Spring brings the awakening of the earth from the long rest of winter, evidenced by the blossoming of trees and flowers and the tender green of emerging plants. A natural time of renewal and hope, spring is also the season of Easter, which is my favorite holiday. Often referred to as ‘Pascha’ in the Eastern Christian tradition, Easter is the most significant and sacred Christian feast day and the high point of the liturgical year. Pascal, which means “to be born on, or to be associated with Passover day” also means something of great significance. Passover is the traditional eight-day Jewish celebration of the freedom of Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Because the Hebrew holiday Passover coincides closely with the later Christian holiday of Easter, the Latin word came to be used for both occasions.
Many of the traditions that we associate with Easter began as celebrations of the vernal equinox—the Easter bunny and colorful Easter eggs originated as symbols of fertility and new life, and embody the hope that we experience with the arrival of spring.
The egg is an ancient pagan symbol of the resurrection of the dead. Smooth and unmoving, the egg looks much like a stone, but deep inside, life exists and is waiting to become known. While living in a Byzantine (Ukrainian) Franciscan monastery, I recall the beautiful, intricately colored eggs that people would paint for Easter. I remember rising before the crack of dawn on Easter morning, ceremoniously parading around the outside of the monastery, and then entering into the church for Easter liturgy. These memories continue to nourish and sustain me, almost three decades later.
Whatever your spiritual path, the meaning of rebirth is something that all of us can embrace. As the plants emerge from the earth and burst into flower, suffusing our senses with beauty and scent, we too can emerge from the winter, infused with a sense of renewal, hope, and love.