Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

I’m not a religious person and wasn’t raised with any religion in my life. Growing up, Easter was just another excuse to gorge myself on candy and boiled eggs.

But the idea of resurrection that this day represents is a potent theme, one that resonates deeply with me. I am not talking about actual resurrection, the rising from the grave type of thing. But the idea of rebirth, of washing away the past and beginning anew has always struck a chord within me.

Maybe that’s why I am a morning person. Each day is a personal resurrection of sorts. There is a new start each day the sun comes up, a new chance to redeem yourself in some way. So, in a way, Easter is just part of a continuum of  constant rebirth, one that transcends personal religion.

For this Sunday morning music I am choosing a song that concerns itself with a more literal form of resurrection. It is Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down) which was written in 1934 by Claude Ely. He was twelve years old at the time and was stricken with tuberculosis. His family is said to have prayed for his health to return and in response, he spontaneously performed this song.

I can’t attest to that part of the story but it is a pretty well known gospel standard now. This version is from the great Odetta.

The newer painting above is a small 8″ by 8″ panel that I call Resurrection. It feels very Easter-y to me.

Have a good Sunday.



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Slovakian Resurrection Icon circa 1640

Slovakian Resurrection Icon circa 1640

It’s Easter Sunday.  Resurrection Day.

I’ve said it before here, I am not a religious person.  I wasn’t raised with religion and much of my knowledge of it as a kid came from a local lady, Nellie Beidelman, who used to come to our little elementary school on a regular basis.  We would assemble in the cafe-gym-a-torium ( a space that served all three functions) to hear her tell Bible stories with the aid of a felt board with beautifully painted cut-out figures.

I know it’s not something that could ever take place today in a public school.  But she was a very warm, gentle person and a fine storyteller without being preachy.  I always found the stories interesting as they introduced me to the classic tales of the Old and New Testament and still vividly remember her telling of the Resurrection.  It didn’t make me feel any more inclined toward religion but at least I knew the stories and the lessons that they contained.

I just never had that certainty of belief.  I admired it in others and sometimes wished I had it.  But that same certainty made me uneasy.  What would someone do in the name of their belief, that thing that seemed so certain to them and so distant to me?  The news is filled with horrors perpetrated by those with this certainty firmly in place, whether it’s ISIS inspired suicide bombers or radical Fundamentalists killing physicians who have performed abortions.

And reading history doesn’t make this uneasiness with certainty go away.  How many of millions have perished at the hands of those who were certain in their beliefs, however misguided and wrong they may seem to us now?  Even in doing my genealogy I have come across so many atrocities done by my ancestors in the name of their beliefs that it makes me question the decision to look into the past at all.

That being said, I still sometimes envy those with that certainty and the comfort they seem to find in it.  My own beliefs, as they are, are always subject to questioning, always filled tinged with a bit of uncertainty.  But they still offer a degree of comfort.  Sometimes stopping as I walk and feeling the sun on my skin and gazing into the blue of the sky fills me with a feeling that seems transcendentally reverent in that moment.  The outer world fades for a brief second and I seem connected with something greater than this time and place.

That moment is my certainty, that thing on to which I hold as proof of something greater.  And that moment once in  a great while is all I ask of it.

So, with or without that certainty, whether you observe Easter or any other religion’s activity today, I wish you a great day.  But stop once in a while and just feel the sun on your skin and notice the color of the blue in the sky.  For this week’s music, here’s one of my all time favorites, Down in the Valley to Pray by the late great Doc Watson.  The simple elegance of his voice just carries this song for me.

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Giovanni-Bellini- The Resurrection 1475It’s Easter Sunday.  As I’ve pointed out here in the past, I had no religion of any sort in my upbringing so Easter was  a holiday marked by coloring eggs and eating big chunks of chocolate rabbits and multi-colored jelly beans for somewhat vague reasons.  Most things came down to the food involved for me in my youth.

Of course, I picked up on the tales behind the religious holidays I had eaten my way through as a kid.  And it’s hard to not be moved by the tale of the Resurrection, even from a decidedly non-religious perspective.  Whether you are a believer or non-believer, the tale of rebirth creates a template of hope for all people so that they may endure the many hardships of this life and rebuild new lives from failed pasts.

And it takes on even more significance when that new life is devoted to some purpose that is greater than our own needs.

The painting at the top is The Resurrection, painted by the great Giovanni Bellini, my favorite Renaissance painter, around 1479.  Just a beautiful piece, as most of his work is.

It being Sunday, it’s time for a little music.  I thought I would continue the theme of Resurrection into the music today.  Of course, after seeing this video, some of you might put me down as some sort of heretic.  It’s a song called The Resurrection Shuffle which was  a minor Trans-Atlantic hit in the early 70’s for a British band called Ashton, Gardner & Dyke.  It wasn’t a big hit, maybe just into the top 40, but I remembered the chorus.  Looking it up this morning I came across this version from Cher‘s self-titled television show in 1976 that features her in a duet with Tom Jones, who performed the song in his act for many years.  Maybe it is heresy but it made me laugh if only for the visual impact.  Maybe it will make you smile as well.

Have a great Sunday.

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Georges Rouault- Crucifixion 1939

Georges Rouault- Crucifixion 1939

I can’t say that I am a religious person, religion never being much of a part of my upbringing.  I never attended a single Easter service and pretty much thought of the day in terms of chocolate Easter bunnies and colored eggs in my youth.  But I respected the traditions and stories of the Bible and of the other religions as I picked them up through the years and understood the solemnity and importance of faith, even if my own was sometimes lacking.  That being said, I thought I might play a little music this morning that had to do with the fact that it is Easter Sunday.

I have always been drawn to and moved by the passion and conviction of the great gospel songs especially when performed by those with the talent and conviction to match the  material, such as  Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and all so many others.  Sam Cooke, one of the greatest  pop and R & B stars of the 50’s and early 60’s, was also a great gospel singer.  I loved his voice and  could listen to him sing the phone book but when he sang the gospel, it was often magic. Here’s his version of Were You There ( When They Crucified My Lord), which is an old plantation spiritual that fits in with the day and,  performed by Sam Cooke is as I said, magic .

Hope you have a great Sunday.


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Whether you have a belief system that encompasses the resurrection story of Christ, the basis for the Easter holiday, or you don’t, there is great potency in the symbolism of this story.  The idea of the death of one self and the rebirth of another transfigured self is perhaps one of the most powerful paradigms of mankind and personal evolution.

I am drawn to the resurrection imagery used in religious icons from the medieval time to the present.  There is a great beauty and power in these images and a consistency in the placement of the symbols used, as though the constant  use of a formal pattern  hints at the universality of the story’s transformative power as a possible template for every person’s life.  We all have the possibility of change, of transfiguration, within our own lives.  It may not entail literal death and rebirth,  but it can be a transformation of the self and spirit.  This is not about religion but about a sea change in the way we view and live in this world.

Personal resurrection.

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