My friend and constant teacher Heather Wood Ion shared these notes with me earlier this week. I asked her if I could share them with you on this always-ironic day before Easter. Heather is the architect of the Epidemic of Health, which sprung from her work with Jonas Salk. And she is a Fellow of the Leading Causes of Life Initiative, the most vital and hopeful spring in my life. Thanks, Heather.
In the week of Passover and Easter, I remember
–the glorious Maundy Thursday draping of the church in mourning in an old sanctuary in Oxford, while the choir chanted a dirge full of deep old echoes of Turkey.
–the White Russian nobility on their knees for the dawn of Easter in Monte Carlo, weighed down by their jewels and anger half a century after leaving their homes.
–an old temple in India opening its doors to the tiny Jewish community to pray and hold a Passover seder, and as it ended Jains, Hindus and Jews processed out to circle the temple grounds, while the Christians who waited with eagerness to enter and celebrate Easter joined in the procession. All the drumming and singing in various languages somehow made that moment harmonious and filled with light.
–an evening in a thatched house in northern Germany, when those who had spent the years of their youth in concentration camps remembered together the prayers that had sustained them, and told of the tiny gifts they had given to each other as we shared hard boiled eggs and hot bread.
–in rural New Mexico, a tiny church, and all the rusty pick-up trucks around it which had come for Easter morning. The lambs turned on the spits. The faces were as old as the Mayan carvings. We heard the soft murmur of parents teaching children as we all knelt on the fragrant sage because there was only room for the priests and the wheel chairs inside.
–and my sons, in kindergarten, asking in their high, piping curiosity “Why do our neighbors give us fancy bread shaped like a lamb carrying a cross when they tell us this is about a rabbit that lays eggs?”
These mornings I open the news reports seeking a glimmer of promise, of celebration, of communion, and instead find the deep darkness of cynical despair and manipulation. Perhaps it was ever so, and those who walked in darkness could not imagine the light ahead. But perhaps we need to remember the lights of our lives with diligence, and share them. That too is part of the promise of this season.
Heather Wood Ion