Again this year, Jews and Christians share a weekend of holy days. Passover's celebration of liberation, the escape of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and Easter's martyred savior risen from the grave are timeless reminders that stories of enslavement and death can indeed culminate in a joyous belief in miracles.
But if the themes of Passover and Easter are timeless, they are observed each year by people all too wrapped up in the worrisome details that fill the hours, days and years. In these times, the hurry and bustle of life seem ever more dominating, ever more capable of pushing aside not just the small pleasures of life but also the time to contemplate its larger mysteries. But however timeless their message, Passover and Easter are firmly rooted in history. In 1995, historical memory lends particular poignancy to the celebration of these feast days of liberation and rebirth.
During this anniversary year, Americans and their allies in World War II are marking the half-century observance of significant events leading to their victory in that epochal conflict. Last week brought one of the more somber, the 50th anniversary of the liberation by U.S. troops of the Buchenwald concentration camp, where more than 50,000 people died. Buchenwald and its sister camps made it impossible for the world to ignore the horrors of the Holocaust, and imperative that it never forget the evil incarnated within those walls.
One miracle of Passover is that 50 years after the liberation of Buchenwald, the death of Hitler and the defeat of Nazism, Jews around the world still hold Seders and celebrate liberation. Likewise, Christians come to Easter 1995 with a deeper understanding of the tangled history of their own relationship to the Jewish faith, the kind of knowledge that will in time prove the RTC best inoculation against future holocausts.
Not all commemorations this year point to the horrors of World War II. This month also brings the 25th anniversary of Earth Day, a time to review the nation's progress in protecting the environment. If renewal and rebirth are the messages of Easter and Passover, what better proof that these are still possible than this country's success in reclaiming filthy rivers or in protecting Earth's endangered treasures? And, in an imperfect world, what better reminders that the work of renewal is never done than the environmental challenges that still lie ahead?
Easter and Passover are holy days. Such times hold their magic in large part because their messages are timeless, yet speak to new generations in ever-timely ways. Liberation and rebirth: However ancient the stories, they never grow old.