On the night before Easter, we gathered up the chametz we’d collected as part of our Passover preparation and headed outside to kindle a new flame in commemoration of the resurrected Christ. This literal and metaphorical light would guide us into the “new day.”
Afterward, we came back inside for a candle-lit ritual reading of selections from Genesis, Isaiah, and Luke. We sat on the floor in the darkness honoring stories about God’s interactions with humanity through the ages. We read about Abraham and Isaac. This was surprising to those of us who weren’t familiar with celebrating Easter, as we were expecting the readings to be centered around Jesus’s story. We learned that while Easter is a commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, we read about his predecessors to learn the context and set the stage for his story.
We learned about how central women are in this story as the first witnesses and messengers, even though the official apostles didn’t believe them. We read the scripture straight through, which was different from our Passover Seder, where we paused after each reading and participated in discussion.
We also learned that for the 40 days of Lent, many Christians abstain from saying the word “hallelujah.” At the conclusion of the readings we rang a bell and Jonathan proclaimed “Hallelujah, Christ is risen, the Lord is risen indeed, Hallelujah,” as a welcoming of Easter.
In some Christian traditions, the night before Easter is a time to baptize new Christians and welcome them into the community by re-affirming the Apostles’ Creed, one of the defining texts of Christianity. Instead, we reaffirmed our commitments to each other by responsively reading the house constitution we wrote together at our launch retreat. We learned about the tradition of feet washing in remembrance of Jesus’s Last Supper. Instead of recreating the Last Supper, we sanitized each other’s hands using Purell wipes, creating a new ritual rooted in service and care for each other’s physical well-being. Afterwards, we celebrated by eating chocolate eggs and drinking sparkling cider.
On Easter Sunday we feasted with a festive brunch. We decorated eggs, which we learned are a symbol of fertility and new life that is fitting with the message of the holiday, but more of a cultural phenomenon than a religious practice. We then enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Jonathan, which included roasted (halal) goat leg, an asparagus frittata, and braised rainbow carrots. Bright Easter lilies decorated our table, and we all dressed up in colorful clothes.
We discussed the way Easter is typically practiced (outside of a pandemic). In contrast to Passover, which is typically celebrated at the home, Easter is usually celebrated in churches. This was a time spent re-imagining how it can be celebrated at home and for a multi-faith group. It was the first Easter celebration for some of us. We also discussed typical Easter traditions and how they relate, or don’t relate, to our respective faiths.
We felt the Easter themes of life, spring, and death resonated with what we’re experiencing on a societal level. We asked questions about what it means to have faith during this time, when our traditions and celebrations are being upended by the Coronavirus pandemic. This was a new way of experiencing Easter where the central message of new life springing forth from what was once called dead feels especially powerful.