The Vicar & I have an on-going debate about the nature of divine involvement in human affairs. He leans toward the concept that God is intimately interested that we love God and our neighbors. Thus, the situations that occur in our lives are a series of events that a loving God presents us with that we might chose from the many options that we have to fulfill his will. I lean toward the concept that these situations are circumstantial and that we have many options to chose from to participate in the wonderful coincidences. By coincidence, I do not mean merely a random sequence of events, but that events occur without any inherent meaning until we notice them and put meaning to them. I think that the Vicar and I both ponder how apparently value-neutral situations can have such value when we become attentive.
One custom that we have in our society is to provide value to specific dates, annually, because of birthdays, anniversaries, deaths, etc. Even though hundreds of thousands of other birthdays, anniversaries, or deaths occurred on those same dates, the value is only because of our personal connection. We also give certain dates meaning because of religious rituals. Some of these dates are consistent year to year, such as Christmas (12/25) and All Saints’ Day (11/1), even though we have no evidence that the event occurred on that date historically. Others are tied to seasons and lunar calendars.
Passover and Easter fall on dates each year which change because of how they are calculated. Essentially, Passover is set on the first sabbath, after the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox. The date of the equinox usually only varies by a day this-way-or-that each year, but the full moon follows, more or less, a 28 day cycle. This year, that full moon occurred on Friday 4/6/12, prior to sun down, the start of the sabbath. Easter follows the lunar cycle also because Christ’s Last Supper was a Passover sadder meal.
My birthday, a day of special meaning to me and my parents, is April 8th. Growing up, I liked to think that we had Spring Break from school every few years to celebrate my birthday for a week. Then there were other years when Easter came later in the month, and I did not get this honor. When I turned eight years old, we were travelling in Japan. On my birthday, we visited a Buddhist temple. The day seemed especially festive. Being a fire-bug, I liked the idea of lighting incense around the temple. A Japanese woman, who spoke English, noticed this toe-headed boy in the temple asked if I knew that today was a special day. I said, “Yes, it’s my birthday!”. She smiled and told me that it was Buddha’s birthday too.
What wonderful coincidences: the full moon occurs on Friday before the sabbath, setting Passover and Easter on this weekend, when my birthday and Buddha’s happen to fall on the same day. I am sure that there is a mathematical calculation that would determine when the next year is that these events all come together again. I shall not worry about this, as it will happen without my effort. Meanwhile, attribute whatever meaning to wish to this day!
The sun rises over the eastern ridges
To illuminate the western slopes.
Do not blind yourself with attempts to see
The sun directly, but look at it’s effects:
The dawn rays gliding from the mountain’s
Crest to the valley’s floor, warming the cool Spring air:
The budding of the forest trees as each day lengthens,
Bringing the life up from the roots;
The condensation of water into clouds,
Which cleanses us from winter’s dust.
By evening the sun will cross the sky
To begin its descent behind those westerns slopes,
Not to pass away, but to promise to rise again.
And, from the eastern ridges the moon rises,
A few degrees behind full, a few weeks beyond
The Spring Equinox. To this day we attribute
Meaning to the traditions of leaving our bondage
For a promised land. Passover, Easter, Nirvana, Birth,
The rising sun, illuminating our lives.