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Easter Reflections
E.D.N. – I.C.M. – P.S.S.R.

I have previously put up a page in realtion to Christ's Passion (here), with special reference to his cry on the Cross on Easter Friday: 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani' (usually translated as 'My God, My God, though hast forsaken me', Mathew 27:46).

Death of Christ

My Easter reflections on this page are broader, and in some ways more from the heart than from the head, and form a simpler overview of what may really already be obvious (though how many times do we not stop and ponder the 'obvious'!).

The story should perhaps begin with a brief recapitulation of the Passover (Pesach), for the two are closely linked: Christ becomes the Passover sacrifical lamb.

Hag HaPesach – the sacrifice of the paschal lamb remains the dominant, even if now only symbolic, element of Passover, ushering in the sacred commemorative festival of being saved from their Egyptian enslavement and freed to new life. The lamb was slaughtered in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan (Leviticus 23:5). Given that the Jewish calendar is a lunar-solar one, this would take place just after the Full Moon. 

The Old Testament (or Tanahk) mentions a number of times important commemorative aspects of Passover: “This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in Yahweh’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever” (Exodus 12:14); “Moses said to the people, ‘Keep this day in remembrance, the day you came out of Egypt, from the house of slavery, for it was by sheer power that Yahweh brought you out of it; no leavened bread must be eaten” (Exodus 13:3); “Do not be afraid of them: remember how Yahweh your God dealt with Pharaoh and all Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:18); “so you will remember, all the days of your life, the day you came out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:3). These verses are a clear indication that the general function of the Passover pageantry was to serve as a constant reminder to the Israelites of their struggle against slavery and their wondrous deliverance from Egyptian bondage.

Though commemorated initially within the first Temple (built by Solomon), Pesach was, during Christ's time, commemorated at the second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in about 70 AD. The importance and significance of both the liberation from bondage and God's promise to the Israelites bring to mind the importance of the eternal Temple at Jerusalem.

Not only the sacrifice, but liberation, becomes a vital aspect of this commemoration.

John the Baptist spoke of Jesus in this manner prior to the latter's baptism in the Jordan river: 'Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). It is noteworthy that it is at this baptism that the descent of the Spirit, in a dove-like form, permeated and thus Christed, the human body of Jesus. Though some three years prior to the Passover event that saw Jesus crucified during the solar eclipse of 33AD, the reference to the lamb, a sacrificial symbol of spotless innocence, is already referenced.

Easter runs, of course, over three days. As Matthew (12:40) writes: "For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights". With Christ, the three days are distinct, each with its important redemptive quality: the Crucifixion, the Descent into Hell; and the Resurrection.


Matthias Grünewald. The Crucifixion

Of all representations, it is this one that has become the near-universal symbol for Christianity: the Cross. To willingly lay down one's life for the sake of others is, of course, a love of which Christ speaks (John 15:13 "A man can have no greater love (ἀγάπην) than to lay down his life for his friends"). It is something that many a parent would, for the saving of their child's life, do - and how many amongst us have (unfortunately) known of men who, in the context of warring situations, have lost their lives seeking to protect those of their peers... their friends.

This symbolic representation of the whole Christian worldview shows that it is more than the teachings, more than the promises, more than the sermon on the Mount, that speaks so deeply to what 'neither Greek nor Jew' (Galatians 3:28 - which would later be a distinction made with greater import in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 1:22-25) would understand within their heart. The redemptive feature of the sacrificial gift of Christ speaks to the ears of the chambers of the heart in a unique way:

And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom,
here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness,
but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God.
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

One of the most profound recent writings on this aspect is Bernard Lonergan's 'Law of the Cross' (included, in Latin, in his De Verbo Incarnate). In essence, and if we take Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ to heart, becomes an important daily reminder to bear one's cross (though as Christ reminds us, to bear it with ease).

There is so much that has been written, that could still be written on the crucifixion, and much that still will be written. And though each of the words spoken of the event, each written reflection, whether in poetic or prose, the inner experience and connection will remain an individual and personal connection to the Christ being invited to reside and rest within one's heart, in order to be able to truly speak 'Not I, but Christ in me'.


Descent into Hell

Though in the Eastern Orthodox (and Anthroposophical) tradition, Easter Saturday occupies an important theological place, it seems that this part of Easter is all too often overlooked in the West.

It is certainly the case that within the (traditional translation of) the Apostle's Creed, this descent is specifically included:

I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son,
our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell; the third day
He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits at
the right hand of God the Father
almighty, from thence He shall come
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting.

Jesus’ descent indicates that he “sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 632). The Catechism points that “he descended there as Saviour” and, as Peter notes (1 Peter 3:18-19), Jesus, though "in the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison" (here understood as those imprisoned after death).

This part of Easter, then, is not simply a awaited transition between Friday's Crucifixion and Sunday's Resurrection. It has, in and of itself, a vital redemptive quality - one which is, however, difficult (if not impossible) to fully comprehend. Each deepened dimension of insight opens new vistas of redeeming qualities. It is as if, as St Augustine would assert, each and every being has, in the end, salvation. Salvation is a journeyed pilgrimage in which we may (all too frequently) falter, and yet each step brings us a step deeper and closer to this bliss of the way of truth, love and wisdom (as Peter Deunov would encapsulate).


Raphael - Resurrection

Easter Sunday remains, of course, especially in the Northern Hemisphere with its obvious seasonal experience of Spring and renewed life, the central motif of the season (it is interesting that as we, in the Southern Hemisphere, enter our autumnal shortening of days, seem to focus more on the Crucifixion).

This is where we can also truly symbolically bring to light the eternal meaning of the egg as symbolic of new (or renewed) life; of the new arising life of hares and rabbits (the most obvious abundance of animal life in many parts of the world, of joy, of the new rising Sun (being not long after the equinox, the days are starting to be experienced as, finally, longer than the nights - in the Northern Hemisphere).

The resurrection is of course reversin the apparent natural course: death becomes life, and this becomes life abundant, death conquered and vanquished. (John 10:10 "I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full")....

And the second coming shall be 'in the clouds' - or, as Anthroposophically explained, in the etheric living space, and within the chambers of each of our hearts - if invited.


Of Christ and Tarot

... I am daily reminded of the three-fold aspect of our blessing:

May the Peace, Love, Wisdom and Truth of God abide in our hearts and throughout the World - E.D.N.;
May the Peace, Love, Wisdom and Truth of Christ arise in our hearts and in the heart of each human being - I.C.M.;
May the Peace, Love, Wisdom and Truth of the Holy Spirit shine through the thoughts of our hearts and through the thoughts of all people - P.S.S.R..