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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

A Nigerian Easter in the Midwest

Woman in Gele, Iro, and Buba

From the front door she calls, “He has risen!” Her children respond, “He has risen indeed. Let’s eat!”

I dodged church Easter Sunday this year. My mother Gbeme, however, worshipped at the Baptist church she’s been attending twice weekly for the past 20 years.

Raised Catholic in Nigeria, my mother’s Easter begins the seasonal swap from heavy wools to floral prints and pastels. She wears a beautifully vibrant gele — an intricately fashioned tie around the head worn by Yoruba women — and iro and buba — the matching outfit traditionally worn by Yoruba women — to church. She exchanges compliments with the other congregants about their upbeat clothes and steady health. For two hours the pews fill, the choir sings, and for the larger Easter crowd, the young new pastor delivers an especially rousing sermon. Soon thereafter, church dismisses. Time to eat.

For many Americans, Easter is synonymous with the egg. But in my bicultural household, Map of Yoruba and Igbo Peoplecreamy frejon is the signature Easter week delicacy. The bean soup is made of smoothly blended brown beans called ewa ibeji and steeped coconut, then sweetened with cane sugar to taste.

In the mid-1980s, my mother left metropolitan Lagos to attend college in rural Wisconsin — and made necessary modifications to the original frejon recipe. Back then international foods weren’t as integrated. In lieu of traditional Nigerian dishes, my mother observed her first few Easters amid sweet friends, sweet rolls, egg salad, and hearty Midwestern casseroles. After she graduated, she moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota, reuniting her with city dwelling, a dense Nigerian immigrant community, specialty grocers, and Easter frejon.

Read more of Caroline Joseph’s essay on Yoruban Catholic tradition.

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #11: “The Great Doxology”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The eleventh and final song to round out our Easter Sunday soundtrack for this year’s Pascha won’t leave your head. It’s a chant by The Monastic Choir of the Valaam Monastery called "The Great Doxology." To those Orthodox Christians, Happy Pascha!

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #10: “Seven Magnificat Antiphons/O Weishit”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Number ten in our Orthodox Easter Sunday soundtrack is "Seven Magnificat Antiphons/O Weishit" — composed by Arvo Pärt. This track comes to you from the On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter" with Vigen Guroian. It’s exquisite.

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #9: “The Healing Bird”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The ninth song in our Orthodox Easter Sunday soundtrack comes from the Hover Chamber Choir of Armenia, "The Healing Bird." This track comes to you from the On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter" with Vigen Guroian. Happy Pascha!

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #8: “Hayrapetakan Maghan

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Continuing our string of sacred choral music songs of Armenia, a prayer to the patriarch titled “Hayrapetakan Maghan.” This track comes to you from the On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter" with Vigen Guroian. Happy Pascha!

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #7: “Our Es Myer Im

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The seventh song in our Orthodox Easter Sunday soundtrack, a chant of crucifixion, is part of the sacred choral music tradition of Armenia: “Our Es Myer Im" meaning "Where are you, my mother." This track comes to you from the On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter" with Vigen Guroian. Happy Pascha!

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #6: “Batz Mez Ter

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The sixth song for tonight’s Orthodox Easter Sunday soundtrack is part of the sacred choral music of Armenia: “Batz Mez Ter" meaning "open for us." This track comes to you from the On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter" with Vigen Guroian. It’s exquisite.

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #5: “Otche Nash (Our Father)”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Number five in our Orthodox Easter Sunday soundtrack is Otche Nash (Our Father)” by  the Russian composer of liturgical music Nikolai Kedrov, Sr.

This track comes to you from the On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter" with Vigen Guroian. It’s exquisite.

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #4: “Spiegel Im Spiegel”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The fourth track in our Orthodox Easter Sunday soundtrack is "Spiegel Im Spiegel" — a piece by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt in 1978 that was originally written for a single piano and violin.

This track comes to you from the On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter" with Vigen Guroian. It’s exquisite.

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #3: Rachmaninov’s “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: Bless the Lord, O My Soul”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and an Orthodox Easter" has been on the repeat loop for most of this week. It’s exquisite, so I’m releasing each track over the next several hours (two are already up!) here on Tumblr. Reblog if you like, and share with your readers/listeners today.

