It is coming close to Easter. Most people celebrate the coming of the Easter bunny who, mysteriously and apart from his natural instincts, lays colored chicken eggs in the form of chocolate for little children to eat. I’m not sure where this tradition came from, but it is definitely from a mind that thought outside the box!
Some think this season was for the pagan Teutonic goddess, Estre. Their claim is that the Catholic Church stole the traditional day from them and planted the religious significance of Jesus’ Resurrection on that day.
But that day, and its movability, comes from the fact that the Jews celebrated the Passover, eating the lamb on the 14th day of Nisan, which is based on the lunar cycle. The 15th day of Nisan was celebrating the cross-over of the Isrealites through the Red Sea as they escaped their slavery from the Egyptians.
But the dates don’t match!
The problem with the exact date of Christ’s death stems from the fact that the Jewish calendar doesn’t correspond to the Roman calendar, based on the solar cycle, which came into later use. And to this day, the movability of that feast day causes a bit of confusion in our modern day and age. But it follows the Jewish traditions, even if all the different rites within the Church differ slightly on timing.
The celebration of the Paschal Lamb was the Old Testament is an allegorical feast celebrating what was to come. The Lamb, the Son of God, was crucified on the day of the Passover. The Jews at that time wanted to make sure they got Him out of the way before the completion of the Passover Feast the following day.
He died at 3pm on a Friday. We know this because the next day was a holy one to the Jews, and they had to have His body removed and buried before the sun set.
But what does that have to do with Easter?
The Sabbath was the day that the Jewish Religion celebrated the worship of God in the Temple. However, on that Friday, the two foot thick cloth that screened the worshipers from the Ark of the Covenant was torn in two. Not an easy feat for any human to have done.
While the Christians were huddled together in the Upper Room wondering what was going on, the Jews were celebrating the final part of the Paschal Feast. For them, that problem Person was done and gone from their lives.
Until the next day…
In the Roman times, the work week began on Sunday, not Monday. However, because Christ rose again on that day, the early Christians have been recorded in the Didache, 1st-2nd Century writings, as gathering together and worshiping God early in the morning on Sunday before they went to work. They did so in secret because of the hostility of the Jewish priests and people.
Today we celebrate the long awaited door of Heaven to be opened to us through the death and resurrection of the Risen Christ. On Easter Sunday. When the Church was allowed to finally be freed from oppression, the work week became Monday through Friday allowing for the worship of Christians to be celebrated on that day. Saturday was off as well giving a nod of respect to our Jewish brothers and forefathers to worship on that day.
And the bunny business?
Eggs were once forbidden during Lent, the 40 day time of preparation leading up to Easter. On Easter, eggs are dyed to display the colors of Spring flowers that are now coming into bloom. Some dye the eggs red as a symbol of Easter joy – the death and resurrection of the Son of God Who died as the ultimate Paschal Lamb.
The bunny, however, is not a Christian symbol. While it’s cute to see kids gather the plastic eggs in the yards to garner little treats inside, the idea of the Easter Bunny comes from the pagans. It symbolizes fertility, since it’s quite prolific, and is seen as something to bless the coming fruitfulness of the upcoming new crops.
And, no, they don’t lay chocolate eggs. Someone though that a great idea to take the shape and color of bunny poop and turn it into a money making idea. And who wouldn’t want chocolate bunny poops? Or, better yet, combine the idea of colored eggs and eat colored bunny poop shaped jellybeans?
Celebration of Passion Week…
But the week leading up to that time of celebration is the most critical of all the Christian traditions. For if it wasn’t for the death of Christ, there would be no resurrection.
So the Catholic Church laid down much of the traditions based on ancient customs of the early Church fathers. It begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday.
It was on this day that Christ rode a colt into Jerusalem, hailed by the people as being the great prophet of God. They threw down palm leaves for the animal to walk over, crying out to Him as an honored King.
After entering the Temple, Jesus threw out the money changers. Those were the people who were sitting in the courtyard trying to make a profit on those who needed to buy an animal for their sin offerings. In doing their trade, they defiled both themselves and the Temple grounds by their greed.
The day that Judas Iscariot earned money, 30 pieces of silver, to betray Jesus to the Jewish priests and haters.
The last three days of Holy Week…
The celebration of the Passover had begun. Jesus and His faithful followers were good Jews. They celebrated the feast as well in an upper room. But the Lamb was not slain. And one other interesting thing that didn’t occur was that the last cup of wine wasn’t drunk. Scott Hahn did an excellent study of this, reasoning that the cup wasn’t drunk because He would fulfill that last, most important Cup of the Blessing with His own blood…and the wine tasted right before He died.
