Sunday, April 4, 2010
"Awake, thou wintry earth-- Fling off thy sadness! Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth Your ancient gladness! Christ is risen."
"It is the hour to rend thy chains,
The blossom time of souls."
-- Katherine Lee Bates
What a beautiful statement. What a beautiful time of year.
The season of Easter is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."
-- John 11:25-26
Hope. That is the word that comes to mind. Basically, Jesus (the son of God), is telling me that yes - I fulfilled my promise, yes - I love you, and yes- you can spend eternity in heaven with me, and never "die." Wow. What an amazing promise.. and historically - a fulfillment of the prophesies.
Can you imagine how the disciples of Christ must have felt upon realizing that Jesus rose from the dead?
"Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin:
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen
Our joy that hath no end."
-- John of Damascus
The whole idea reminds us that- we will die. BUT - there is hope. For me, that is super deep! I will have eternal life?? Really? That's pretty coooool.
"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song."
-- Pope John Paul II
With that being said, I hope to take the promise of Easter and move forward in this season. It is a time of change and rebirth.
Different cultures around the world recognize Easter in many different ways.
The traditional, liturgical observation of Easter, as practised among Roman Catholics and some Lutherans and Anglicans begins on the night of Holy Saturday with the Easter Vigil. This, the most important liturgy of the year, begins in total darkness with the blessing of the Easter fire, the lighting of the large Paschal candle (symbolic of the Risen Christ) and the chanting of the Exultet or Easter Proclamation attributed to Saint Ambrose of Milan.
After this service of light, a number of readings from the Old Testament are read; these tell the stories of creation, the sacrifice of Isaac, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the foretold coming of the Messiah.
This part of the service climaxes with the singing of the Gloria and the Alleluia and the proclamation of the Gospel of the resurrection. At this time, the lights are brought up and the church bells are rung, according to local custom.
A sermon may be preached after the gospel. Then the focus moves from the lectern to the font. Anciently, Easter was considered the ideal time for converts to receive baptism, and this practice continues within Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion. Whether there are baptisms at this point or not, it is traditional for the congregation to renew the vows of their baptismal faith. This act is often sealed by the sprinkling of the congregation with holy water from the font. The Catholic sacrament of Confirmation is also celebrated at the Vigil.
The Easter Vigil concludes with the celebration of the Eucharist (known in some traditions as Holy Communion). Certain variations in the Easter Vigil exist: Some churches read the Old Testament lessons before the procession of the Paschal candle, and then read the gospel immediately after the Exsultet. Some churches prefer to keep this vigil very early on the Sunday morning instead of the Saturday night, particularly Protestant churches, to reflect the gospel account of the women coming to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week. These services are known as the Sunrise service and often occur in outdoor setting such as the church cemetery, yard, or a nearby park.
As with many other Christian dates, the celebration of Easter extends beyond the church. Since its origins, it has been a time of celebration and feasting and many Traditional Easter games and customs developed, such as Egg rolling, Egg tapping, Pace egging and Egg decorating. Today Easter is commercially important, seeing wide sales of greeting cards and confectionery such as chocolate Easter eggs, marshmallow bunnies, Peeps, and jelly beans. Even many non-Christians celebrate these aspects of the holiday while eschewing the religious aspects.
Along with Christmas celebrations, Easter traditions were among the first casualties of some areas of the Protestant Reformation, being deemed "pagan" by some Reformation leaders.
Other Reformation Churches, such as the Lutheran, Methodist, and Anglican, retained a very full observance of the Church Year.
In Lutheran Churches, not only were the days of Holy Week observed, but also Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost were observed with three day festivals, including the day itself and the two following.
Among the other Reformation traditions, things were a bit different. These holidays were eventually restored (though Christmas only became a legal holiday in Scotland in 1967, after the Church of Scotland finally relaxed its objections).
Some Christians (usually, but not always fundamentalists), however, continue to reject the celebration of Easter (and, often, of Christmas), because they believe them to be irrevocably tainted with paganism and idolatry. Their rejection of these traditions is based partly on their interpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. Additionally, some Christians who do celebrate the event prefer to call it "Resurrection Sunday" or "Resurrection Day", as a way of distinguishing the religious celebration from more secular or commercial aspects of the holiday such as the Easter Bunny.
Some groups feel that Easter is something to be regarded with great joy: not marking the day itself, but remembering and rejoicing in the event it commemorates—the miracle of Christ's resurrection.
In this spirit, these Christians teach that each day and all Sabbaths should be kept holy, in Christ's teachings. Hebrew-Christian, Sacred Name, and Armstrong movement churches (such as the Living Church of God) usually reject Easter in favor of Nisan 14 observance and celebration of the Christian Passover. This is especially true of Christian groups that celebrate the New Moons or annual High Sabbaths in addition to seventh-day Sabbath. This is textually supported by the letter to the Colossians: "Let no one...pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath. These are shadows of things to come; the reality belongs to Christ." (Col. 2:16-17, NAB)
Regardless to how you choose to celebrate or accept the season of Easter, it is a wonderful feelings to dwell in a religious faith that leaves it's believers with such a sense of hope and peace.
"The great gift of Easter is hope - Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake."
-- Basil C. Hume
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