April 7, 2012
Easter marks the end of Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter or Resurrection Day also called Easter or Resurrection Sunday the day which festival is celebrated.
Easter, an annual Christian festival in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, as calculated according to tables based in Western churches on the Gregorian calendar and in Orthodox churches on the Julian calendar. the Easter season; the week following Easter. Easter Sunday is the day of rejoicing that follows the sorrow of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. For most Christians, Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead. It bears witness to God's enduring promise of eternal life. As the climax of Holy Week, Easter is a time of hope and assurance. It is humanity's turning point from destruction to glory and salvation.
The week before Easter, known as Holy Week, is very special in the Christian tradition. The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday and the last three days before Easter are Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday (sometimes referred to as Silent Saturday). Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday respectively commemorate Jesus' entry in Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are sometimes referred to as the Easter Triduum (Latin for "Three Days").
The name of the Easter festival is derived from the Latin Pascha. and hence the Latin form Pascha is derived from Hebrew Pesach meaning the festival of Passover. In Greek the word 'Aνάστασις (upstanding, up-rising, resurrection) is used also as an alternative. In most Slavic languages, the name for Easter either means "Great Day" or "Great Night”. In Spanish, Easter is Pascua, in Italian and Catalan Pasqua, in Portuguese Páscoa and in Romanian Paşti. In French, the name of Easter Pâques also derives from the Latin word. Additionally in Romanian, the only Romance language of an Eastern Church, the word Înviere means (resurrection).
Christian celebration of Easter is linked to the Jewish celebration of the Passover and Exodus from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament through the Last Supper and crucifixion that preceded the resurrection. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were observed by the ancient Israelites early in each New Year. (The Jewish people followed the Persian/Babylonian calendar and started each year with the Spring Equinox circa). "Equinox" means "equal night;" on that date of the year, the night and day are approximately equal. The name "Passover" was derived from the actions of the angel of death as described in the book of Exodus. The angel "passed over" the homes of the Jews which were marked with the blood obtained from a ritual animal sacrifice. The same angel exterminated the first born(s) of every family whose doorway was not so marked.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was originally a traditional Canaanite agricultural harvest which was adopted by the Israelites. It marked the start of the barley harvest; barley was the first crop to ripen. Because they occurred at about the same time each year, the two celebrations became merged into a two day observance. The Passover became associated with the exodus of the Jews from Egypt Conservative theologians generally believe that the original Passover was established up by God as described in Exodus 5, and that the annual Passover observances were created as "appointed feasts" established by God as described in Leviticus 23:5-14. Both were recorded by Moses.
According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning, as he prepared himself and his disciples for his death in the upper room during the Last Supper. He identified the loaf of bread and cup of wine as his body soon to be sacrificed and his blood soon to be shed. Paul states "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed"; this refers to the Passover requirement to have no yeast in the house and to the allegory of Jesus as the Paschal lamb.
The New Testament teaches that the resurrection of Jesus, which Easter celebrates, is a foundation of the Christian faith. The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God and is cited as proof that God will judge the world in righteousness. God has given Christians "a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". Christians, through faith in the working of God are spiritually resurrected with Jesus so that they may walk in a new way of life.
On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is typically the well-attended Sunday service of the year for Christian churches. Christians believe, according to Scripture, that Jesus came back to life, or was raised from the dead, three days after his death on the cross. The biblical account of Jesus' death on the cross, or crucifixion, his burial and his resurrection, or rising from the dead, can be found in the following passages of Scripture: Matthew 27:27-28:8; Mark 15:16-16:19; Luke 23:26-24:35; and John 19:16-20:30.
Most Christians believe that Jesus Christ was executed and buried just before the beginning of Passover on Friday evening. Because of the central importance of Easter to the Christian faith, the Catholic Church requires that all Catholics who have made their First Communion receive the Holy Eucharist sometime during the Easter season, which lasts through Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. (The Church also urges us to take part in the Sacrament of Confession before receiving this Easter communion.) This reception of the Eucharist is a visible sign of our faith and our participation in the Kingdom of God. Of course, we should receive Communion as frequently as possible; this "Easter Duty" is simply the minimum requirement set by the Church.
