It Is Easter Sunday Again
By Lenard Ranjith Mahaarachchi
Easter the Spring of Christendom is with us right now. It is now found that Jesus Christ who was crucified on Good Friday rose again on Sunday 9th April 30 AD.
The Body of Jesus, was laid in the tomb at sundown on Friday, and in an incident that is unparallel in human or any religious history, He rose making Easter the greatest of all feasts, in Christendom.
Easter was the only event kept in the early church and came to be officially celebrated only after the Council of Nicea held in 325 AD. It was at this council the the date of Easter was decided upon by the early church fathers. Whereas Christmas was not an official celebration at that time. Easter was celebrated as the major feast in the pristine church. Though Christmas is fixed for December 25th, Easter does not have a fixed date. Easter comes from the Scandinavian “Ostra” or the Teutonic “Ostern” the goddess of mythology. In Sinhala it is Pasku from the Portuguese word Paska. The word Easter, connotes fertility and was celebrated as a Spring festival on the Vernal Equinox. The church fixed Easter to the Sunday following the Full Moon of Equinox and this explains why the date changes every year.
Easter therefore may fall between 22nd March and 25th April. This year it is on 8th April, while Good Friday, was Full Moon day, just as it was in the year 30 AD, which also fell on April 7th. Easter the Christian Spring festival of the New Testament, is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Jewish Passover ordered by Moses to commemorate the flight of the Jewry from slavery in Pharaoh’s Egypt, to the Promised Land. Today the Jewish Passovser is replaced by the Christian Easter, the Lord’s defeat of death by His Resurrection which saved men from the slavery of sin.
Since Easter is an adaptation of a pagan festival, customs associated with it too haves come to stay in our Easter fest like the Easter Egg, or the Easter Bun, which originated in Germany. It was introduced to the USA by the Germans who arrived there in the 17th century. The Easter egg, is a symbol of fertility. The Greeks exchange crimson eggs, which colour signifies the blood of Jesus and in Austria it is green. The Slavic Christians colour it in gold or silver. The Aussies colour it pure white. The Poles decorate it with many colours like the Ukrainians.
Easter is reminisced today through two relics that Christ has left for us for posterity. One is the Empty tomb and the other The Shroud of Turin. The body of the dead Jesus lain in the tomb at sundown on Good Friday, was found empty at sunrise on Sunday. I had the privilege of seeing this tomb during my visit to the Holy Land, a couple of years back. Latest research on this linen cloth (see John I9/40-41) is now believed to have been used as the Table Cloth at the Last Supper. Rebecca Jackson, a Jewess and the only female in the 50 odd Research team, is adamant that it was the very Table Cloth used at the Last Supper held in the Senaculum, a hall that was owned by Joseph of Aramathea who, buried Jesus with Nicodemus after taking Him down from the cross. Holger Curtsen in his book, “Jesus lived in India says that this cloth was given by Jesus to a servant of the High Priest. This has however no gospel base. Latest high tech analyses have proved that it is not a painting as presumed by some earlier before the tests and analyses via modern high tech methods”.
Rebecca, became a Christian after her own supposition which none in the research team dared to oppose. So today we have a relic that leaves the Christian world with memoirs of not only the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, but even the institution of the Eucharist. The Shroud is now resting in a reliquary at the cathedral of John the baptizer in Turin. Among those who have paid their reverence to the Shroud are, King Louie of France in 1147, and St. Charles Borrommeo in 1578. In 1978 the whole world saw it on TV for the first time. The Shroud is eloquent testimony of Jesus’s passion too and shows the wounds suffered by Him at the flagellation, the head injuries caused by the crown of thorns and even the two wounds on the shoulders caused by the cross beam. The Empty Tomb and the Shroud of Turin are the legacies left by Jesus for posterity and belief in His salvific death. But Christians do not need an Empty Tomb or a Shroud to believe in His Resurrection. It is that single event that brought Christianity to the world. Even Muslims and other non Christians believe in the Glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ who died so that man could be reconciled back to his God. The resurrection is a sure sign of our own rising from the dead one day and it is the confirmation of our Everlasting Life. A Happy Easter to you.