In a few days we will be celebrating Easter. Happy Easter to all of you. Christ has risen! Truly he has risen!
As I reflect back over past Easters my heart is stirred and my mind recalls quite a few images and impressions that left indelible marks upon my heart. I grew up going to a Greek Orthodox Church and Easter was the biggest celebration in the church. For my family growing up, we practiced Lent. As kids I remember wondering why we couldn’t eat this or that and yet we followed the rules.
I remember one weekend during the season of Lent we were driving to my grandparents’ house and we stopped at a little café. It was breakfast time and my mom ordered and we had dry toast and orange juice because we gave up meat and dairy products. I don’t even know why we gave up those things but to this day I appreciate the times we did without. Giving something up stirs your heart to be grateful for all you have. I also remember one Easter when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade our priest during the service carried out the cross and was weeping (which in the Orthodox Church is similar to a passion play). It was so sincere and so heartfelt that it made me realize the cost of Jesus’ sacrifice. After a long evening, which carried into the new day, (yes I mean we were in church til 1:00 a.m.) we had a huge celebration in honor of the resurrection of Christ. As kids we were so excited about all the food. It was a wonderful time of community and a time of thankfulness. Thank you Lord for your great love for each of us!
When we traveled to Israel/Palestine last summer I was so impacted at the Garden of Gethsemane. Today, it is a small fenced off area for tourists to see. However, there are olive trees that are quite large with a wide gnarled trunk which you could imagine were there at the time of Christ. Our guide said something that I had never heard before and it traveled deep into my heart…
He said that Gethsemane means olive press. With this new thought I had a greater sense of the agony Christ endured in the Garden. Imagine olives poured into a vat, pit and all, and a huge millstone going around and crushing everything into a fine pulp. It helped me understand why Jesus cried out and caused him to sweat blood. (Luke 22:44) With this deeper understanding I feel like I have a greater appreciation for the love and sacrifice of Jesus.
Last summer when we were there as a family, I had our friend, Joe, who was traveling with us, film a working olive press, and the tour guide gave a brief description of the meaning. I pray you are impacted and that you would know how MUCH God loves you.
Again I say, Christ has risen! Truly he has risen!