Chocolate bunnies are one of many Easter foods gorged by millions at this time of year. So too is matzah the traditional unleavened bread of Passover.
What can we glean from these festivals apart from the extra calories?
Over the past number of weeks many people have participated in religious and cultural ceremonies enjoying family traditions, symbolic feasts and rituals. These Passover and Easter celebrations are significant events for millions of people across the world.
Beside the religious and traditional rituals of these festivals, their stories and symbols do contain some relevance to our modern lives today.
- While Passover commemorates the Israelites freedom from slavery in Egypt, Easter commemorates Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Beyond the food, both promote messages of rebirth and liberation.
- Passover celebrates God’s deliverance of the Jews out of slavery in Egypt and from the tyrannical rule of Pharaoh into the freedom of the Promised Land. It’s a story of faith and trust.
- Easter celebrates the Christian belief that Jesus was not only the son of God, but also the Messiah. Through his death and resurrection, he was sent to free the world from the shackles of sin and eternal damnation.
Rebirth, freedom, faith and trust are powerful, personal and emotional human experiences.
Both festivals demonstrate the remarkable struggle of people against seemingly insurmountable odds.
The most relevant humanistic themes captured in the Passover and Easter stories include the pursuit of freedom, the importance of hope and the experience of personal growth.
The experience of Personal Growth
Every living thing must grow and die. Like no other creature, the most powerful growth for a human being takes place internally.
At various times of our lives we will need to cultivate the intention to look deeper into our heart in order to develop.
There are many ways to look within. Deepak Chopra offers one powerful process that captures the essence of personal growth in his introduction of the 4 Needs of the Heart in his meditations. They are:
ATTENTION – the need to be seen, noticed and recognised
AFFECTION – the need for physical touch, warmth and kindness
APPRECIATION – the need for acknowledgment
ACCEPTANCE – the need for inclusion in part of something bigger than ourselves
These 4 steps act as a useful guide in which we can cultivate gratitude for life and become open to inner growth.
How open are you to inner growth?
The importance of Hope
The Passover and Easter stories contain human accounts of universal struggles and aspirations. At the centre of survival and victory is the fulfillment of hope.
Hope is an essential feature of good mental health.
Whilst most of us will have obstacles in life it will be a significant amount of hope combined with desire and determination that will enable us to achieve our goals.
In terms of relationships, family and community, hope enhances the kind of commitment people make to each other. This includes the dedication to create a healthy future, a peaceful world and the joy of living a rich and meaningful life.
How does hope help you?
The pursuit of Freedom
Freedom can be defined as:
- The power or right to act, speak or think as one wants
- The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved
The notion of freedom honored in the Passover and Easter stories is the freedom to live in peace with dignity and hope for a bright future.
Sadly, the quest for freedom continues today. Lives are still at risk and lost in the pursuit of freedom in various parts of the world.
According to the text on Jewish Mysticism, the Zohar, the Hebrew name of Egypt, ‘Mitsrayim’ means ‘narrow straits’.
The exodus story took the Jews from a place of constricted opportunities, tight control and narrow-mindedness where movement was severely limited.
From a psychological point of view we can experience a kind of personal ‘narrow straits’. This can be varied. It may be financial or health limitations, personal tragedy or the emotional burdens that we carry.
Our minds can turn us into slaves and oppressors of both others and ourselves. Consequently, a kind of emotional struggle for freedom emerges.
This is the ability to cultivate positive emotions and compassionately observe and accept negative ones, either our own or another’s.
Emotional freedom requires the freedom to feel anything without guilt and shame, or labelling them as bad in any way.
The Counselling and Psychotherapy field focuses much of its intention on emotional freedom and the liberating of minds from emotional blocks and limiting beliefs.
Easier said than done.
How does emotional freedom appear in your life today?
In continuing this theme of freedom please read my next blog ‘A guide to Emotional Freedom’, which unpacks the idea in more depth.