"What a wonderful time of year," could be said at the start of every season for the unique beauty they each bring. But truly, isn't spring one of the best? The early morning light and the warmth of the sun are a welcome relief after the long and dark winter. The first lavender crocuses, yellow daffodils, hint of green on the trees and the songs of birds remind us that the earth is awakening and there is new life again with much to be enjoyed in the coming months. It is probably no coincidence that the holiday of Easter coincides with this time of the year. The rebirth at spring, along with eggs, rabbits and other holiday symbols have historical roots that represent both religious and secular perspectives which have evolved through the ages with converging traditions.
Anciently and in pagan traditions, people also looked forward to spring. For example, the very name "Easter" may very well have come from "Eastre," an ancient goddess of spring and fertility. Her festival was celebrated on the vernal equinox after the long winter. Other cultures performed ceremonies with music and dance to awaken gods asleep since the winter solstice.
For Christians, however, Easter is the holiest day of the year because it marks victory over the grave with Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice and resurrection, making salvation and eternal life possible for all mankind. It is the day when scriptures were fulfilled. Today, the secular version of the holiday has eggs and bunnies to represent sunlight and prolific life, while the religious and sacred observance may use eggs to represent Christ emerging from the tomb. Even the traditional egg roll at the White House can be viewed as the symbol for the stone being rolled away from the tomb.
The beauty of Easter is seen as nature awakens to the light and warmth of spring. (Photo courtesy of Meghan Deas-Halley)
Easter, from the religious and Christian perspective, most likely has origins in the ancient Jewish festival of Passover, the time commemorating Moses and the exodus of Israelites from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Jewish tradition and likely regarded Easter as a new facet of the Passover festival to celebrate the coming and triumph of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets. Old Testament scriptures such as Isaiah, Job and Daniel speak of the Messiah, with New Testament scriptures abounding with the teachings and miracles of Christ. The climax is during the last days of his life and crucifixion where Christ paid the price for mankind's sins, showing mercy and a way to become spiritually clean and be reunited with God. This was not easy. As told in scriptures, Christ bled in agony from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane for the sins of all humanity and in anticipation of what was to soon come. He was arrested, tried, scourged and crucified.
The Easter account continues however with the triumph of Christ's resurrection at the sepulcher and his appearance to the apostles. Luke 24 has the well-known scripture, "He is not here, but is risen." The joy of the empty tomb was felt then and now by Christians the world over. Easter is a day, as well as every Sunday, when Christians have the opportunity to honor Christ's atonement. As in the hymn He is Risen, "Let the whole world rejoice, death is conquered, man is free. Christ has won the victory."
Make it a good week and whether religious, secular, or a combination of the two, enjoy this Easter with your family and friends.
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