A rabbit or its cousin, the hare, has been associated with spring since the times of the ancient Egyptians. A Germanic spring goddess had a hare as her messenger.
It has, of course, been associated with Easter and Christ’s Resurrection. The hare is a noble animal. Some of its characteristics are like Jesus:
- It is gentle and does not harm others
- With its big ears, it is a good listener, as Jesus always listens to those in need.
- In pagan times, as the rabbit was associated with spring time, it was sometimes called the “Master Lamp.” This also reflects Jesus, the Light of the World.
- Despite its gentle ways, it has many enemies.
- Most significantly, the hare is known to sacrifice itself for another hare. It may “step in” when another hare is being chased by a predator and has become exhausted. There is, of course, the risk that the hare will be “laying down his life for a friend.”
This story is based on attributes of this gallant animal and the story of Easter.
THE EASTER HARE, A Parallel
In a grassy field, on the edge of a wood, a wild hare stood up, listening, watching.
He knew much of the world. He knew that there was anger, for he often heard the blue jays’ raucous cries.
He watched selfishness, as two squirrels fought over a cob of corn.
He knew that on moonless nights, some animals stole from others, though he would not mention names.
And worst of all, he knew, with pain in his heart, that some animals hurt or even killed others.
But our friend was not unhappy. He also knew the joy of a spring morning, when the songbirds, newly returned, began their music as the sun was streaking the horizon.
The hare knew the enchantment of seeing the world’s babies, scampering, swooping, wiggling, paddling—however they learned to move.
The hare knew the pleasure of the first bite of a crisp, juicy dandelion leaf.
And he knew the quiet thrill of watching a full moon rising gracefully over his grassy meadow and over the treetops of the wood.
And with his listening heart, he knew the blessings of the Creator, who made all things. And the hare was grateful and filled with joy!
Many animals of the meadow and wood liked Hare. He was gentle. He never hurt anyone. He was bold at times, stepping up to defend one animal wronged by another.
But there is a funny thing about the world: sometimes there are those who do not like the goodness of others. Somehow, hate has touched their hearts. Greed and selfishness have frosted their thinking.
So now, our hare, standing there so upright, feeling the breeze kissing his long ears, was also listening, for he knew he had enemies.
Then in the distance, he heard the sounds of a chase. He felt the vibrations of the pounding footfalls through his own large feet. He saw tall grass parting. His heart quickened as he heard a bark and then saw a rabbit, a cousin, running for her life.
She was very frightened, and Hare could see she was exhausted. She turned, hoping to confuse the pursuing dog, but the dog deftly turned too. The rabbit could not go on much longer.
The hare knew what to do: he must jump into the chase. He must take her place so she could hide and rest.
He knew the risk. The dog could catch him instead. But if he did not risk this, the rabbit would surely die.
Quick as a wink, he leaped into the path of the oncoming dog. He was able to see the grateful rabbit run for cover before he bounded off in the opposite direction.
He was fresh, but the dog, so close already, had the advantage. It did not take long for the dog to do great damage.
The hare lay bleeding on the rough earth of his beloved meadow. His heart was pounding, but it was slowing and he closed his eyes.
One time, he had heard someone say, “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend.”
But then he knew nothing more as the night came on.
He lay there for three days, not moving.
The rabbit he had saved found him and wept. Other friends sat near him, crying.
On the third day, he lay alone. For the first time he stirred, for he felt a touch, a touch so light and so healing it had to have been that of an angel.
The hare sat up. He sniffed the air—ah! The sweet smells of springtime! His ears quivered at the morning sounds of the meadow and wood.
He was alive! He was ALIVE! He gave one high, joyful leap before bounding off to find his friends.