Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Easter’

Easter: Rebirth & Renewal

It has been some time since I posted here. As some of you may know from my earlier posts, my health has been challenged in a big way for the past five years. Actually, it began before that, about twenty years ago, but doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong for fifteen of those years. By the time I was diagnosed, I was at Stage 3 out of 4. The autoimmune condition (Primary Biliary Cholangitis with Autoimmune Hepatitis overlap) is incurable, but a liver transplant can prolong life.

On November 23rd, 2015, I was finally transplanted, at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Miraculously, an anonymous living donor had come forward. This person is unknown to me. He or she had intended to donate to another person, and went through the health workups and evaluation, but the transplant did not happen. I do not know why not. The donor decided to go ahead anyway, donating a piece of his/her liver to a stranger in need. Because of my poor quality of life, my blood type and my relatively small size, I was chosen. I received the left lobe of the donor’s liver, and the pieces grew back to almost full size very quickly for us both. My new liver grew to almost full size by eight weeks post-surgery!

K with plush liver - Version 3

At six months after the surgery I will be allowed to (anonymously) contact the donor through the clinic to express my gratitude. If all goes well, years will be added to my life. Transplantation is not a cure, for the problem does recur in some cases, but already the new organ has made a huge difference in my quality of life and well being.

Now I am recovering from the surgery. The most dangerous time, regarding rejection of the transplant, is in the first three to four months post-surgery. I have made it past that point with no rejection episodes. Hurrah! Full healing will take at least a year. But today, to celebrate Easter and enjoy this fine early Spring day, I walked in the woods with my husband, looking for signs of seasonal renewal.

Easter 2016, Renewal!

This was my worship today, because being immuno-compromised by anti-rejection drugs, I am still avoiding groups of people in close quarters. This year especially, Easter is very meaningful to me, as I experience life anew, with energy, gratitude, and hope for the future.

PS – Share Life! Be an organ donor!

Place of Resurrection

“Let your feet follow your heart until you find your place of resurrection.”

This Celtic saying reflects the importance of pilgrimage as a spiritual practice in the Celtic tradition.

At the holy well of St. Brigid in Kildare, Ireland.

Why “place of resurrection?” During  pilgrimage we leave behind our usual ways, our comforts, as we step into the unknown. Resurrection is about the trust we have that our steps will be led by the ever-unfolding presence of guidance in our lives – that which brings us hope, healing, renewal, liberation, transformation, rebirth – whatever we choose to call it: God or Goddess, cosmic serendipity, Tao, flow, Christ consciousness, emergence, the Universe.

Celtic monks sought their places of resurrection in this world, journeying to find the place where they could best fulfill their mission. Many of us are wanderers in this way – spiritually if not physically. We follow our hearts to best discern where we can serve, and how we can bring the spirit of resurrection to others.

Feel free to share your pilgrimage and resurrection stories.



Coltsfoot and Prosthetic Ears

We have returned from Vermont, where near the pond by our temporary abode we found coltsfoot in bloom.

Coltsfoot in bloom, Easter 2010. Photo by Seth Rockmuller.

When we arrived home this afternoon, we found blossoming forsythia and daffodils, a beautiful Easter surprise.

It felt strange to be away from family, friends, and my spiritual communities for the holiday, but somehow the Easter Bunny managed to find me, and I awoke to find myself staring at a white chocolate rabbit on the bedside table. Since then, I have nibbled on it, but the clothes pin I used to reseal the wrapper makes for some great prosthetic ears! Seth liked it so much, he added ears to his larger nibbled bunny.

Easter Bunnies. They can hear you!

Now what will tomorrow bring . . .

Easter Bunny or Hare?

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Photo by Joel Minsky.

More info on rabbits, hares, spring, and Easter, from the blog eNature.com.

This photo was taken by my brother-in-law when we were traveling in Cape Breton.

Easter, Ostara, Bunnies, and Eggs

In doing some research on why the Christian holiday of Easter has that name, I found this information from Wikipedia:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.

Ostara

Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath, has given its name to the Christian festival of Easter. Eostre is attested only by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honor during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the “Paschal month.” The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn-, reflecting the name of the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.  Subsequently scholars have discussed whether or not Eostra is an invention of Bede’s, and produced theories connecting Eostra with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs).

