A Message for Easter

April 2022

We are approaching Easter and would like to mark this significant festival with two evenings of discussion and reflection on some of the many Easter themed lectures given by Rudolf Steiner.

These evenings are proposed during the 40 days of Easter: Thursday 21 April and Thursday 5 May 2022 from 18h00 to 19h00 in the Library at the Steiner Centre.

In keeping with preparing for Easter and for the proposed study evenings we are sharing an extract from one of Steiner’s lectures on the topic of Easter (often published as Easter in a Time of Catastrophe) and a sonnet by Edmund Spenser (in modern spelling form):

by Edmund Spenser

Most glorious Lord of Life! that on this day
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowed hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest die,
Being with Thy dear blood clean washed from sin,
May live forever in felicity!

And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thy for the same again;
And for Thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain!

So let love, dear Love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

Easter in a Time of Catastrophe

Extract from a lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Dornach on 2 April 1920.

Steiner here pinpoints the impossibility of celebrating Easter today without, at the same time, wresting ourselves free from a materialistic outlook which is completely at odds with its essence and significance.

Again and again we must ask what a festival such as Easter means for most of humanity. The thinking of very large numbers of people who gather together to celebrate Easter runs along old lines. They use the old words and go on uttering them more or less automatically. They make the same renunciations in the same formulae to which they have long been accustomed. But do we have any right today to utter such renunciations when we observe all around us a distinct unwillingness to take part in the great changes that are so necessary in our time? Are we justified in using the words of Paul, ‘Not I, but Christ in me’, when we show so little inclination to examine what it is that has brought such unhappiness to humanity in the modern age? Should it not be an essential part of the Easter festival that we set out to gain a clear idea of what has befallen humanity, and a clear idea of the fact that only spiritual or supersensible knowledge can lead us out of catastrophe? If the Easter festival, whose whole significance depends on supersensible knowledge – for sense-based knowledge can never explain the resurrection of Christ Jesus – is to be taken seriously, it must surely be essential to consider how the human faculty of knowledge can once again be imbued with a supersensible character. Should it not dawn on us that all the deception and illusion that pervades modern culture is due to the fact that we no longer take our own sacred festivals seriously?

We keep Easter, the festival of resurrection, but in our materialistic outlook we have long ceased to care whether or not we have any real understanding of the resurrection… it is a jest to keep the festival of resurrection and at the same time put our whole faith in modern science, which obviously can never endorse such a resurrection. Materialism and the celebration of Easter are two things that simply cannot exist side by side …

The only possible way for modern people to have a right feeling for Easter is when they direct their thoughts to the catastrophe in which the world today is plunged. I do not just mean the catastrophe of the recent years of war, but the universal catastrophe in which human beings have lost all idea of the connection between earthly things and what lies beyond the earth. The time has come when we must realize with full and clear consciousness that supersensible knowledge needs to arise from the grave of our materialistic outlook. For together with supersensible knowledge will arise knowledge of Christ Jesus. In fact the only fitting symbol for the Easter festival is that the entire soul destiny of humanity has been crucified on the cross of materialism. But humanity itself must do something before there can arise from the grave of human materialism all that can come from spiritual insight.

Striving for supersensible knowledge is itself an Easter deed, is something which gives us the right to keep Easter once more. Look up to the full moon and feel how it is connected with the human being, and how the reflection of the sun is connected with the moon; then ponder the need today to go in search of a true self-knowledge that allows us to reflect supersensible realities. If we know ourselves to be a reflection of the supersensible, if we grasp how it forms and constitutes us, then we will also find our way back to it. Fundamentally it is arrogance and pride that come to expression in materialistic views of the world … we do not want to be a reflection of the divine and spiritual, but merely to be the highest of the animals …

Above all we should remember that although we still have the tradition of an Easter festival celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, yet we have no right to celebrate this if we cling to modern materialistic culture. How can we acquire this right again? We must take the thought of Christ Jesus lying in the grave; of Christ Jesus who at Easter vanquishes the stone that has been rolled over his grave-we must take this thought and unite it with what our soul should feel about purely external, mechanistic science, that it is like a tombstone rolled upon us whose pressure we must exert ourselves to overcome. Then our confession of faith, instead of being merely, ‘Not I, but the fully developed animal in me,’ will be, rather, ‘Not I, but Christ in me.

Reminder: Easter Discussion Evenings, from 18h00 to 19h00 in the Steiner Centre, on:
• Thursday 21 April
• Thursday 5 May
Please RSVP if you will be attending.

Our best wishes for a most joyous Easter,
The Johannesburg Committee