EASTER OR ESTHER? Resurrect from doubt
Often, the argument surfaces during the Easter season that Easter is not exactly a Christian celebration, that it is not the commemoration of the resurrection of the Messiah, but the pagan festival honoring Esther, the pagan goddess of birth and regeneration. This argument, whenever raised, creates a chasm between language and its interpretation, without even considering it a valid possibility to assuage the rift between Christianity’s most fundamental concept and a fascinating pagan concept. What appears strange to me is that each year, as Easter approaches, someone will share a picture, in social media, of goddess Esther standing with her left hand raised, holding a mirror-like instrument or club along with standard recipes such as ancient pagan mythology plus stories of Christian assimilation of the name of this pagan tradition. This recipe constructs the question; is Easter really Easter, or is it really the festival for Esther, the pagan goddess? The problem with this question is that neither can it be answered satisfactorily in standards that we expect in today’s world, nor can it benefit the Believer in any fashion. In a society like India, such questions and arguments are only meant to create unnecessary anxiety in the minds of my Christian brothers and sisters. In India, Christians are a minority and faith formation requires an immense strength of body and mind.
The argument says that Ishtar or Esther or Ostara is the goddess of dawn worshipped by pagans during spring season. Later, Christianity adopts this myth and perhaps, thus the name Easter is given to the day of commemoration of the resurrection of Christ. Some critics even argue that there is no Christian Easter, and all we see in our contemporary times is a mere aftermath of this pagan assimilation. The pagan festival has thus been made part of the Christian tradition from some uncertain point in history. Before considering these arguments as definitive statements on a magnificent event, one must consider the eclectic significations the Christian Easter is associated with.
Christians, especially Catholics, believe that like a seed planted underneath the soil, which is dead for a few days, coming back to life, reaching high above the grounds, moving towards heavens, Jesus Christ too conquered death and transcended his mortal self during his earthly existence. This later part is what fascinates me, whenever the concept of Christian Easter comes into my consciousness. It is next to impossible for an ordinary human being to transcend one’s earthly limitations such as life and death, both of these phenomenons being the two poles of human existence, during life on earth.
In Jesus’ case, his birth was predestined and celebrated, unlike the common concept that one does not choose one’s parents. Jesus’ earthly parents were already being chosen. By undergoing the ultimate transformation, from death into life, Jesus Christ transcends the ultimate barrier to human existence. He achieves this in his earthly avatar itself, performs what any ordinary individual can only in one’s spiritual form, in the dimensions that we never visit with our earthly bodies.
In his stimulating study on past live memories and regression therapy titled Messages from the Masters, Dr. Brian Weiss underscores that humans are spirit beings. We travel from one lifetime into another. Dr. Weiss uncovers many cases through hypnosis, in which past life memories appear to have strong connections with present-life problems of individuals. Considering such modern studies, it is strongly recommended that before undermining the concept of resurrection as just another religious mythology or viewing it under the light of the politics of assimilation, one must be careful to see and learn the implications of such a grand idea in one’s life.
Easter or Esther, or any other name you choose give to any religious festival (and for that matter, any event or day in any area of human life— it need not be religion alone) what matters the most is what one absorbs from the festival, personally. Does it matter, when one learns a truth or lesson that can make a difference in one’s own or others’ life, if it is assimilation of paganism or Christianity? If you can learn to observe and appreciate the divine in you, you can certainly enjoy the blessing of the Divine in you. For example, the moment you smile at a person, whoever that is, the ripple of impact of that moment may touch many others, as well as the person you directly responded to, with a smile. Does it matter whether you smiled at a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu? Every moment of unconditional giving is capable of teaching us closely, our Divine element. We all possess Divinity in us. That was why, Mother Teresa could see Jesus, in every helpless individual she picked up from the ditches of Calcutta.
Here is the realization that blessed me today, while I meditated on Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Resurrection is at hand for anyone who is ready to trust the Divine in oneself, and thus establish the connection between God and self, heaven and earth.” Perhaps, the Higher Spirit told me this; that is what I believe. Now, perhaps, you might have understood the reason for using quotation marks.
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Jesus Christ calls each one of us to consider this hypothesis that he so easily assimilated into his own life, and made a proven theory.
What I realized today, on this Easter day, is that all it takes to enjoy resurrection from the depths of despair, hopelessness and doubt is a reminder. This reminder, we must set ourselves to remind us, what all things we need to be thankful for as well as capable of experiencing in this journey of spiritual enlightenment.
“Resurrection is at hand for anyone who is ready to trust the Divine in oneself, and thus establish the connection between God and self, heaven and earth.”
God bless you.