[Jacob] Grimm notes that in the Old Norse Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, a male being by the name of Austri is attested, who Grimm describes as a “spirit of light.” Grimm comments that a female version would have been Austra, yet that the High German and Saxon tribes seem to have only formed Ostarâ and Eástre, feminine, and not Ostaro and Eástra, masculine. Grimm additionally speculates on the nature of the goddess and surviving folk customs that may have been associated with her in Germany:

Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the christian’s God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy […]. Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing […]; here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess […].[11]

Eástre

Citing folk Easter customs in Leicestershire, England where “the profits of the land called Harecrop Leys were applied to providing a meal which was thrown on the ground at the “Hare-pie Bank,” late 19th century scholar Charles Isaac Elton says that these customs were likely connected with the worship of Ēostre.[12] In his late 19th century study of the Hare in folk custom and mythology, Charles J. Billson cites numerous incidents of folk custom involving the hare around the period of Easter in Northern Europe. Billson says that “whether there was a goddess named Eostre, or not, and whatever connection the hare may have had with the ritual of Saxon or British worship, there are good grounds for believing that the sacredness of this animal reaches back into an age still more remote, where it is probably a very important part of the great Spring Festival of the prehistoric inhabitants of this island.”[7]

The Resurrection Day

So, when Christianity arrived on the scene, what could be more natural than associating the celebration of the Risen Son with the festivals of the Risen Sun? In past years, each Easter Sunday morning a church member has opened her home in the pre-dawn hours for a sunrise service. And we still incorporate bunnies and eggs into this holiday. Religions are organic in their own ways, growing and changing, absorbing elements from lands and peoples along the way.

I am left wondering what Easter will look like in one hundred (or one thousand) years.

At Home, Spiritually

This evening I attended an ecumenical Lenten service, as I did last week at this time. Area churches plan these services for each Wednesday evening of the Lenten season, with area ministers preaching on a given theme at one another’s churches. Soup and sandwiches are offered before each service, creating a time to connect with people from other religious communities.

Beyond my general fascination with religion and spirituality, I particularly enjoy these Lenten services because, of all the Christian services of the year, those offered during Lent are likely to get us thinking counter-culturally  about how we live our lives, about what is really important and foundational, and especially about what we need to release to be able to live more freely, deeply, and in touch with the source of life.

Metaphorically, I’ve been looking to my own backyard, to new spring plant life in particular, to feel my way into the new life that is promised at this time of year. Thus my previous post here was about clearing away winter debris so that new life (snow drops, crocuses, daffodils) can appear. I tend to think metaphorically about these things, seeking out the debris that clutters my life, and finding ways to clear it so that I can be more creative, more forgiving, more loving. This time of year offers me a chance to consciously do that.  Certainly the pre-Easter season is in anticipation of the new life that followers of Jesus find at this special time of year, when his risen spirit is recognized as being within us and among us. I understand resurrection, too, as metaphorical, akin to the cycles of life in nature.

I can’t help it. I was not raised as a literalist.

The church of my upbringing was Universalist (before the merger with Unitarians in the early 1960’s). In the sanctuary of my childhood one could see not only a Christian cross, but visual symbols for Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, and more. Our services were Christian in form, but far-reaching in content. That which is learned in childhood is close to the bone.

As I listened to the music and the message this evening in the little Congregational Church I hold dear, I thought about the astonishingly diverse and beautiful ways we each find meaning and purpose in our lives. As we left the church, in the west the last oranges of sunset hid behind the hills. In the blue-black sky, a gorgeous sliver of a moon lay on her back looking up at the stars, while Venus twinkled on the horizon below her. I am grateful that there are many places I can feel at home spiritually. Within and without walls.

Wondrous Words

In the past few days, I felt out of sorts, as if my life no longer “fit” properly. In my experience, when I feel that discomfort – like a hermit crab that’s outgrown its borrowed shell, or a snake on the verge of molting – it is uncomfortable, constricting, dark and tight.

There was nothing to do but wait for whatever was wanting to come forth. I found myself wistfully remembering the spaciousness in which I usually live, wondering where it went. Waiting. Knowing that I’ve been through this experience before. Being a compassionate witness to my own tight, small predicament, without being overwhelmed by it. Not trying to think my way out of it.

And this morning, a reminder came that opened me to the world again. It was another natural wonder, this time in the form of written words from another person. The words were not addressed specifically to me, but to “readers” in general, yet they flew straight to my heart. Such is the dance we weave with one another, unpredictable, surprising, amazing grace.

Sometimes when other people share their deepest thoughts and feelings, they can lead our hearts to open. When we are warmed by the touch of others, we find ourselves shedding the thick blanket of self-stories in which we have wrapped ourselves. By simply reading the words of another struggling, growing person, my window on the world was thrown open. Heart-strings stretched, the door swung out upon on its hinges; I could step through it. Are there any words that can adequately describe these liminal threshold experiences?

In addition to reminding me that I am not alone, this morning’s communication revealed to me that we are fractals of one another, beautiful patterns within patterns, recognizing ourselves in one another.

The shell, the too-tight skin is left behind. “We are called again and again to come forth from our tombs.” Alleluia! And it’s not even Easter yet.