At this season of the year, we celebrate the grandeur of God’s creation in the beauty of the flowers and the return of the robins. We clasp our loved ones in rituals of food and drink, laughter and embrace. Some of us will also sit in services of silence, music, and sacred readings. We will contemplate the mystery of the holy and the sanctity of all life.
In the Christian calendar, yesterday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. During this week Christians are asked to reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross, an event that took place nearly two millennia ago at a place which still remains the epicenter of religious and political violence today.
By lunar coincidence, this week also marks, on Tuesday, the festival of Pesah, or Passover, the most celebrated Jewish holiday of the year. Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Jesus had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with his disciples when he was caught in the web of events that led to his death. While most Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the New Testament weaves the central events of this week into one overarching story of redemptive history. As St. Paul put it, “For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
To those who would reduce the meaning of this week to a mere fable connoting existential truth, Christians say: “What you call myth that is history!” and, conversely, “What you call history that is a myth!” The myth of human self-sufficiency, the illusion that the ebb and flow of nature’s passions are all we need to build a human life upon, the fantastic hoax that lasting moral order in the world can be derived from the will to power or political ingenuity alone
It is the fact that something happened back then and there, in space and in time, something so shattering that the grinding wheels of fate were stopped by it and death is now no longer allowed to have the final word.