As much as I love chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chickens covered in sugar (whipped sugar rolled in sugar? Only in America.), and Cadbury Creme Eggs (Oh, how I love Cadbury Creme Eggs!), there is one Easter tradition I've had since I became an adult that I cherish more than any other: Watching "Jesus of Nazareth" on The History Channel.
An incredible piece of filmmaking, Franco Zefferelli's magnum opus is 6 hours of ecumenical good times. Well, except for the end. That's a bit of a downer.
Now, do not let this persuade you into thinking that I am a religious man. For nothing could be further from the truth. The last time I was in church, I was carrying my Grandmother's casket down the aisle, and sitting through an (interminable) hour long Mass. On a Tuesday!!
I was "raised" Catholic, but was never confirmed, never went to one CCD class. In fact, there is a story my Grampa would tell about how, upon my baptism, when the water was flecked onto my forehead, it sizzled with all the vigor of a hot frying pan being doused with a dollop of butter. SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!
What I'm saying is, as far as designation goes, I would be classfied as... an Atheist. Now, I won't go into that here, because I have far too much respect for those that do believe in Christian theology to debase their religion on this day of all days. It must be a great relief to have such a strong belief in something that you have no logical reason to believe. I wish I could have that. But circumstances in my life have all lead me to my current state of non-belief (not disbelief, as many would have you think about Atheists).
But I've strayed off topic a little.
So, I make my usual cup of tea this morning (I abhor coffee), a nice buttery croissant from the bakery downtown, and my Sunday paper. I turn on my TV, and put it on The History Channel. Only, much to my chagrin, Jesus of Nazareth is not on. What the... But it's EASTER! Look, I dealt with it not being on last Christmas. I wasn't happy, but I dealt. I rather thought it an anomaly that would surely be righted before the HOLIEST OF ALL HOLY DAYS IN ALL OF CHRISTENDOM!
But no! Apparently, going "Beyond the Da Vinci Code" is more important than telling the GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD! Pardon my shouting, but I'm a little perturbed.
Why, you may ask, is an Atheist so distraught over the inability to watch a religious movie on a religious holiday? Good question. Very observant. Gold star for you. Well, the answer is: Tradition (He said somewhat ironically. Fiddler on the Roof? Anyone?). It's just what I do on Easter. It's sort of my thing. My nieces come over and I implore them to watch with me. They never do for more than 20 minutes, but that's still fine. I make them be quiet and appreciate Robert Powell's (literally) unblinking performance as the carpenter from Nazareth who shepherded the birth of a new religion. A religion based on kindness and faith. Love and duty. On forgiveness and, yes, tradition. It's an ideology seemingly long forgotten by many of today's Christians.
I do not believe in the Resurrection of Christ, or in the Divinity of Jesus. I do not beleive that he was the Son of God or of Man. But if you read the Bible, as I have and I encourage all who are of the same mindset as me to do, what is espoused as the duties of a good Christian are not really off the mark to what makes a good person in general. Frankly, if you follow the wisdom of Jesus, you will see that what he asks of mankind is what we should be asking of ourselves and of others.
Treat others with kindness. Love your neighbor. Treat the poor with respect and not disdain. Never persecute anyone for their beliefs. These are the tenets that we as a people should follow. Whether we believe the rest of The Word is up to each of us individually, and what we deem to be right deep within our souls. What Jesus tought are the fundamentals of how to live a good life, regardless of religious affiliation, or non-affiliation as the case may be.
So, to not see this beautiful film on the day that would seemingly call for it the most is downright tragic. And honestly, it makes me sad. The story is what touches me the most, and I am always up for a little soul inspiring.
And yes, I could buy the DVD, and then I could watch the movie whenever I wanted. But then it wouldn't be the same. It wouldn't be the ritual that I have come to enjoy.
And in the end, isn't that what Easter is all about: Tradition?