Xristos Anesti! I hope that you enjoyed a peaceful Easter weekend with your family and friends, catching up on things you’ve been meaning to do, reading books, going on walks or attending to your religious or cultural traditions. Easter is my favorite celebration – it is more pensive and reflective than Christmas’ brash celebrations and excess. Easter in the Orthodox Church is full of ‘bells and smells’ – with much drama overlooked by the wide-eyed mosaico Saints peering through a haze of incense. The solemn chanting has an organic rhythm like breathing, a kind of monotone velvet that coats the observant.
I find I have two reactions to the Easter season – one of wonder matched with a love of the sacred and holy icons of faith. As someone who doesn’t attend church regularly, I benefit from imagining my religion as I’d like it – picking and choosing from a distance. I see my religion as ancillary to my culture – full of totems of identity to be explored and thought on. I do not believe in virgin births, vengeful gods or rising from the dead. I wouldn’t say that makes me irreligious. I imagine that if I engaged more in modern Orthodoxy or Catholicism, I would lose the deep love of icons and fables I hold dear, scourged clean by the sexist, fantastic pedagogy of the church laid bare. On Saturday night, I watched a particularly horrifying TV series called The Bible with my family. Hugely popular in America, this serialised version of the good book presents fables as fact. In it, Abraham and his son lay the branches of a pyre together, Abraham knitting his worried brow as he considers that his son must be a sacrifice to God. Abraham’s wife realises too late what her husband intends. The boy is lathed to the pyre as the music swells, begging his Father to stop. Abraham is compelled onwards by his sacrifice-seeking God, rising his blade high above his squealing boy.
In light of the weekend’s horrifying examples of family violence in Melbourne, fuelled by a hatred of women or by sheer madness, Abraham’s live-action story can do little but revolt. What kind of God asks parents to kill their children? Not one I have much respect for, that’s certain.
For now – and likely, always – I will keep the marking of holy celebrations as a matter of imagination and fable. All recollections are tales, even if they are presented to the audience as truth. There is much truth to be taken from tale, which are but reflections of our own world’s foibles, cruelties and magic.
Xristos Anesti. I am happy to share with you moments shared this Easter with my family.
We take particular pride in presenting our tables with love, carefully laying plates, napery, special glasses and flowers.
Jerome the cat surveys the carry-on.
Mother Ruby Slipper and I with the red-dyed easter eggs. Top: vongole being cleaned for a rich tomato-garlic pasta sauce.
The glee of a lunch shared, followed by piping hot coffee served in a special Florentine coffee set.
Mr Ruby Slipper and me.