The Liturgical calendar was made and crafted for the Northern Hemisphere. Easter is set to Spring the period of new growth. However in the southern hemisphere all the signs for Easter are not there. It is Autumn, Spring is months away. Why do I never hear anyone asking for change?
One reason is the imagery of the whole Christian world celebrating at the same time. It is a show of unity for the faith. News broadcasts cover the churches all doing the Easter thing. Then you show the eggs and somewhere along there is a person in the Bunny suit. Solidarity. It makes sense.
Or does it? Spending time at a Catholic university opened this Protestant’s eyes to a whole range of concepts never thought of. The biggest being Holy Saturday. Jesus in the place of the dead. Another is that In the northern hemisphere celebrating Easter with the liturgical calendar is a revelation.
New Growth and Jewish Roots
New growth appears all over the place. Everywhere the very world around you evokes the Gospel story. Why? Because it was set that way. Well maybe for Christmas but for Easter that setting occurs due to that heritage Christians have never been able to remove, our Jewish roots.
Easter is set to the Jewish seasonal calendar. As we read in the Gospels Jesus meets with the disciples just before the Passover. Easter happens due to Jewish seasonal religious celebrations. Passover occurs when it does therefore Easter sits around the same time.
Passover (Pesach) occurs during the time when the barley harvest was taken in. It marks the start of spring and a series of festivals and pilgrimages in connected to spring and flowing into summer. Passover or Pesach (End of Winter/Start of Spring), Shavuot (End of Spring/Start of Summer) and Sukkot (End of Summer/Start of Autumn).
Different Seasonal Patterns
Easter occurs due to a timetable set by the seasons. Not everyone lives in the same seasonal pattern. Even here in Australia there are multiple different seasonal patterns. The European terms of four seasons kind of march up with indigenous seasonal patterns. For the Wiradjuri in Melbourne’s East there are six.
Easter is set due to the Jewish holidays which were aligned to the seasonal world of that agrarian culture. Time and cycles are core to faith and religions across the world. They developed along with the movements of the seasons. They shape the year and lend themselves to certain symbols and themes which the religion uses to affirm belief.
What is lost in countries like Australia? The liturgical calendar is not aligned with the seasons. Harvest comes in at different times across the globe. Some places have multiple harvests. Indigenous Australian cultures were in tune with their seasons but were not agrarian like the people of Israel. It is a complication that requires contemplation.
Missional Versus Colonial
To be missional towards these patterns is going to be hard. There have been many occasions when Christianity has seen fit to enforce colonial patterns upon people. Is it possible to go beyond the brutish one size fits all method? There are moments of healthy syncretism. They do occur.
Unfortunately they take time. They require a level of freedom and change that can only occur due to distance. Even when these moments of cultural religious fusion do occur they do so from the ground up.
Take the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos. The Day of the Dead celebrations are a fusion of Baroque Gothic sensibilities, missional desperation and indigenous funeral rights, all converging together. It was not possible for this to occur anywhere else in the Americas. Right place right time and an old Catholic festival changes shape and form to become a national treasure.
Is such a way possible in Australia? I have no clue. If it does I suspect it will not come by focus group or fiat from the Vatican. Like most syncretism it will just happen. Much like the way Anzac Day has grown into the national holy day that is. Slowly, over time.
We have Christmas in July. Why not Easter in September?
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.