“In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it...” That begins the song “Easter Parade,” written by Irving Berlin, whose given name was Israel Baline. Born in Russia of Jewish parents, he became one of the best-known composers of music and lyrics in the United States.
I like the idea that a man of Russian and Jewish background wrote that popular song about Easter, one of the most important Christian observances. In a way, it points to the more universal side of this observance.
According to the Oxford University Press dictionary, the name Easter derives from “east” or “looking east,” which is what much of the world is doing today. The looking east that Easter Day calls for, however, is the search for a force that will come into our lives, save us from ourselves, and usher in a new era of compassion.
For Christians, the resurrection of Jesus is what’s remembered on Easter, and this event was supposed to usher in the Messianic age, an age of peace, harmony, and goodwill among all. This is certainly a universal hope for many.
A central element of that expected age of peace was the focus of a conference I attended at a college near where I live. It explored the universal message of the golden rule, as seen by many of the world’s religions. The statement “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – or put the other way around, “Don’t do unto anyone that which you would not have done unto you” – underlies much religious teaching. Speaker after speaker from many different faith disciplines told how that simple but direct teaching holds profound meaning for humanity and is a basic tenet of their faith.
Perhaps that simple, direct call to show forth our humanity could stand for the universal call for the coming of a more spiritual age. Jesus, the humble carpenter, said that what underlies this rule of living was the basis of all his teachings, and, in fact, the basis for all the law and the great teachers.
As the Bible records, when Jesus was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” he answered with a fuller sense of the golden rule: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36–40).
And Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science through the teachings of the Bible and Jesus, wrote, “Having one God, one Mind, one consciousness, – which includes only His own nature, – and loving your neighbor as yourself, constitute Christian Science, which must demonstrate the nothingness of any other state or stage of being” (“No and Yes,” p. 38).
This is a threefold command to love, which has powerful results in our lives. Observing it – by loving God, supreme Good; loving yourself, the expression of that good; and loving your neighbor with that special love you have for yourself – can indeed bring into your experience evidence of the fact that this is your only real “state or stage of being.”
It was a great confirmation of Jesus’ command when Mrs. Eddy said that this constitutes Christian Science, God’s law in action. It’s an action we can all take as part of the Eastertime gladness. Taking such a firm stand produces great results. Accounts of jobs found, financial worries overcome, diseases healed, and companionship found, are regularly reported in The Christian Science Journal and the Christian Science Sentinel, the monthly and weekly magazines founded by Mary Baker Eddy.
Mrs. Eddy’s request, then, that there be no special service or ceremony celebrating Easter in her church (see “Church Manual,” p. 60) to me is a call to shed some of our attention toward the “Easter bonnet” side of this day and get back to the simple directness of the Easter message.
Loving ourselves is an equal part of the command. Starting with an understanding of our own self-worth, we can more naturally expand our inclusiveness to hug our neighbors, be they near or far. This doesn’t involve an abstract, rose-colored view of the world. It requires taking a firm spiritual view of all, even when loving some that way may be difficult.
For me, one of the most profound and heartfelt calls for this Messianic age to come into our experience is what I see as a prayer found in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” Mrs. Eddy wrote, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (p. 340). May that become a prayer for humanity this Easter season.