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Columns

A Joint Celebration

This week, Christians and Jews celebrate life together

By Rachel L. Wagley

I love my roommates, the four girls who sprinkle bits of joy into my day. Together, we are lovers of flowers, though we often forget to water them, fail to tend them, and let them wilt away and drop their petals on our bureaus. One of these beautiful roommates achieved enlightenment when she wisely decided to forgo the roses and Gerber daisies in exchange for a tiny cactus that promised life at the expense of beauty. Constantly strategizing on how to cheaply transform our rooms into greenhouses, we pilfer flowers left behind after fancy dining hall dinners, and we willingly accept the bouquets offered to us during our last senior events.

As April rains turn into May blossoms, I remember why I water the faithful Hyacinth and Kalanchoe sitting on my desk instead of checking my email, even when my email-checking so often trumps other tasks. Flowers are little celebrations of life. And though a single white rose is dying slowly beside me in a vase as I type this, I cannot throw it away or rush its natural passing. It is a symbol of celebration, which is a reminder of how much I am blessed.

Long before my college roommates entered my life, my mom showed me the beauty of celebrating life and wonder and beauty through the gifts of God and nature. My mom is a gardener, tried and true, gloves and trowel, and she taught my sisters and me how to plant tulip bulbs. She painstakingly drew up chore charts assigning each of my sisters separate plots of the yard to weed, water, and plant. Even when we ignored the chore charts, and we usually did, we couldn’t escape gardening. Never quite mastering authoritarianism, my mom didn’t believe in grounding us; she believed in weeding. Whenever we fought too much or complained too long, my sisters and I were punished by being pushed out the door and into the flowerbeds. We knelt in the dirt and carelessly weeded, petitioning my mom to forgive us and let us give up and go play. But secretly, as far as punishments go, we didn’t mind too much hanging out in the yard and watching the flowers grow.

In my family, Easter is the culmination of early spring gardening. Our yard blooms purple, yellow, orange, and pink as the children—and teenagers, and occasionally adults—from church hunt for Easter eggs in search of candy. The Easter egg hunt is a timeless, sugar-filled, and competitively cutthroat tradition, but it is only a trivial celebration within a glorious celebration. It is a light blessing within the magnificent blessing that is the Resurrection of Christ the King. To Christians, Easter is the celebration of the gift of life blessed with freedom and grace.

Above all, I think, it is the strangest story ever told: A man who said he was God sacrificing himself on a wooden cross for the sinful creatures of the earth, and passing from death to life, from grave to earth.

“He is Risen,” my dad greeted me before early Easter sunrise services year after year. “He is Risen Indeed!” I responded. This then, is the spirit of Easter for Christians—life made anew before the cross in the dawning of spring.

At Harvard, Christians celebrate Easter alongside our friends celebrating Passover, the commemoration of the Exodus and freedom from slavery. Like the Resurrection, Passover celebrates a divine rescue into freedom. Side by side, Christians and Jews celebrate new life and the greatest blessing—a  God who loves, and a God who keeps his promises to his children.

This week is a communion of two religious worlds. It is a rare moment when we can seek truth together, in the same God, at the same time, on the same campus. Furthermore, this week is a retreat into remembrance, and a call for renewal. We find that we are not unlovable, but we are undeserving of such great love. We live, but this life is a gift. We are children of God, but we owe our lives—this eternal childhood—to the God who paid our debt.

In the season of Holy Week, and the season of Passover, we ponder our greatest blessings and celebrate the triumph over death, sin, and wandering in pursuit of our God. Revelation, the last book of the Bible, decrees that in the last days, believers will sing the “song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb.” But, even now, our voices can together be raised in praise, in celebration, and in awe of this gift that is life.

Rachel L. Wagley ’11 is a sociology concentrator in Quincy House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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