Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Chocolate Bunnies and Contemplation

In Catholic school, we were always told around Christmas time, "Now, you know, as good Catholics, you have to realize that Christmas is not our most important feast day. Easter is much more important."

Easter is very important in the Catholic church, because Christianity is based on the miracle of Jesus' resurrection. Without the resurrection, Jesus is just another tree-hugging liberal.

I've been looking for kid's books explaining the whole Easter thing. It's hard to find one that isn't macabre. Of course, Easter wouldn't be Easter if it weren't for that messy part about the murder. It would be nice if we could skip over the death part until he's a bit older, but the resurrection doesn't make any sense without it.

So I tell A., "Well, Jesus died, but then he wasn't dead anymore, and that's Easter. See, usually when someone dies, they stay dead. But Jesus didn't - he died and then three days later he was up and walking around and everyone was so happy to see him!" He humors me and pretends to listen, but really, if you believe in the Easter Bunny, a guy who dies and then isn't dead anymore is not that impressive.

What I'm really having trouble with, though, is that all the books I found have some version of, "Jesus died for our sins." The problem is, I either don't understand this or don't believe it. It's possible that I don't believe it because I don't fully understand it.

It was explained to us as children that because Adam and Eve ate that apple, we've all got Original Sin on our souls. So because we're sinners from the get-go, we'd go to at least purgatory, if not hell. I think they didn't say hell because they didn't want to scare us. Don't know why not - never stopped them before.

Anyway, in some sort of weird deal God made with us, Jesus came along and because he died ("for our sins"), we're saved and have a chance to get into heaven. I've heard that Jesus died so we don't have to, Jesus sacrificed himself for our sins, etc. etc.

I tried very hard to understand this trade-off, but no one could ever clearly explain it to me. I thought I must be missing some sort of Catholic gene, because the missing logic didn't seem to bother anyone else around me. I stopped asking but now I'm asking again.

Because what makes sense to me is that Jesus died to show us a different way - to show us how to react to enemies with love and integrity instead of retaliation. Is that the same thing as dying for our sins? It doesn't sound the same.

My favorite explanation of Easter takes place in a French class in David Sedaris' book "Me Talk Pretty One Day." The French class is trying to explain, in halting French, Easter to a Moroccan woman:

"It is a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and...then he be die one day on two morsels of lumber....He die one day and then he go above my head to live with your father...He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."
"He nice, the Jesus."
"He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today."
..."Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb..One too may eat of the chocolate."
"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.
..."The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."

Then it goes into the difference between Americans, who have a rabbit deliver chocolates at Easter, and the French, who have a bell that flies in from Rome.


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