Easter deserves a prominent place in our "liturgical year." Of course, there is no official "liturgical year" in Unitarian Universalism, but, there are a number of high points in the year that we observe from our own perspective. Some of those high points have rituals attached. Every year, most Unitarian Universalist congregations observe a ritual Fire Communion with candles on Christmas Eve. In September, our congregations observe Water Communion, with it's underlying themes of homecoming and return from summers spent ignoring one's home church in favor of travel and vacations.
In Spring, there are a number of celebrations Unitarian Universalists observe as touch points. A few days ago, as our Christian friends were planning the numerous observances associated with Easter, I received an email from the UU Ministry for the Earth emblazoned with the title: Earth Day is only a month away. Our abiding concern for the Earth and her future as a healthy planet coupled with the last of our seven principles* leads us to give that day due attention. But the timing of that particular missive seemed to signal a certain shyness about allowing Easter to take it's own place in our calendar.
In some congregations celebrations for the Spring Equinox take ascendancy. The turning Wheel of the Year brings Wiccans and Pagans around to celebrate the season of rebirth, when the sun calls to Earth and green shoots respond. Some may still invoke Spring’s approach with words I offered in years past: Lady of light, Lady of Joy - Fair and fertile maid, The Lord unlocks the secret door where sacred seeds are laid. Flora, Venus, Persephone, Diana: by name we set thee free! Goddess of the earth’s delight may we be one with thee!**
For a number of years Unitarian Universalist Seders observing the first night of Passover took prominence as evening celebrations, and as services adapted for Sunday morning as well. Passover promises opportunities to rehearse a history of oppression and liberation. As people who live in a world where oppressions still stifle the yearning of people who long for freedom and equality, we should recall our roles as both oppressor and oppressed in ritual at least once a year.
Yet, as Easter approaches this year, I am reminded of the lessons that co-mingle in long history of Easter traditions and pre-Easter traditions. The dying and rising gods and goddesses of ancient days brought hope of spring’s eternal return to people beyond number. In the same way, the story of Jesus can be a guide for accepting the plain facts of life. It can be a call to renewed hope. The story of the resurrection might be the story of our own awakening from the death we experience when we cut ourselves off from the powers of life. The story might not be one that finds its conclusion in some far off time, but, in our own hearts. Hearts that have courage to encounter and overturn oppressions. Hearts that love the Earth fiercely, never withdrawing that caring in the face of great obstacles.
* We affirm and promote...respect for the interdependent web of which we are a part.** Spring Equinox Rite 1996; Bob Gratrix and Katlyn Breene: http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~mclennan/OM/K-SEq.txt