CLERGY CORNER: Easter traditions “Sacred and secular”

Posted on 28 March 2013 by LeslieM

On Easter, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, but what does this amazing life-yielding miracle have to do with a bunny and painted eggs?

The short answer is, “Maybe not so much!”

Every year, Christians revisit Jesus and his disciples entering Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, the Jewish holy season that commemorates the Hebrews’ release from slavery. And, every year, we study our Lord’s arrest, crucifixion, death and resurrection.

It’s no surprise people of Jewish origin were among the first to celebrate the resurrection, likely as a new facet of the Passover festival. In fact, the Easter celebration, Pascha, in Aramaic and Greek, is derived from the Hebrew Passover. An early sacred ritual of Easter was the lighting of the Pashcal candle. You can see where this candle derives its name. The Pashcal candle symbolizes light out of darkness similar to the Christ candle of Christmas.

Originally, Easter was celebrated two days after Passover but this meant Easter could fall on any day of the week. In 325 A.D., Roman Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicea ruled Easter would always fall on Sunday, this being the day of the week Christ rose from the dead.

It was also the Council of Nicea that decided Easter would be celebrated the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. Easter would then always fall on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. As Christianity spread through Europe, pagan European customs began to emerge and spread. In fact, some argue that Easter may have received its modern -day name from Eostre, the goddess of spring and fertility, which brings us to the Easter bunny and Easter egg.

Easter bunnies and Easter eggs were a perfect match, although one probably not made in heaven. The fertile bunny, at least in connection with Easter, didn’t show up until about the 16th century, but had long been a symbol of new life. Eggs, on the other hand, have been a symbol of life and birth for thousands of years.

The advent of Easter bunnies and Easter eggs led to children being told, if they were well-behaved, the Easter bunny would visit and leave Easter eggs as presents. It seems we are always looking for incentives to make children behave; thus, chocolate eggs and other gifts enter the Easter equation too!

President Rutherford B. Hayes, who served in the White House from 1877 to 1881, once said, “To avoid even the appearance of evil, I think sometimes I have unnecessarily deprived myself and others of innocent enjoyment.”

President Hayes deprived no one of innocent enjoyment when he approved egg rolling and egg hunting for the first time on the White House lawn, a tradition that remains today, at least unless it is cancelled due to sequestration …

I encourage you not to deprive yourself this Sunday. Celebrate the miracle of the resurrection.

If you choose to do so at Steeple on the Beach, please know we will have an Easter bunny and an Easter egg hunt for the children at 9:45 a.m. between Easter Sunday worship services! Why? Because children and church are the perfect match made in heaven!

Join us Holy Saturday at 6 p.m.in historic Briggs Hall to watch Mel Gibson’s movie “Passion of the Christ.” There is no charge for admission and refreshments will be provided.

Join us for a spectacular Easter Sunday Celebration at 8:30 a.m. or 11 a.m. in our beautiful sanctuary. The message this weekend is “Conquering the Inevitable” based on the 15th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

Reverend Andrews is Minister at Community Presbyterian Church of Deerfield Beach (Steeple on the Beach) located five blocks south of Hillsboro on AIA. www.communitych.org or find us on Facebook.

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