Easter: Apex of Christian life

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The two most celebrated feasts in the Christian world are Christmas and Easter. In the Catholic world, which used to be the western part of the Roman empire, the most celebrated holiday is Christmas day. Among Orthodox churches, which used to be the eastern part of the Roman empire, Easter is the most important religious festival in their liturgical calendar. Every other religious celebration including Christmas is considered secondary in importance to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Personally, I believe that both Christmas and Easter are equally important and that both are essential parts of God’s plan. Without God becoming man – Christmas – there would be no Easter. Without the resurrection from the dead – Easter – Christmas would be an insignificant event in history. The world has witnessed the lives of many great religious prophets like Moses, Buddha, Mohammed. However, in the Christian world, it was Jesus’ miraculous resurrection that made Jesus Christ more than just a prophet.

It was Easter that made him the Son of God. Since I am part of the Catholic world, it is Christmas that is the most celebrated holiday in my world. There is more excitement in anticipation of the Christmas season.

Often times, Holy Week is deemed more like a four-day holiday break rather than an observation of a sacred season. Family gatherings are deemed obligatory during the Christmas season while the Holy Week seems more like a time to travel or to go on vacation.

Christmas carols dominate the air waves but Easter is more associated with traditional religious songs and chants. There are many different reasons for the bigger celebration of Christmas than Easter. It has been suggested that this is due to the tradition of gift giving during Christmas time. There are those who say that Santa Claus and commercialization have made Christmas a secular festival celebrated worldwide, including among non-Christians.

I even understand that in the United States, there have been news to ban the word “Christmas” because it has religious connotations. The proposal is that the greeting should be “Happy holidays.” People seem to forget that without the birth of Christ, there would be no Christmas.

The Easter bunny and the Easter egg hunt have started to become an integral part of the celebration of Easter Sunday, forgetting that the day is supposed to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis once wrote: “The Easter Triduum is the apex of our liturgical year and it is also the apex of our Christian life… We begin the Triduum by celebrating the mass of the Lord’s Supper as we recall Christ’s offering of His body and blood to the Father, which He gave to the apostles as food for their nourishment with the command that they perpetually celebrate these mysteries in His honor… On Good Friday, we will meditate on the mystery of Christ’s death and we will adore the Cross… On Holy Saturday, we will contemplate Jesus lying in the tomb and with Mary, the Church will keep alive the flame of faith, hoping against every hope in Christ’s Resurrection… Then at the Easter Vigil when the Alleluia resounds again, we will celebrate the risen Christ, the center and fulfillment of the universe and history… Our life does not end before a tombstone. Our life continues with the hope of Christ who arose from the tomb.”

Easter or Resurrection Sunday is known in the non-English speaking world as Paschal, a Greek and Latin derived word. This term comes from the Jewish festival known as Passover, commemorating the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt. In the Orthodox Church, Paschal is also a name by which Jesus is remembered.

Easter is a moveable feast, unlike Christmas which has a fixed date. In western Christian churches which use the Gregorian calendar, Easter falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 within about seven days after the astronomical full moon.

Among early Christians, there was no unanimity on the date for celebrating Easter. It was in the first Council of Nicaea in 325 AD that there was one unanimous agreement on the “… celebration of God’s holy and supremely excellent day.” The tradition of Easter eggs is said to have been started by the early Christians of Mesopotamia who stained the eggs with red coloring “… in memory of the blood of Christ shed at His crucifixion.”

Eggs were also originally forbidden during Lent. Then with the coming of Easter, the eating of eggs would resume. I have yet to find any literature why the Easter bunny became part of the Easter celebration.

A joyful Easter to all my friends and readers.

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