Home | Contact us | Opinions and Suggestions |
   History Governing Body Director Bibliography Collections Events Membership Press  


Books, Articles and Essays
by FR. FELIX RAJ, SJ, DIRECTOR |  « back

Easter - A Celebration Of New Life
By Fr. John Felix Raj. S.J.

About 2,015 million Christians all over the world, belonging to all denominations, celebrated Easter on 11 April, which marked the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death by crucifixion and burial in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. Easter is victory over death, a celebration of new life. The Easter holiday is one of the high points of the Christian religious calendar. Easter ceremonies correspond to the Passover, the Jewish festival. It symbolizes the ultimate victory of good over evil.

Easter is the time of springtime festivals, a time to welcome back the lilies, the tulips and the daffodils. It’s a time of new suits, new dresses and new footwear. It is a day for great rejoicing and merry-making. Feasts are given, sweets exchanged and processions taken out on this occasion. It is a time of chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and coloured eggs!

Prior to 325 AD, Easter was celebrated on different days of the week. In that year, Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea and issued the Easter Rule, which stated that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However, a caveat must be introduced here. The “full moon” in the rule is the ecclesiastical full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular lunation, where day one corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical “vernal equinox” is always on 2 March. Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between 22 March and April 23.

Lent precedes Easter celebration, a 46-day period of preparation for the Holy Week during which the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus are commemorated. It begins on Ash Wednesday; a day when the creation of man is remembered. Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) is a celebration, sometimes called “Carnival”, practiced around the world, as the sacrifices of Lent began.

Death is tragic and horrible. Death on the cross is even more horrible. But Jesus chose to die on the cross, all because of His love for the entire human family in which He wanted to establish God’s kingdom, the reign of love, peace and justice. He practiced what he often preached; “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends”. That is why the cross, the symbol of crucifixion has become not only the symbol of Easter, but also the official symbol of the Christian faith. Death manifests that the nature of the physical body is corruptible. “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower fall away.” (New Testament, 1 Peter 1:24). As the Proverbs 31: 30 states, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing”.

But resurrection reveals that life is everlasting. Since the creation of the universe, life has never ceased to exist but has continued to life. Life has neither volume nor weight, but it has a great strength. A tree’s roots can break through rocks and turn it into a great tree. Its life draws water from the ground and names leaves and fruits, for life is the strength itself. Although death is strong and it seems invincible, life is stronger than death. For those who live in the presence of the divine there is no fear of death.

The resurrection is transformation into an incorruptible body that suffers from neither illnesses, nor injuries, nor even from death. As the three saints of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego who emerged unscathed from the fiery furnace burning seven times hotter than it was usually heated (Old Testament, Daniel 3:19-26), resurrected bodies will be utterly strong. Man would become new, so would everything in the entire universe.

Peter was one of Jesus’ apostles who later becomes the first People of the Church. Once when Jesus had asked him, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter answered, Master, I love you, I will go wherever you go I will lay down my life for you”. The same Peter denied Jesus when the soldiers who were leading Jesus for crucifixion confronted him on the way to Calvary. Jesus had earlier foretold Peter that he would deny him three times. Peter realized his weakness, wept bitterly and repented.

Many Easter traditions around the world are related to the idea of new life and springtime. Of all the symbols, one of the most recognizable is the egg, symbol of new life and fertility. Eggs have been associated with Easter for centuries. Originally, according to historians, eggs were painted bright-symbolic of the light of spring. They were used in things like rolling contests and exchanged as gifts. Later they were decorated with fancy designs and exchanged as signs of love, like valentines.

In Europe, eggs were given to workers at Easter. In Germany, they were given to children along with other gifts. In Greece, Easter eggs are crimson to honor the blood of Christ. In parts of Germany, green eggs are given on Maundy Thursday. Easter eggs in the Ukraine and other Eastern European countries are elaborately decorated with intricate designs, paper cuttings and painting. Some are called pysanki.

Ukrainian pysanki are works of art. Designs are made in melted beeswax on a clean white egg. They are dipped in successive batches of dye and successive layers of wax are applied to produce intricate designs. In America, hollow eggshells are decorated with pictures of religious figures and designs. In some countries the hollow eggs are hung on a tree or shrub, according to Holidays on the Net.

American traditions also vary widely and have been influenced by many cultures in the American salad bowl. There is the Easter Bunny who in some homes brings candy eggs to children. Easter egg hunts in parks and gardens are popular. Some families have hot cross buns on Easter; others might have fresh butter molded in the shape of a lamb.

While for some Easter is a festive celebration of spring and new life, for many it is an important religious and spiritual celebration of Christ’s victory over death. The power of Jesus’ resurrection makes man incorruptible and new. It makes him strong and transforms him into a spiritual being. With the spiritual power one is able to recognize His footsteps as, “He comes, comes, ever comes,” (Tagore).

The author is vice-principal, St Xavier’s College, Kolkata



Copyright : The Goethals Indian Library And Research Society |  Designed by : Braindrops