“The word, ‘Paschal’ comes from the Greek term, pascha, which in turn is derived from the Hebrew, pesach. Pesach refers to the annual commemoration of Israel’s first Passover in Egypt.” (from The New Dictionary of Theology, edited by Joseph A. Komonchak, Mary Collins, and Dermot A. Lane, © 1990 by Liturgical Press, p. 745).
Chapter 12 of the Book of Exodus describes the Passover, the moment when Hebrew households marked their door lintels with the blood of the sacrificed lamb; with this mark, the angel of death would “pass over” the household and spare the life of the first-born son. In other parts of Sacred Scripture, the notion of being “marked,” usually as a sign of being chosen or singled out, has key significance.
All of us experience little or sometimes big Passovers within our lives, moments in which something dies so that something new may be born. We change jobs or careers; we relocate to be closer to family and friends; some relationships fade in the background while new ones appear on the horizon of our lives.
I experienced my own “passover” when I was referred to a Cardiologist in early December. I sat stunned as he gently told me that I would need major surgery to address a serious health issue. I remember climbing behind the wheel of my car and beginning to cry. Fear and uncertainty enveloped me, and being Irish, I contemplated all of the worst-case scenarios.
As the time for my surgery neared, I prayed for the grace of surrender. I needed to surrender myself into the hands of my surgeon and my caregivers, but ultimately, I needed to surrender myself into God’s healing hands. I remembered a quote from Rebirth by Kamal Ravakan,
“Faith and fear, the one you choose to dance with, determines your life.” I wanted faith as my dance partner, not fear. I remember being brought to my room in the ICU, and I heard Fr. Steve ask Dr. Mudy, “How did he do?” “He did very well,” Dr. Mudy said. With that, I slipped away into a very comforting and restful sleep.
My recovery was nothing short of amazing. I had little pain except for the usual discomfort of having tubes coming out of your chest and staples running down your sternum. The nurses and aides were impressed by my stamina as we would take our walks around the corridors. I was discharged not to a Rehab Center but to my brother’s home, where I spent nearly a month.
Before my discharge, I was finally allowed to take a shower, and when I saw myself in the mirror, I was taken aback by the eight-inch scar running down my sternum. I was marked, not with blood, not with a seal, but with the reminder that I had come through one of the marvels of our contemporary world. While I was shocked at how I looked, I also felt a deep sense of appreciation for the numerous people whose prayers and love carried me through this Passover moment.
While this scar seems to be taking its sweet time healing, I gaze on it in a bit of awe and a large measure of gratitude. Faith, my dance partner, never let me down.