Jesus left the Passover meal before the last part of the feast and went to the Garden of Gesthemane. There He took some of His disciples and asked them to watch and pray with Him. But while He prayed, they slept.
It wasn’t long before the betrayer of Jesus, one of His 12 chosen ones, led a group of soldiers and haters that evening to His location. There, they bound Him hand and foot, dragging Him to His mock trial so they could put Him to death.
From there, He was beaten over 1000 times with cat-of-nine tails and other whips with pieces of sharp objects of stone or metal that tore His flesh and left gaping wounds. He was crowned with a crown of thorns made from an Acacia tree. The thorns were 3” long or more, leaving in His head three mortal wounds. Then He was spat on, blind folded, punched and slapped, had His clothes ripped off His body tearing open the wounds, had a robe of purple put on His bleeding body, and thrust before the crowd of haters. Then the Jews were given the choice between Him and a cruel, barbaric man by the name of Barabbas.
Out of jealousy, the Jewish priests stirred up the crowds until they screamed for Barabbas. to be released. And they cried for His blood to be on them and their children.
They gave into a curse on their own generations to come. All because they didn’t like Him
But the greatest of all the days is Good Friday. It is on this day that the greatest of all sacrifices was completed. The Paschal Lamb was slain on the wood of a cross. And all the symbolism in the Old Testament was laid bare to the Jews. They were not ignorant of what He had taught, nor how He was proven repeatedly to be the fulfilment of their multitude of celebrations and customs. Even to the use of the Acacia tree in the Tabernacle and building of the Temple – the very wood used to crown His precious head and upon which He may have hung.
He had to carry His own cross with help by Simon of Cyrene part of the way so He wouldn’t die before he was nailed to the wood. He was beaten so badly that no mortal would have survived. Yet He willed to live until He could die the most painful death of suffocation and agony on the cross.
For three hours He struggled, mocked and scorned by the priests and crowds who once hailed Him as a King a few days prior. It was there that He gave us His Mother as our own by turning Her over to His Apostle, John. He forgave the thief who was hanging beside Him. And He completed His sacrifice as the most perfect of humans to His Father. In doing so, He reopened the gates of Heaven closed by Original Sin to His brothers and sisters who believed.
Through His death, He freed us from our sinfulness, giving us an opportunity to right ourselves to God once more.
But the Apostles didn’t yet understand all this. So they sat in the upper room huddled together. They locked the doors in case the mob would come after them and kill them as well.
So on Holy Saturday, with the Tabernacle doors open, the Eucharist removed, we, too, sit and wait.
Early on Sunday, the tomb rolled back and Jesus walked out leaving His burial cloths behind. The Shroud of Turin is the cloth in which His body was wrapped. When He arose, He left an imprint – a negative – of Himself on it. Time and time again, the cloth has been examined by scientists trying to figure out how it was made. Nothing was discovered, leaving the mystery in tact.
So the Shroud, over 2,000 years old, hangs behind a glass frame inside a church for all to see. It has survived fires and examinations without a mark. And it is one of the most iconic symbols throughout the history of mankind. A very well-written book, called “Doctor at Calvary” was written by a surgeon who examined the Shroud. He described, from a medical point of view, what Jesus would have gone through.
Another doctor, also, verified the surgeon’s writings. No human would have survived the tortures of the beatings Jesus endured. He had literally given His last drop of blood before He died. Only the piercing of the sword in His side released the last drops of blood. It appeared to be blood and water spilling from His heart and down His side.
Were it not for the imprint on this cloth, there would be nothing to examine or discover. And proof of His resurrection could not be seen.
While some Christian bothers and sisters prefer to see the empty cross hanging in their places of worship, the Catholics recognize that were it not for His death, there would be no resurrection. It was His death that wrought the work of our salvation.
But it was through His resurrection that He restored what was lost in the Garden of Eden. The free flowing Graces and power of the Holy Spirit to all those who would choose to follow and believe in Him.
In the Old Testament, the laborious animal sacrifices and rules were allegorical. The foretold the function of each custom that would be fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And it was because of this future sacrifice that the Old Testament sacrifices and customs had any lasting value and affect.
This week is sacred…
Sacred to all Christians in the world who understand and believe. It is Holy because of the depth of its meaning. Even more important that Christmas, it is the time of reliving and celebrating the most crucial work done for our spiritual salvation.
It is because of this that we pattern our lives toward perfection and goodness. We follow the example of Christ to the death, whatever form that will take.
And it all leads to the most important and conclusion of the Feast days. The entire week upon every other Feast day hangs.
Easter. The celebration of life from eternal death.