Sunday, May 1, 2022

Rare intersection of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter 2022 fall simultaneously together....

Another of Michaelangelo's Pieta in Milan

Easter is the day that changed everything. --Dieter F. Uchdorf

The exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being in every era, every year, and in every day. --Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

The fact that the Muslim holy days coincide over time with various holy days of Christians and Jews should remind us that we are all siblings in humanity and must work together for good. --Abdassamad El Yazidi

I wrote this blog during the weekend when Easter, Passover, and Ramadan intersected--reminding us that we are siblings in humanity. Of course, like much of the world, I was deeply saddened to hear of the violence in Jerusalem that weekend. I never finished it. But now tomorrow is the end of Ramadan.  

On April 2, here in China, I looked up at the barely-bowed moon, missing my Muslim friends. The small crescent moon that was barely visible, I knew, was the beginning of Ramadan all over the world. I thought of my friends' fasting and memories of iftar feasts with friends from Jordan, Palestine, Sudan, Egypt, and other Middle East countries when I lived in Qatar. A few days later, I reflected on the upcoming Easter Holy Week--the Passion Week, which is commemorated as Jesus Christ's last week of his life. Also, long ago, I lived near Jerusalem, where I witnessed the Palm Sunday procession and going to the tomb of Jesus. During that time, I was invited by a Jewish family to be with them during their Passover--a time when Jews remember the deliverance of God to end their slavery in Egypt. Often, Passover and Easter are at the same time. However, this week, in a beautiful intersection of religious calendars, believers of these three world religions are going on spiritual journeys to be restored, heal, and feel peace. This convergence of holidays emerges every 33 years.


In my five and half years living in the Middle East, one of my favorite times of the year is the holy month of Ramadan. A blog I wrote when I was in Qatar about Ramadan It is a time for a regeneration of spirit--to read the Quran, fast (both food and water), pray more duaas (prayers) that plead to Allah to be a better, devout person. Prayers at this time show more intention to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others, express feelings of joy and gratitude, and think about those who are unfortunate. Ramadan's purpose is to both isolate oneself to reflect upon how to improve, but also to build more community-bonding experiences, as well. 

During the daylight hours from when the sun rises until sunset, the streets are quiet, almost empty. Most commercial businesses do not open until after the sunset--signifying the time to end their fast. Many attend the mosque before they end their fast. Perhaps the reason I enjoyed the month of Ramadan so much was that all around me people conveyed a peace that was visibly transformative to an outsider looking in. Conversations were elevated. My Muslim friends spoke more about their feelings for those who are suffering and poor. They not only abstained from food and water during the day but there was a restraint and reining in of anger, arguing, swearing, and gossip. Negative emotions are consciously and purposefully controlled. 

Before Ramadan began and during the month, they evaluate their lives and with those who, perhaps, they needed to forgive. Relationships were intentionally strengthened. They carved necessary time in their abstaining from food and drink to truly ponder their life and to reach out to family, friends, and those who were suffering. As my dear friend and neighbor said, "I need to rebuild myself during Ramadan. A blog I wrote about a Non-Muslim's perspective on Islam

                           I always like to see the shoes outside the mosque before prayer time. 

                                                        Prayer time at the mosque

                                                        One of the main mosques in Doha


Passover is a holiday, for the most part, celebrated at home.  Home during Passover is a place of remembering, gathering, singing, eating, and storytelling. Sedar means setting up the sedar table full of ritual foods and objects, saving chairs for Elijah, and sometimes those who are forgotten in our lives. The longest part of the sedar is "maggid," which means storytelling. Passover comes directly from the Torah and commemorates the story of the ancient Hebrews' exodus from slavery.

Passover reminds me that miracles happen and that God can deliver us in unexpected and astonishing ways. In a way, we are all running from being a captive or slave to something, and we all need deliverance. Exodus prompts us to remember and to tell the stories of our miracles to our families for generations to come. 

                        The Wilderness of Egypt near where the Hebrews escaped                                   


Easter traditionally was the center of an entire season of the Christian calendar. During Lent, Christians prepared themselves spiritually for Holy Week, which focused on Christ's final week of mortality. They considered it a time of penitence--a time to seek forgiveness. Beginning at Lent (usually about 40 days before Easter), the common penance was fasting. Lent was patterned after the 40 days Jesus prayed and fasted in the wilderness. Easter Sunday, always comes between March 21 and April 25, on the first Sunday after the first full moon, following the northern spring equinox. 

As a Christian, I believe that the gospel did not end with Jesus' burial. The Easter message is that the "good news" of Easter is there is no death. We go on living because Christ rose from the grave. On the first day of the week when Jesus was resurrected, the most memorable Sunday in history, Jesus emerged alive from the tomb and appeared to Mary. And it brings hope to all of humanity.  

With the world in a commotion of pain, angst, and struggle, Easter brings hope. As John Updike said in a poem "May we not mock God with metaphor" and Gerard Manley Hopkins said, "May easter in us." Hopkins made Easter be easter--a verb--a change, a transformation. 

                   A favorite painting by Caravaggio of Thomas touching Christ's wounds

"If Jesus defeated death one morning in Jerusalem, then suddenly every revitalization, every new birth, every repaired relationship, every ascent from despair, every joy after grief, every recovery from addiction, every coral reef regeneration, every achievement of justice, every rediscovery of beauty, every miracle, every found hope becomes a sign of what Jesus did in history, and of a promised future where all things will be made new."    --Tish Harrison Warren

So today when Ramadan is ending this year, hopefully in even small, ordinary ways, these three religions can remember they are "siblings of humanity." All three faiths remind us that hope and deliverance are what we are all yearning and searching for. 

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