That is why people who are converting to Catholicism traditionally are baptized at the Easter Vigil service, which takes place on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), starting sometime after sunset. They have usually undergone a long process of study and preparation known as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Their baptism parallels Christ's own Death and Resurrection, as they die to sin and rise to new life in the Kingdom of God.
The purest meaning of Easter is the celebration of the resurrection or rising of Christ to heaven, Easter Sunday reminds all Christians of their heavenly calling and of the open door for relationship with God through Jesus, His Son. As part of the Easter season, the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion is commemorated on Good Friday, always the Friday just before Easter. Through his death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus paid the penalty for sin, thus purchasing for all who believe in him, eternal life in Christ Jesus. For Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving known as Lent. Through spiritual struggle and self-denial, we have prepared ourselves to die spiritually with Christ on Good Friday, the day of His Crucifixion, so that we can rise again with Him in new life on Easter. Easter Sunday is the day of rejoicing that follows the sorrow of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. For most Christians, Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead. It bears witness to God's enduring promise of eternal life. As the climax of Holy Week, Easter is a time of hope and assurance. It is humanity's turning point from destruction to glory and salvation.
Easter is a day of celebration because it represents the fulfillment of our faith as Christians. St. Paul wrote that, unless Christ rose from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:17). Through his death, Christ saved mankind from bondage to sin, and He destroyed the hold that death has on all of us; but it is His Resurrection that gives us the promise of new life, both in this world and the next. That new life began on Easter Sunday. In the Our Father, we pray that "Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven." And Christ told His disciples that some of them would not die until they saw the Kingdom of God "coming in power" (Mark 9:1). The early Christian Fathers saw Easter as the fulfillment of that promise. With the resurrection of Christ, God's Kingdom is established on earth, in the form of the Church.
For the first three centuries, the Church celebrated the real meaning of Easter in connection with the Jewish Passover. The Passover began on the evening of the full moon in the Jewish month of Nisan, which coincided with the Spring Equinox.
As the crucifixion occurred on the first day of the feast, early Christians found a scriptural correlation between Jesus and the sacrificial lamb. The Apostle Paul refers to this in his first letter to the Corinthian Church where he states: "For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7-8) The flexibility of Passover allowed the early Church to celebrate Christ's resurrection any day of the week on which the third day of the festival happened to fall.
Easter is a time of rejoicing for Christians. The Roman Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox Churches commemorate the resurrection of Christ with the Easter Mass, which includes special prayers, litanies, psalms and hymns. In some Churches throughout, Easter customs include special processions to honor the Virgin Mary. Protestant Churches have Easter services that include Communion, special sermons and sometimes Easter plays. Many Evangelical Churches have sunrise services that include much singing and rejoicing.
Lastly on Good Friday, Jesus Christ was executed by crucifixion. His body was taken down from the cross, and buried in a cave. The tomb was guarded and an enormous stone was put over the entrance, so that no-one could steal the body. On the following Sunday, some women visited the grave and found that the stone had been moved, and that the tomb was empty. Jesus himself was seen that day, and for days afterwards by many people. His followers realised that God had raised Jesus from the dead. This is the faith and this is the proof and this life with risen Christ. Let us live the life with the hope of resurrection with our Lord Jesus Christ forever. Let it be.
Wish one and all a very Happy and Holy Easter. Let the Risen Lord bless all of us. Alleluia.
Alban D'Souza Archives:
- Good Friday: Salvation for Mankind Through Jesus Christ
- Maundy Thursday - Of God's Eternal Love for Mankind
- Ash Wednesday: Season of Lent, Symbol of Repentance, Forgiveness
- Christmas: A Feast of Love, Joy and Peace