Darkness Before Dawn

This weekend saw the rare confluence of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan, a time of high holy days for the world’s great religious traditions. Although our observance of the Catholic Triduum is nothing like it was when we were in active ministry, we nonetheless immersed ourselves in some favorite shows to get us in the proper mindset. We actually began on Thursday night, with the sensational performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” filmed during the live arena tour in 2012. This electrifying, emotional, and powerful presentation is, for us, the definitive version of the rock musical — for our time, or any time.

We arrived at camp early Friday afternoon following a relaxed morning of preparation. After setting up and grabbing a quick lunch, we enjoyed a late afternoon nap before cocktails and a superb Date Night dinner. Cliff marinated the tenderloins in Omaha Steaks Seasoning, which rendered them not only exceptionally tender and juicy but also richly flavorful. A real delight!

Saturday morning and afternoon found us engaged in our typical pursuits: watching “CBS Saturday Morning,” reading The New York Times, enjoying Bloody Mary’s, brunching, napping. Our modest campfire reminded us of the massive Easter fires we once blessed when celebrating the power of light over darkness. Then, in keeping with our Christian custom, we enjoyed a feast of grilled lamb.

Lamb is the oldest meat dish associated with Easter, primarily because Jesus was considered the sacrificial lamb of God, and Christians recalled his sacrifice by consuming lamb. But the custom actually dates to the first Passover, thanks to the Exodus story of the Jews in Ancient Egypt smearing lamb’s blood on their doorposts to avoid a plague. Also contributing to its popularity at springtime religious feasts was its availability as a meat source immediately after winter months — no slaughtering of livestock required.

Afterwards, we settled into a viewing of “The Ten Commandments,” the 1956 epic drama produced, directed, and narrated by Cecil B. DeMille. Starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, John Derek, and Yvonne De Carlo, and filmed on location with one of the biggest sets ever constructed for a motion picture, it tells the story of Moses, once favored in the Pharaoh’s household, who turned his back on a privileged life to lead his people to freedom. In commemoration of the film’s 50th anniversary, a remastered, extended version was released, which included a rare on-screen introduction by DeMille himself. Viewing the film in its entirety (nearly four hours!) gave us a new appreciation for DeMille’s craftsmanship.

DeMille’s last (and, arguably, greatest) film, it shattered box office records and earned more than $2 billion (in today’s dollars) worldwide. But its success came at great personal cost: Because DeMille insisted on filming the story at Luxor in Egypt and on the slopes of Mount Sinai, the strain of directing 8,000 extras in the desert contributed to his having a severe heart attack. Although seriously ill, he feared a publicity nightmare, so he completed location filming before returning to Los Angeles to recuperate and shoot interior scenes. He died of heart failure just a few years later.

As we reflected on the confluence of these high holy days, we were mindful of situations throughout the world where human dignity is under siege by wars, poverty, enslavement, and apathy. Bigotry, fear, ignorance, and indifference continue to hold us captive. Everywhere, people are abused and abandoned. But the great religious traditions call us to account for every action that marginalizes or diminishes the least of us. The message of every major religion is clear: No one is unimportant to God. No one is disposable.

In terms of the weather, Easter Sunday was overcast, but mild — ideal for relaxing, reflecting, and replenishing. It’s essential that we take advantage of every single minute, every single weekend, so we can refill our emotional and intellectual fuel tanks for the week ahead. And so we can continue living the Airstream dream, one weekend at a time.