Three major religious observances are held within a 10-day period in April. This week's clergy discuss why Passover (April 3-11), Easter Sunday (April 5) and the Orthodox Christian Easter, also known as Pascha (April 12), should inspire deep thought among the faithful.
The Rev. Thomas Boyd, pastor, Church of the Nazarene, Massapequa Park:
We know that in Luke 22:15, when Jesus told his disciples that he longed to have Passover with them, he knew the events that lay ahead: His arrest, his trial, his beatings and his crucifixion. Even these 12 men who traveled with Jesus and had been taught by Jesus, didn't understand.
Passover, of course, was a significant time for the people of Israel. The original Passover was the final plague before Pharaoh told the Jewish people that they could leave Egypt. They covered the doorpost of their homes with the blood of a sacrificed lamb. When the death angel saw this, he passed over these homes. Consequently only the Egyptian children died. As we reflect on the meaning of Easter, we realize that Jesus would become the ultimate sacrifice. His shed blood upon the cross was for our redemption. Jesus took the sins of the world upon himself to pay the penalty that we couldn't pay. His followers on that fateful day that he died upon the cross mourned his death. Three days later they celebrated his resurrection. This is what we reflect upon. Jesus didn't end up on the cross, he came to go to the cross. How much more could he do to show his love for each one of us?
The Rev. Andrew D. Cadieux, St. John's Greek Orthodox Church, Blue Point:
The celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus is not called Easter in the Christian Orthodox Church. We refer to it as Pascha. This derives from the Jewish feast of Passover. Christ becomes the eternal Paschal lamb that is sacrificed once for the entire world. Great Lent is a time of extreme reflection. We are invited and called upon for repentance. It is not a time for us to be fearful of our brief temporal existence. Rather, it is a time for spiritual regrowth, a strengthening of our morals and convictions as well as a re-analysis of where we are on our journey in life, both spiritually and physically. Our reflection during Great Lent builds up each day and is intensified each week. We discipline our bodies through a physical fast of no meat or dairy products.
We have the opportunity to attend more ecclesiastical services. For example, pre-sanctified liturgies allow the faithful the opportunity to receive Holy Communion frequently. We also have the Akathist Hymn. Typically celebrated on Friday evenings, this service is a poem that was written by St. Germanos, patriarch of Constantinople from 715-730. The Akathist poem honors the Mother of God, Theotokos, who serves as a timeless example of purity and perseverance, for she witnessed the death and resurrection of her son, Jesus.
Any reflective nature that Great Lent creates within us, can only improve our journey in life, for it creates a reaction within our being. In other words something is created within us, instead of nothing.
Joshua Reichman, cantor and religious leader, South Baldwin Jewish Center:
To address the question we need to understand Passover in a very simple way. In biblical times slavery was a common economic reality. God introduced a new concept of freedom and human equality into the world. It was done through a series of miracles resulting in the Israelites' freedom.
Today, in the postmodern world, we battle two fronts of freedom, one on a personal, individual level and the other on a global, human one. We must reflect deep into our human condition.
We have progressed technologically and have more gadgets than we know what do with. However, have these improvements done anything to enhance the human condition? Are we freer human beings today than we were 2000 years ago, or have we become slaves to our own animalistic inclinations and egotism?
On a global level, we see extremists in every religion and race raising their banners in the name of their ideology. Humanity will only be truly free when we can all realize that, no matter what we call our God, we must treat one another with respect. Freedom is a virtue that can't be realized until we understand that it applies to everyone equally. Passover helps us all to understand that, regardless of religion, all humans are created equal. We need to reflect upon whether we are really accomplishing that today.