Obama bows his head in prayer at the annual Easter Prayer Breakfast Wendesday. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

President Obama hosted his third annual Easter prayer breakfast for about 150 members of the clergy from across the nation in the East Room of the White House Wednesday morning. In his six-minute address, Obama reflected on the spiritual messages of Easter -- Jesus' triumphant overcoming of his own human doubts and fears so that all of humanity might do the same.

"For like us, Jesus knew doubt," Obama said. "Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.' He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

"So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened -- that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, 'He is Risen!'"

In the Name of Love

Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in Washington, D.C. Steve Heap/Shutterstock.com
Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in Washington, D.C. Steve Heap/Shutterstock.com

When my grandmother died when I was 15, I wanted the world to stop. I remember looking at traffic on the road near my home and just wanting everyone to be still — to stop and ponder what we all had lost in losing my grandmother and her love.

That adolescent desire is exponentially greater this week juxtaposed with the 44th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the continuing lack of criminal charges against the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida last month.

So I grieve — and I’m not sure what to do with the grief.

Holy is the Sound

There's much to contemplate this Holy Week, from Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Many artists have traveled this path, creating sonic accompaniment for the varied emotions evoked during this sacred week.

Here are a few tracks that move us, and that we’ll have in heavy rotation throughout until Easter Sunday and beyond, including one of the more unusual Resurrection Day songs you've likely ever heard from the Yeshu Bakhti band Aradhna, pictured at right.

Cascarones, or, Hitting is OK Because It's Easter

My family attacking each other with cascarones. Photo by Jesse G. Villarreal
My family attacking each other with cascarones. Photo by Jesse G. Villarreal

Growing up, Easter weekend meant a giant family party at my grandparents’ house complete with a piñata, Easter egg hunt, possibly a mariachi band, and – on at least one occasion – my younger cousins dressing up to perform the Passion play.

But the best part (you know, besides celebrating Jesus resurrecting from the dead, providing salvation for the world)?

Cascarones!

What Did Jesus Do on Holy Saturday?

prudkov / Shutterstock
Photo via prudkov / Shutterstock

Every Christian knows the story: Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. But what did he do on Saturday?

That question has spurred centuries of debate, perplexed theologians as learned as St. Augustine and prodded some Protestants to advocate editing the Apostles' Creed, one of Christianity's oldest confessions of faith.

Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and most mainline Protestant churches teach that Jesus descended to the realm of the dead on Holy Saturday to save righteous souls, such as the Hebrew patriarchs, who died before his crucifixion.

Easter: Not for Religious People

Crown of thorns hung around Easter cross, Anneka/Shutterstock.com
Crown of thorns hung around Easter cross, Anneka/Shutterstock.com

“When religion ruled the world, they called it the Dark Ages.”

That was the bumper sticker quote I read on the tailgate of a white minivan during my morning’s commute to work. Upon reading, I had so many adverse gut-reactions to this statement.

That’s so closed minded. And, Aside from a few erroneous events, don’t you know how much good Christianity has done for the world? And, I am sure you have all the answers to all the world’s problems then don’t you, Mr. White Minivan? (Amusingly, the sticker on the opposite side of the tailgate read “I think, therefore I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh,” to which I thought, Meh, fair enough.)

Once I worked through my initial feelings of angst though, I reflected on those words a bit more. I realized maybe he has a point. When religion rules, things generally do not go well for the people practicing it, or for those who are being subjected to the religious standards.

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