Today concludes the Easter long weekend, and though I’m tired after having done so much in so short a span of time, it’s a good sort of fatigue. Because this year, I realized something that took me several years to understand.
Easter is the most faithful time of year for Christians. It’s the day that created the religion–yes, more important than Christmas, because even though Christmas is when Jesus was born, this is when Jesus died to save humankind from its sins and open the gates to heaven. Easter made Christianity as powerful as it is, by testing the faith not only of the earliest disciples, but also of Jesus himself. It teaches that one must maintain faith and hope even through the grief of pain and death.
Faith means a lot to me. The word itself, faith, is perhaps my favourite word for all that it represents, and it’s how I try to live my life–on the wings of faith. So you can imagine that a faith-based holiday such as Easter would be extremely important to me.
I was born and raised a Catholic, going through the rituals and sacraments of the church and spending many many hours learning about the Bible and its holy teachings. For several years, this was my faith. I believed in God and Jesus and prayed every night. My religion moved me, comforted me, empowered me.
But as too often happens, I reached a point in my life when my faith was seriously tested. It seemed like I had different ears when I attended mass, or different eyes when I read Bible passages. I suddenly found myself disagreeing with the Catholic doctrine. What the Bible was saying and what I had come to understand in my life were two very different things, and it got to the point where I realized I wasn’t a Christian anymore.
It wasn’t an easy realization. I tried to believe again, but to no avail. I simply do not believe in the Christian God or Jesus, no matter how hard I try to do so.
That shook me up. I’d lived so many years believing in Catholicism, that to realize I didn’t have anything to believe in anymore was a frightening notion. I thought perhaps there was another religion that would suit me, or even another Christian denomination, but it wasn’t until I took a World Religions course* my third year of high school that it clicked: I simply didn’t believe in doctrine. It had nothing to do with the religion or the deity, I just couldn’t believe in something I was told. I could only believe what I had experienced and what I had felt.
I believe in emotions, and magic, and kinship. I believe in friendship, and beauty, and love. I believe in strength, and courage, and selflessness. I also believe in gods, but none that belong to any religion but my own. There is no book that dictates my belief, only my own feelings. My own soul.
So now I come to Easter, a Christian holiday. For a while, I had no idea what to make of it, since I didn’t believe in Jesus. I just tried to enjoy the weekend, spending it with family, laughter, and of course chocolate. Though it had perhaps lost some significance, I was still happy.
But then, when I went to my grandparents’ farm on Saturday, my younger cousin had put a sign on the door. It welcomed everyone to the gathering, and at the end she wrote something along these lines:
“Most importantly, when you leave know that you are loved.”
It resonated with me. Easter was no longer about Jesus for me, but it was still about family. In fact, it was all about family. Being with the people I love, celebrating a time of year when faith is strongest. When I left, I really did know that I was loved. I am loved. I have faith in my family, and that brings me peace. This is my faith.
It was a journey and a struggle, to reach this point of understanding, of solace, but there are things in our lives that are worth fighting for. I believe faith is one of them. So keep on fighting.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.
What does Easter mean to you?
May your faith not be dictated, but be true in your heart.
*If there’s one important thing I learned in that class, it’s this: all the religions are reflections of one another. At their hearts, they represent the same core qualities–solace, peace, forgiveness–but simply put different names and faces to them. So while I may not be Christian anymore, I could never deny the power and truth of Christianity, or Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism–any religion. I don’t think the name of the god or the holy book defines anything, I think it’s the power of the faith, which is something we can only feel for ourselves. Just as one disbeliever doesn’t make a religion false, neither does isolation in one’s beliefs make their faith untrue.