Our say: Easter, Passover require, repay our attention

Our say: The power of holidays lies in how we weave them into our lives

If something is genuinely important to people, they want to do more than politely listen and applaud, or say "Amen" at the right moment. Whether they happen to be at home in front of the television, or in a church pew or a seat in a hearing room, they want to do more.

They want to write to a newspaper or a public official, or get online and share with friends. They want to testify, or go to a rally to march or wave signs. They want to start a group or join a group. They want to vote.

And when it comes to the great spring religious festivals that annually spread a message of renewal and hope, the same thing applies. Christians want to follow the stations of the cross, or see or take part in some other re-enactment of the suffering and resurrection of Christ, or go to a sunrise service or — and perhaps this is the most crucial part — turn the annual observance of Easter into a personal or family ritual that weaves it into the fabric of their lives.

Jews are given a centuries-old head start in this direction by the tradition that the spring holiday of Passover — the festival of the liberation from slavery in Egypt — is marked by the Seder, a ritualized family meal that combines historical remembrance, prayer and ethical teaching.

Agreeing with something in the abstract, without acting, accomplishes nothing. Spasmodic action is better, but one-offs leave little behind. The convictions that are incorporated into our habits and rituals, that are linked directly to our personal lives, are the ones that define and change people — and change history.

Easter and Passover, like all such great holidays, might be thought of as glasses — or, if you want to be up-to-date, contact lenses or laser surgery — for chronically nearsighted humanity. We don't just get caught up in the random and the day-to-day, but live in a society that encourages it. As Lizette Borrelli of Medical Daily wrote a few years back, "the news is limited to 140 characters and conversations take place in the form of emojis." A study by Microsoft Corp. estimated the average human attention span had dropped from 12 seconds to eight. It's nine seconds for goldfish.

The rituals of Easter and Passover jolt us out of our day-to-day rut and get us to concentrate on vital truths: It's not all random. There is a plan. Faith is rewarded and hope is a necessity. The Creator did not intend for death or tyranny to have the last word.

But while these messages are vital and give encouragement to many, the real challenge of holidays — the way they can show their power, if we let them — is in what they mean to us after they are over. C.S. Lewis said, "I believe in Christ, like I believe in the sun — not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else." And that's really the challenge: What does Passover say every day of the year about our attitudes to tyranny and freedom? What does Easter tell us every day of the year about the meaningfulness of life, and how we ought to treat the fellow humans to whom the same divine promise has been extended?

As always, we wish all our readers a happy Easter and Passover.

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