Spring is a time of renewal and rededication for faiths the world over. This week's clergy discuss how a spiritual reawakening can coincide with the reawakening of the earth after a long, hard winter.
The Rev. Thomas W. Goodhue, United Methodist Church, executive director of the Long Island Council of Churches:
The earth looks kind of dead when you look out at all the snow and ice. By Easter, it's going to be waking up and coming alive in a whole new way. For Christians, spring is the time in which we celebrate Easter, our most important holiday. Our celebration of the resurrection is really at the center of the good news, which happened in the spring in conjunction with the feast of Passover. For us the triumph of life over death, of God over the Roman Empire, of good over evil, is really the center of what we believe. It naturally fits into spring at a time in which the earth itself is renewed, when seed and bulbs buried in the ground suddenly spring to life. One of the modern hymns that Methodists sing begins with the line, "In the seed there is the promise."
I'm not a morning person myself, but I do love sunrise services before Easter because it is really powerful to see the sun come up. We do a big sunrise Easter service at Jones Beach, and it's just wonderful to gather in the dark, sometimes in the cold. To see the sun come up is a wonderful symbol of spring and resurrection. As a Christian, I would say the celebration of Easter in spring is supposed to be about something new and new life, about us being open to change and God doing things that are unexpected in the world.
Rabbi Mendy Goldberg, associate director, Lubavitch of the East End, Coram:
In nature, spring brings forth natural forces. The seedlings and plants, which were hidden under a blanket of snow during the winter, blossom in spring, and later turn into ripe fruits. Applying this idea to humans, there can be a state of "winter," of apparent unproductivity in the life of a person. But no human beings should consider themselves -- and certainly should not be considered by others -- as having terminated their usefulness, even though a long time of fruitlessness has elapsed. Given the proper inspiration and stimulus, the state of "winter" can easily and suddenly be changed into "spring" and blossom time, which eventually will ripen into good fruits for God and man.
The significance of "springtime" in Jewish life is suggested by the festival of Passover, which is always celebrated in the spring, as indicated in the book of Exodus, "You are going forth [from Egypt] this day, in the month of spring." For 210 years the children of Israel lived in Egypt, in physical and spiritual slavery, stagnating in the abominations of Egypt. It did not seem that there could be a revival of Jewish life. Yet, there came the Exodus in the middle of the month of spring, and the children of Israel were quite free, so free in fact that in a very short time they became worthy of receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, bringing to fruition all that was hidden under during their time in Egypt, eventually changing the entire world forever.
The Rev. Vicente Guzman, pastor, Centro Cristiano Vision Celestial, Brentwood:
Spring is an important time of the year because it is when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, what he did for us to give us our salvation. The change in the weather brings happiness. Everything is beautiful, and life is renewed, and in the same way that Mother Nature brings renewal to the land, the Bible brings renewal through the Resurrection. Spring is also an important time because we fast during Lent. The fasting in spring helps us to focus our minds, to concentrate, to meditate on the word of God, pray and read the Bible.
Jesus said "I give my life, and in three days I am going to rise from the dead" and he did it. This is the promise that he made to us, and that is the truth that we follow in springtime. What spring teaches us is that it is possible to renew our lives through the message of the Resurrection, which for Christians is the most important thing.
When we preach about the spring, however, we maintain that the celebration of spring and the Resurrection isn't based on gifts, it isn't about Easter eggs. The error in that idea is that Easter is a material, not spiritual thing. People need to focus on spirituality to truly understand the season.