Easter of 2020 had a pandemic, and unfortunately, Easter 2021 will have a continuation of that pandemic. Such a situation brings the only objective, to lead the Christian people, communities of faith and people of goodwill to think, evaluate and identify ways to overcome the polarisations and violence that mark the current world. It brings us together to reflect on this devastating world problem that affects not only our health, but the environment, the family, the economy and all matters that contribute to the flow of life.
The history of Easter
The Christian Easter is based on the Passover of Jewish origin. In addition, a celebration in the Western world was influenced by elements of the pagan culture of Germanic peoples. Easter is the principal festival on the Christian calendar and has its origins based on both Jewish tradition and pagan elements that were collected from Christianised peoples, such as the Germans. This celebration has a moving date and its Christian meaning recalls the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The Easter, the English word Easter, which parallels the German word Ostern, is of uncertain origin.
The Christian Passover is based on the Passover (“pesach”, in Hebrew), celebration of Jewish tradition that recalls the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. The Passover celebrated by the Hebrews was held around the time that marked the beginning of spring. In Jewish tradition, this feast in reference to the liberation from slavery in Egypt was a direct order from Yahweh to Moses. (Exodus 12:21-27)
Although Christianity emerged from a sect derived from Judaism, the meaning of the Christian Easter is different, as it recalls the three days of death until Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is one of the main pillars of the Christian faith, which highlights the importance of this feast on the religion calendar. Christ, seen as the Lamb of God, offered himself in sacrifice to save humanity from sin. After being crucified and killed, he was resurrected after three days. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ would have happened exactly at the time of the Jewish festival, which created a parallel between the two celebrations. In the Catholic Christian tradition, Easter ends Lent, which is basically a forty day period marked by fasting. The last week of Lent, called Holy Week, begins with Palm Sunday, which marks Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem; passes through Good Friday, which makes reference to the death of Christ; and is completed on Easter Sunday, which celebrates Christ’s resurrection. The date of Easter was instituted by the Church during the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The Church determined that the first full moon after the spring equinox would be the date to commence the commemoration of Easter. The equinox marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere.
Pagan elements at Easter
Christianity, in general, during the process of converting pagan Germanic peoples, appropriated innumerable traditions of these peoples. Easter, especially in the northern hemisphere, has some associations with pagan traditions. Some historians relate Easter to the cult of the Germanic goddess Eostern, also called Ostara. The term Easter in English and German, in fact, most likely has its origin based on this goddess.
Easter, the English term for Easter (note the similarity to the name “Eostern”);
Ostern, the German term for Easter (note the similarity to the name “Ostara”).
The parties that took place between Germanic and Celtic peoples for this goddess were held at the same time as the Christian festival. With the Christianisation of these peoples, the traditional pagan festival was mixed with the Christian celebration.
Easter symbols – the rabbit and eggs – are also attributed to pagan elements. It is believed that eggs and rabbits were seen by people in antiquity as symbols of fertility. Thus, as these peoples were Christianised, these elements were absorbed by the Christian feast. The tradition of decorating eggs and hiding them would have reached the American continent through German immigrants in the 18th century.
What will be your Easter in 2021?
Staying inside your bubble is much more comfortable for those who gloat over the sharing experience. The world is at a vulnerable time in terms of health, economics, politics, and so many other social weaknesses. The complacency and the selfishness of not perceiving the other, is called disunity, because in order to do something concrete, it is necessary to dispose of: structures, ideologies, proselytisms and also yourself. Now what is divided has to be unified.
With the pandemic, social differences broke out even more. The life of the population, especially the perception of the great problems that affect, above all, the poor people, who do not always have anyone to turn to in their suffering due to unjust situations. And it is known, a people that questions hunger, misery, violence, can awaken to think and act organic, besides to community.
This moment invites you to renew yourself. Be a new person. The self of human aid. The self of empathy and resilience. Regardless of belief, be someone’s Easter. Make your Easter different. Take the resurrection of your attitudes to the mountain: Denounce the violence against people, peoples and the creation, especially those that use the name of Jesus; Encourage justice to restore people’s dignity, to overcome conflicts and to achieve social reconciliation; Encourage engagement in concrete actions of love for the person close to you; Promote the conversion to a culture of love instead of a culture of hate; Strengthen and celebrate ecumenical and inter religious coexistence.
Let us keep the message of the Holy Pope in our minds and hearts:
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18)
Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love