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Spring: Easter, Passover and Opportunities for Healing

It is spring, a season of physical and spiritual rebirth, renewal and regrowth. This is a "holy" season for many, a time when many individuals of diverse faiths and beliefs engage in spiritual practices and rituals that hold great meaning and opportunities for healing. For some people affected by mental illness, this holy season is one of the most significant times of the year.

Passover: From Slavery to Freedom

For people of the Jewish faith, Passover will start on Tuesday, April 19, and will continue for seven days until Monday, April 25. Note that in the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Jews will celebrate Passover on the sunset of Monday, April 18.

Passover is the eight day observance commemorating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II.

A time of family gatherings and lavish meals called Seders, the story of Passover is retold through the reading of the Haggadah. With its special foods, songs and customs, the Seder is the focal point of the Passover celebration.

Passover is a time of discussion and discovery. As individuals sit around the table with friends and family, they recount the story of the miraculous redemption from slavery to freedom, using the symbols of the Seder plate to tell their stories and use all of their senses in the retelling. For some individuals who have been affected by mental illness, this can represent a part of their own healing. In describing how their own lives move from slavery to freedom, in what ways they embrace a responsibility to help others on their journey, Passover provides one opportunity to find healing through the challenges of striving for recovery while living with mental illness and for families to reflect on the freedoms, including mental illness recovery, that others and our communities are seeking.

The following is a Passover story, offered by the Rita J. Kaplan Jewish Connections Program, illustrating one persons slavery to freedom recovery.

It has been two months since I was first diagnosed. I feel as stripped down and bare as this bone I am roasting. In a few short hours my children will be expecting, hoping and needing me to take my place at the table. How will I find the strength to do it?

As I grate the horseradish my tears are heartfelt. While chopping the sticky sweet mixture of apples and honey for the charoset, I realize my family is the sweet cement of my life. They are my foundation and help me to push past my salty tears. I wash the greens for the karpas, the sign of renewal and rebirth. I place the cup of Elijah on the table. Suddenly it strikes me how so many generations have started their Seders/stories with a mixture of tears blended with hope that spring will come again. The bitter and the sweet coexist on the same plate. Currently I may be a weaker link in this chain of strong Jews but the links on either side of me, hope and redemption, keep me attached.

Holy Week: Death to Resurrection, Darkness to Light

Holy Week, culminating with Easter, is celebrated by Christians around the world to commemorate the most important events in Christianity: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, beginning on Palm Sunday, April 17, and ending on Easter, Sunday, April 14.

Easter Sunday celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus. At that time, the light of the rising sun on Easter morning recalls the light that comes back to the world with the newly risen Jesus. This light offers hope for recovery, healing and hope as well as renewal and the promise of rebirth. For many Christians, Easter Sunday is set aside for feasting and celebration.

For many, Holy Week is a time of reflection, confession and healing as a remembrance of our connection with spirit, each other and God. This is the teaching of Easter; that the light from within heals our suffering and grief and offers support for our recovery from illness of mind and body. Beginning with Palm Sunday, many Christians physically connect with the meaning of this season by participating in services and rememberances of each day of the Jesus' life and death these last days. For some people affected by mental illness, Easter is a time to engage in prayer and rituals that symbolize the meaning of moving from the darkness to the light, from dispair to hope, on their own personal path to healing.

The following is an Easter meditation offered through Creighton University's Online Ministries, which also offers prayers and meditations in multiple languages.

May our celebration raise us up and renew our lives!

One of the great songs we often sing on Easter has the words, "This is the feast of victory of our God. Alleluia!"

Everything with which we struggle, and every hope and desire we have, come together in this day. The tomb is empty!

Sometimes Easter Sunday can be a busy day, with visiting, meals, and travel. Our prayer when we wake, and our "calling to mind" throughout the day, can help us remember what we are grateful for today.

There is Light in the midst of every darkness. New life, ever lasting life is ours.

Our journey to the font of renewal has helped us remember we have been placed with Jesus.

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