Messages of spring

All over the world and for millennia, there have been celebrations that either mark or coincide with the arrival of spring.

They range from the ancient pagan rites of spring to the Persian Nowruz, an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal and rebirth of nature.

In Pakistan, boys celebrate Basanth, the first day of spring in the Muslim calendar, with kite-flying contests, and Hindus have the spring festival of Holi. The Effutu community in Ghana each spring hunts deer and makes an offer to the god Panche.

Spring brings Passover for Jews, an eight-day commemoration of the Israelites' emancipation from slavery in Egypt, as well as the Christian Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his persecution and crucifixion.

We asked four spiritual leaders in Sonoma County to share their thoughts and messages during this time of reflection, celebration and renewal.

There is something about the message of Easter that seems to resonate across all denominations, says the Rev. Edward Viljoen of The Center for Spiritual Living. The inter-faith Santa Rosa congregation has roots in the "New Thought" movement of the 19th century and the ideas of Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

"I think it has something to do with this being a time of renewal and the hope of things to come. And it all comes after a long period of introspection," said Viljoen, "which was so beautifully characterized in the story of Jesus of Nazareth."

For Christians, Easter is the most holy of days. But the story of death, entombment and resurrection can be embraced for its powerful metaphors, he said, whatever one's faith.

One is the idea of conquering death. Depending on the individual, he said, it could represent the hope of conquering "smaller deaths" like the loss of a relationship, vision or hope.

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