Professor Sarah Degner Riveros of Valparaiso University sits in the Chapel of the Resurrection with Samuel Riveros, age 20 months. Sarah, on the Eucharist: "Communion is a mystery. How plain bread and ordinary wine can be the Body and Blood of my Lord is something that I do not understand. But I do believe." | Michael Gard~For Sun-Times Media
What’s Easter without sweets?
If you’ve been craving that chocolate Easter bunny since Lent began, here’s timely news: Chocolate can be good for your health, so indulge yourself today with a few sinful bites.
New research from a study in the journal Neurology shows that eating a chocolate bar has a direct effect on the brain and it may even cut the risk of stroke. Apparently, chocolate has an effect on carbon dioxide levels which, in turn, improves blood flow in the brain.
If you recall, previous studies always confirmed that eating dark chocolate was good for you. But now there is the possibility that any chocolate can have health benefits. Amen to that, huh?
On a similar note, more than 1 billion Peeps have been produced this Easter season, a record for its candy maker, Just Born Inc.
The chick-shaped marshmallow treat is more popular than ever, six decades after first being hatched.
Updated: May 1, 2013 3:28PM
What is Easter anyway?
Is it the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the high holy day of the Christian faith? Is it about hunting for colored eggs, worshipping the pagan goddess Eostre, and a seasonal festival of sex, fertility and rebirth?
Is it about chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and lamb-shaped butter? Or possibly reflecting back on a week of torture, crucifixion and sacrifice?
Somehow, we’ve managed to toss together all these cultural, biblical and spiritual beliefs into a decorative basket and call it a holiday. Is it confusing? You bet. But, just like an insightful parable, its multiple meanings are in the mind of the beholder.
“Much symbolism, especially religious symbolism, is multifaceted and often ambiguous,” explained Pastor James Wetzstein of Valparaiso University.
We collect and clutch onto those aspects which are most meaningful to each of us, or which are most expressed in the culture that formed them, he noted. Such as taking Communion, when a believer remembers and offers thanks for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
“Communion is a mystery,” said Sarah Degner Riveros of Valparaiso. “How plain bread and ordinary wine can be the body and blood of my Lord is something I do not understand. But I do believe.”
The 35-year-old pastor’s daughter took her first Communion at age 12, and she’s been receiving the “Lord’s Supper” every week or two since then.
“My dad explained that Communion is a way we are connected to those who have gone before us in the faith,” she told me. “And we gather, we join with the saints, the people of God, throughout history and around the globe.
“Communing with Christ is a passion for me. For me, just as food is a connection to life, Communion is a meal of spiritual nourishment. It is a way that God is part of me and a way God strengthens my faith and draws me closer to the beloved people with whom I am gathered week by week.”
During Holy Week, the Jewish community also began its celebration of Passover, commemorating the liberation of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage.
The Rev. John Albers and his wife, Debra, of Faith Memorial Lutheran Church in Valparaiso, always celebrate with a Passover dinner for people of all faiths.
“It is a good way for us to remember the institution of Holy Communion when we get to Maunday Thursday,” Debra told me while preparing the dinner on Tuesday.
For 17-year-old Steven Norman, taking Communion means many things but most importantly to reflect on his relationship with God. And a reminder to have more faith.
Norman, who will be attending Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., next school year, echoed the beliefs of millions by noting, “Taking Communion will remind me of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope he has given me with the cross.”
Today of all days, I’ve learned, is not a day of logic, science, or rational explanations. It’s a day of hope. A day of belief. A day of unexplainable resurrections in many forms, especially with the new arrival of Pope Francis, former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.
However, to others who use this day for secular reflection, the meaning of life is, simply, the inevitability of death. It is the darkness of dying that puts the light of living into a clearer perspective for believers and nonbelievers alike.
Let’s be spiritually honest with one another:
Everyone is an atheist about the gods they don’t believe in. Or the pagan rituals they don’t understand.
“For me, the fertility symbolism of eggs and spring is a natural expression and anticipation of the reality of the resurrection of the body,” Pastor Wetzstein said. “They are signs that in a world where death often seems to hold sway, life and hope actually have the last word.”