Let’s get the death talk out of the way, shall we?
In Buddhism, we are constantly taught to die to our attachments (things, desires, thoughts) and also to the ego.
In Islam, there is not much written about what happens after Yawm ad-Din (The Day of Judgement), but one is expected to die to oneself at least figuratively, to put aside pride and ego and fully submit to the loving and redeeming power and glory of Allah.
And in Christianity, we are taught that through Jesus’ death on the cross, all of our sins and transgressions and pain died with him, and that on that day we were forgiven for good.
I recently came across something in Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, called the Shevirah, or “the shattering.” It teaches that there were seven original energetic centers or “seeds of light” hewn into the universe, and just as the seed casing of a plant must die and decompose before the plant springs forth, the seeds of the Shevirah must also shatter. This gave way to new and more complex forms, an unfolding that continues to occur throughout the universe, an unfolding whose center is now everywhere. And this sustained state of shattering, when applied to our lives, is a form of dying to oneself.
Supernovae leave elements behind in great explosions that seed other solar systems, planets and even our own bodies. Every being leaves something behind as food for others. Einstein said “no energy is lost in the universe” and Hildegard of Bingen said “no warmth is lost in the universe.”
Ostara/Easter is not about celebrating death. Yes, death is an inseparable part of the cycle of life and needs to happen for new growth to occur. But, death is celebrated plenty in our culture. We celebrated death in December during the Winter Solstice when we entered the Void, the darkness, the silence. When we were witness to the death of the Sun God at the hands of the Earth Goddess.
And now we celebrate his return.
Easter is about what comes after death. This time we celebrate resurrection — what fills that darkness, silence and emptiness after our denial, elimination and renunciation has occurred. We celebrate our own resurrection from the forms that no longer serve life, and the resurrection of the Christ within us. That’s what we celebrate now. This time allows us to focus on what we choose to carry forward, and to meditate on the new abundantly healing light and energy, the new and invigorating ideas, the new faith in ourselves and the self-love that fills us up and make us whole and that will sustain us for another year.
Make no mistake, spring is a time for celebration. It’s a time when day and night are at equal length, a time when things are in balance. But they are also at a tipping point — tipping towards the light as days are becoming longer and the Earth (at least in our hemisphere) begins to warm up and bring forth new life.
The spring equinox (or Vernal equinox) is a sacred time, when we turn our attention to the dawning of a new year, to new birth and growth, the coming harvest, abundance and fruition, to the long-awaited rising Sun God in the east.
And we celebrate the goddess, Eostre, by decorating and dyeing bright and colorful eggs. By breaking our fast with sweets and chocolate. By surrounding ourselves with the 4-footed creatures of the Earth (the rabbit, the deer) and the winged creatures of the Air (the duck, the eagle).
And we recognize Spring as a time of new life — within and without.
So, today, we celebrate three things — the new year, the coming of spring and resurrection.
The New Year
In many traditions, this is the start of the new year. The Roman year began on the ides of March (15th). In England and Ireland, between the 12th and 18th century, March 25th was the day the calendar reset. And, the astrological year begins on the equinox when the moon moves into Aries — Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac, The Greek Ares is the equivalent to the Roman Mars, March is the month of Mars.
The Coming of Spring
This equinox also marks the beginning of the Spring season. In Greek mythology, it is the time when Zeus and Demeter are reunited with their daughter, Persephone (who had been abducted and trapped in the Underworld for six months) and a time when the earth is once again crawling with life. The month of March also contains holidays dedicated to the great mother goddesses: Astarte, Isis, Aprhrodite, Cybele as well as the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary on March 25th. The goddess and the divine feminine get to show off a little bit in spring — manifesting herself in the blossoms, the leaves on the trees, the sprouting of the crops, the mating songs of the birds, giving birth to new life in all its forms.
We also re-tell and celebrate the myths of the resurrected Gods — Attis, Adonis, Osiris and Dionysus — who like Christ die and are reborn each year. They are sons of a God and a mortal woman. They are saviors who are sacrificed. They are the fruit and vegetation, that die each year (at harvest) and are eventually reborn.
In metaphysics, we are taught that the crucifix represents the “crystallization of two currents of thought — the inner (vertical) current of Divine Life and the cross current of human limitation and the mind of the flesh.” The intersection of these two currents is the center of action that is our being. It is in that crux, or that cross, that we encounter the final overcoming. The birth of the I AM that occurs in “the place of the skull.” Golgotha (the site of Jesus’ crucifixion) was called the “cranial place” or the “place of the skull.”
So, today we celebrate the birth of I AM that occurred with Jesus’ resurrection. We celebrate this time of light and life and color by blessing and planting seeds and decorating eggs.
“I think if required on pain of death to name instantly the most perfect thing in the universe, I should risk my fate on a bird’s egg.” – T.W. Higginson, 19th century author
And the chicken and her egg have been forever used as the riddle of the origins of time and the universe. But regardless of which of these came first, I propose a question: Are you living the life of the chicken – distracted and attached to desire and hunger and running aimlessly underfoot all over the farmyard? Or are you living the life of the egg – void of form, home to infinite possibility and unfolding complexity, regenerativity, and new life? Which of these do you identify with today? Which will be your reality tomorrow?
Spring is also a time to be open to intergenerational wisdom. The universe has a memory for energy, warmth and beauty. Nothing our ancestors accomplished is lost—so long as we remember. Hopefully, as humans, we leave more beauty behind in this world and we populate it with wise progeny, maybe we publish books; produce paintings or photographs; are generous with our time, treasure, energy and resources; make scientific breakthroughs or philosophical insights; or heal the souls or bodies of others. Matthew Fox said, “Our resurrection is a part of our creativity.”
Tonight, I want you to ask yourself, how ready are you to rise from the state (or mindset) of death? Now that you have fully grieved and emptied yourself — once you have gone through the long, dark night of the soul — how ready are you to get up and try again? After having been betrayed and hurt, how ready are you to reach out again and trust another? Once you’ve lost everything in the world, how ready are you to have and to hold (and be trusted with) something new?
Tonight we claim the strength and the ability to rise, not only to the occasion in every moment, but rise like a Phoenix from our own ashes and be reborn with a new name, new tissue, a new identity, a personality that transcends and includes our former self.
Are you ready to embrace the fact that you are connected to the Ground of Being? That you and God are one? That you and the source of creation are one and the same? That the face of God is your original face, the face you had before your parents were born. Are you ready to let go of all the labels and attachments and belongings that you have given yourself and simply rest in pure witness to this light-filled and beloved Creation? Are you ready to die to yourself every day, and be fully present every morning as a living expression of that love?
Meister Eckhart wrote, “God’s exit is her entrance.”
Tonight, we are called on not to be ready, not to prepare, but to finally make our entrance — to display our generosity, and our creativity and to, as Jesus claimed to have done, “overcome the world.”
Tonight we overcome the world, by conquering its negative influence on our heart, and by covering the world with a perfect love that emanates from the center of our being. Like a shattering seed of light that now finds itself everywhere unfolding.
Tonight, we create. Tonight, we rise.