Vision: Dancing in the Moonlight by Howard Hanger

April 30, 2018 |

The old girl’s been up there sashaying around us as long as we know.  Call her “Mother Earth’s Daughter,” call her “Luna.”  Call her full, crescent, half, quarter, new, waxing, waning or gibbous.  Call her what you will, she’s a hit on earth.  Not only does she pull the oceans back and forth, but she inspires artists, stimulates poets, encourages storytellers, stirs imaginations and causes lovers to wiggle and waggle all over each other in her glow.

She is the basis for many calendars: Chinese, Celtic, Islamic, Hindu, Japanese and (in part) Hebrew.  She is the guide for many gardeners.  Moon gardeners will tell you that it’s best to plant above-ground crops at the new moon or during the waxing phases and root crops during the full and waning phases.  You can even get your directional bearings (sort of) from the moon.  If you see a crescent moon high in the sky and you are in the northern hemisphere, you can draw an imaginary line between the two horns of the crescent, follow that line to the ground and you will be facing approximately south.  Approximately.

But, are you aware that that love- and passion- inspiring orb is responsible for when we celebrate Passover and Easter?  It all started with Passover.  Jesus was a Jew, remember.  So many Christians tend to forget that he was born a Jew, lived as a Jew and died a Jew.  Jesus never converted.

Jews traditionally have their Passover celebrations starting on the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox.  And according to the Jesus stories in the Christian scriptures, Jesus was crucified during the Passover.

So, in 325 CE, a bunch of Christian Poobahs got together in a powwow called “The Council of Nicaea” and decided that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  If the full moon happens on a Sunday, Easter gets bumped to the next week to keep both Passover and Easter from happening on the same day.  Think about it.  What with all the Passover eggs, Easter eggs and everybody planning dinners, it would be chaos in the grocery stores.

But, what a sweetly pungent thought it is that Easter and Passover are linked by the springtime moon.  Easter and Passover are, therefore linked to the tides and the poets, to the gardeners and the artists.  Easter and Passover are linked to the lovers sipping red wine and snuggling in blankets.  Linked to the children staring at the moon from their bedroom window and lost in wonder.

These two seemingly divergent Holy Days are brought together by the awakening of life in the light of the moon.  But, in truth, the two celebrations are strikingly and profoundly similar: Both are about suffering; both are about deliverance.  Both celebrate freedom – freedom from slavery, freedom from death.  Both involve meals with family and friends.  Both use the egg as a reminder that life goes on and The Holy One is with us each step of the way.

And it’s the moon – the springtime moon – that brings these two ancient celebrations together.  It’s in the light of that mover of tides, that inspiration for poets and lovers, that constant companion of Mother Earth who is wise enough to offer light part of the time and disappear other times so we can see the stars.  It’s the moon which brings us together.  It’s in that soft and gentle moonlight light that Jews and Christians dance together.  Shall we dance?