Jesus and the magic rabbit

2011-04-29 15:12

I overheard a little boy getting very deep about the meaning of Easter with his mates last week.

In a serious tone, the boy ­explained that “a long time ago, bad people killed Jesus because he had a magic rabbit that laid chocolate eggs and they didn’t like that”.

Now that’s deep – even for a casual chat in the chocolate aisle of my favourite grocery store.

Excuse me for not correcting him, but I thought it was quite original. In fact, I admire his brand of creative licence. ­After all, how many adults have ­explained the weird connection between rabbits, eggs and Christ’s crucifixion?

In visual culture, I think the earliest image to mix a rabbit with the Christian narrative was a 16th-century painting called The Madonna of the Rabbit.

It’s an artwork by a Renaissance painter called Tiziano Vecellio, otherwise ­popularly known as Titian. The work hangs at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Depicted in the work are the virgin and child with Saint Catherine, and a shepherd tending his flock in the ­background. The Virgin Mary sits in the centre of the painting, wearing a red dress and blue cloak.

She is stroking a white rabbit as she looks at her son, ­Jesus, who is being held up to her by Saint Catherine.

The rabbit here is apparently drawn from early pagan iconography. It ­symbolises fertility and the mystery of ­incarnation. Eggs, too, belong to this stock of pagan symbols.

But back at the grocery store, the boys next to the chocolate stand need not be bothered with all this history.

Why should they? Like everyone else, they should be allowed to indulge in their own version of the Easter story. There are, after all, about 38 000 different Christian denominations in the world, ­according to Wikipedia.

This means there are just as many interpretations of the bible.

But hold your horses. I’m not saying religion or spirituality is inconsequential. In fact, far from it. I’m merely wary of the puritan attitude of many Bible thumpers.

It generally breeds conflict and less time for chocolate, let alone ­colourful eggs and other treats.

You see, what I worked out for myself was that spirituality was not about ­rational thinking. In one rare dashiki ­dialogue, a Sufi devotee once told me that spirituality was more like a system of emotions.

To get the benefits, one need not ask: What do you think?

­Rather, the question to ask is: What do you feel? And that’s where it’s at.

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