There are three Abrahamic religions—religions that trace themselves back to Abraham as a founding father. These are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. This spring all three religions are celebrating overlapping holy seasons. It is an opportunity to learn about our brothers and sisters of different faiths and to pray for their spiritual well-being.
Of course, Christianity is celebrating Easter, a season that lasts several weeks after Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022. We will be celebrating the risen Christ, along with the hope that we too will rise again after we die and that our sins will be forgiven. Easter is about the triumph of life over death and forgiveness over sin. As is fitting with spring, there are fertility symbols associated with the day, notably rabbits and eggs. Bunnies are famous for making more bunnies and yet more bunnies after that. They are a potent sign of new life after winter’s cold days. Eggs are also a sign of new life. Hens start laying again and birds build nests. We prepare for a spring full of birdsong and Peter Cottontail raiding the garden. But most of all we sing Alleluia for God’s gift of everlasting life in peace with Him.
Easter is tied to Passover, which begins on the evening of Friday, April 15, 2022, and ends on the evening of Saturday, April 23. Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover when he was arrested. The Last Supper, which we commemorate with Holy Communion, was a Passover seder, a holiday meal. Passover celebrates the departure of the Hebrew people from Egypt and their moving from slavery to freedom. Jews tell the story of how God rescued them from slavery during the seder so that children may hear the story and remember God’s goodness. Jews do not eat leavened bread or other foods during Passover. This is because they were in a hurry to leave Egypt and didn’t have time for the bread to rise. They clean their houses of all leavened foods in preparation for Passover. The name Passover comes from the angel that passed over the houses of the Hebrew people marked with the blood of a lamb. The angel entered other houses, killing the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. In his grief Pharoah let the Hebrew people go.
Ramadan may be based on the Syrian Lent, a time of sacrifice and repentance before Easter. Muslims fast during Ramadan from sunup until sundown. They abstain from food and drink as well as tobacco and sexual relations. It is a time to try extra hard to keep free from sin. This year Ramadan is celebrated from the evening of April 1 to the evening of May 1. Although it is a time of fasting, it is also a time of festivity. The fast is broken with a festive meal that includes extended family and friends. Muslims make donations to ensure that everyone, including the poor, can eat well. The final day of fasting is a holiday called Eid al-Fitr. Special gifts are given to the poor and there is much feasting and celebrating.
There is only one God but there are many ways of celebrating God’s love. This spring three major religions are celebrating three different holidays. I am celebrating Easter. I am excited to look forward to remembering that Christ is risen indeed. Yet I think of my brothers and sisters of other faiths, also celebrating and feasting with family and friends. I hope that God will bless those gatherings as well.