Here’s the third song in our Easter Sunday soundtrack, Rachmaninov’s “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op. 31: Bless the Lord, O My Soul” by The Choir of the Moscow Church.

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #2: “Chashakum (Eucharist)”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The second song in our Orthodox Easter Sunday soundtrack comes to you from Komitas Keshishian: "Chashakum (Eucharist)". This track comes to you from the On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter" with Vigen Guroian. It’s exquisite.

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Easter Sunday Soundtrack #1: “Alleluia, Behold the Bridegroom”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The On Being playlist for "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and an Orthodox Easter" has been on the repeat loop for most of this week. It’s exquisite, so I’m releasing some of my favorites this evening on this day of Pascha. Reblog if you like, and share with your readers/listeners today.

For the first song in our Orthodox Easter Sunday soundtrack, "Alleluia, Behold the Bridegroom" by the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir.

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I found in the woods in Maryland a wildflower, the bloodroot flower. It blooms very early in the spring, around the time of Lent and Easter, depending on when Easter falls. The reason why it’s called the bloodroot is because the root itself, if you press it, you break it, you’ll get a red dye that can be used as a dye. But the bloom itself only lasts a day. But it comes out of the sepulcher of the earth. And what it leaves is these heart-shaped leaves. And that is a microcosm of resurrection for me.

I have a wild imagination. You know, I mean, I’ve described the stakes in my vegetable garden in the wintertime as crosses on which bodies are draped, you know. I don’t mean that in a gory sense. The geese in the sky remind me of the crosses that pilgrims have carved into ancient Christian sites. I think there are signs of the cross all over creation. How do you account for that? Well, clearly, we’ve forgotten, we’ve forgotten paradise, we forget God. And that’s why I think we have scripture to remind us.

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Bloodroot PrintVigen Guroian, from his interview with Krista Tippett in On Being's "Restoring the Senses: Gardening and an Orthodox Easter"

Guorian is Professor of Religious Studies in Orthodox Christianity at the University of Virginia and author of The Fragrance of God and Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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At the Heart of Easter Sunday Is a Woman

by Norman Allen, guest contributor

© Matthew Septimus 2011

I’ve always loved Easter. As a child, I divided the chapters of my Bible storybook to extend across Holy Week, reading each event on the day that it occurred. I recognize that the gospels are not a history lesson, but a bridge to truths otherwise beyond our comprehension.

I’ve also learned that the Easter story doesn’t revolve around crucifixion, an empty tomb, or even the glory of a resurrected spirit. It revolves around Mary Magdalene.

The Gospel of John tells of Mary going to the tomb in the darkness of early morning. Already we’re given the powerful image of a woman walking alone through dark streets and among hillside graves. Finding the tomb empty, she hurries to tell Peter and John, and returns with them so they can verify her story. As they rush off to report the news, she hangs back, to mourn.

In her grief, Mary sees Jesus standing before her, but mistakes him for a gardener. He even speaks to her: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Still she can’t allow herself the truth.

It’s not until He says her name that she cries out in recognition. In that world-shifting moment, she doesn’t call him “Savior” or “Christ” or even “Jesus.” She calls him “Rabboni.” In a telling parenthetical, the gospel’s author reminds us that the word means “teacher.”

These few lines from the Gospel of John hold great meaning for us. It’s a woman who rises early and walks through darkness to visit the tomb. It’s a woman who stays to mourn, unafraid of her grief. And it’s this particular woman, shunned by society, who is first called by the risen Jesus.

The denominations that still deny women their place at the altar, might take another look at John 20.

But the story holds an even deeper significance, for Mary represents all of us. We are slow to see, slow to consider the truths that challenge the comfortable limits of our understanding. And perhaps we all need to hear our name spoken — to be called — before we can recognize the opportunity that stands before us.

Most important, at the heart of this story lies the relationship between a student and her teacher, a man who challenges and annoys and demands the impossible. Easter isn’t about the resurrection of Jesus. It’s about the enormous achievement of his star pupil, who has the courage to open her eyes to new possibility.


Norman AllenNorman Allen is a playwright living in Washington, DC. His plays include In The Garden (Charles MacArthur Award), Nijinsky’s Last Dance (Helen Hayes Award), and The House Halfway, to be produced at this summer’s Source Theatre Festival in Washington, DC.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the On Being Blog. Submit your entry through ourFirst Person Outreach page.

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