This Easter I have noticed important transformation taking place in my life. New Life. Intentionally, I can connect it to the weeks leading up to the church’s celebration of the story of resurrection and am grateful the liturgical calendar can provide a backdrop against which to experience the changes. Yet these changes go far beyond religious and liturgical programming.
Rewind to a few months ago: I had the privilege of realizing an important dream of mine: to hold a community interfaith art exhibit on a theme chosen out of consideration for the many different beliefs and faiths that surround us in a pluralist society like Montreal:
Believe/How will you celebrate it?
In the poster for the call for art submissions and for the closing event, I illustrated the etymological underpinning of the ‘believe’ concept: to believe is not merely to endorse an ‘objective truth’ claim; it is a personal value, a matter of the heart, a choice.
I was overwhelmed by the response to the call for submissions: more than 20 artists chose to participate and our community studio was bursting with beautiful art of diverse media: paintings, poems, sculptures, photos, etc. I was also deeply moved at the closing event when numerous people, artists and guests of the exhibition, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come together around such a theme. “Will you be organizing more of these?” so many wanted to know.
Then, during Holy Week, I met with a couple of Baha’i young adults, one of whom I had met at a dialogue event on the arts as a means to express and explore spirituality. We had a lively exchange about the possibility of starting a faith & art collective in Montreal to facilitate more opportunities to affirm the motivating role that faith plays in the lives of so many people who often feel dissuaded from expressing this key aspect of themselves openly. We talked about the heavily competitive and consumerist dimensions of the world we currently experience. We refused to accept this to be the underlying truth or reality of our existence and lives. I found myself saying: ‘if we continue to affirm this as truth and reality, then it is what our truth and reality indeed will be; but if we have the courage to affirm a different truth and reality, then things can change.”
Fast forward to Easter day. I’m listening to the proclamation of the Gospel of John in which Jesus and Mary Magdalene are having a conversation after Mary discovers the empty tomb. At first, she does not recognize Jesus and believes him to be the gardener of the property. When she understands it is him, Mary is excited and no doubt relieved: all is not lost! Jesus is still here with us! Yet Jesus immediately dispels any notion that things can return to how they were, for something irreversible has just happened. He tells her ‘do not hold on to me’, for his ascension–the full articulation of his story–has yet to take place. Mary Magdalene is to take the news of his resurrection to the other disciples, who have returned home possibly feeling very disappointed at the turn of events. In the time that follows Jesus appears, disappears, and reappears to the disciples. His on-and-off presence serves as a reminder of what they have committed to; yet they must now figure things out together, by virtue of the beliefs they have formed during their time with him, yet without the security and comfort of their teacher. They must not hold on to him.
This brings me to the pivot of transformation taking root in me this Easter. I am believing the Easter story in a deeper way than I have previously experienced. I tangibly perceive the surfacing of New Life, new opportunities, a new way forward. And it is good! Yet, I also sense very strongly that this promised land of new light and wonder can only unfold if I do not hold on to indeed many aspects that have been guiding me and (subconsciously) informing my choices up until now. It is of no use to reiterate affirmations that superficially veil an ocean of disempowering and unprogressive beliefs. I must re-examine my most deeply internalized convictions, take stock of how they are shaping my reality, and let go of portions of childhood inheritance that do not serve well while proactively building up all that does.
What better journey could I look forward to celebrating in these 50 days of Easter!