Saturday, April 7, 2012
Easter Bunnies..Chocolate Eggs and...Jesus?
As a child growing up I never had the chance to celebrate Easter as my parents (or for the most part my mom who raised me after my dad's passing when I was 9) were Jehovah's Witnesses. Yet as an adult I have started celebrating Easter but as an adult I celebrate the true meaning. In Easter's case it would mean the Sacrifice and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.(Crucifixion: Read Matthew 27 Resurrection : Read Luke 24 click on both to read the Biblical accounts) Yet the holiday also contain customs I would like to examine these customs and how they came about. To look at the origin of this holiday we call Easter.
What does a bunny have to do with Jesus?
The idea that a rabbit could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary. With rabbits sometimes occurring in paintings of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. Rabbits are such large breeders that they can even become pregnant while still pregnant with a litter. This phenomenon is known as superfetation.
The Easter Bunny was first mentioned in a book by Georg Franck von Frankenau called "De ovis paschalibus". Rabbits were popular characters in medieval church art. In ancient times it was widely believed that the rabbit was an hermaphrodite.
It may also have been associated with the Holy Trinity, as in the three hares motif, representing the "One in Three and Three in One" which has symbols within the artwork that were thought to denote and symbolize the Holy Trinity. See image below that is taken from Paderborn Cathedral in Germany.
In England, this triad rabbit motif usually appears in a prominent place in the church. Such as in the nave area or the chancel area. Which appears that the symbol held significance to the church in the medieval Age.
Origin of Easter
According to St. Bede, an English historian of the early 8th century, Easter owes its origin to old Teutonic mythology. It's derived from the name Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, to whom the month of April was dedicated. The festival of Eostre was celebrated at the vernal equinox, when the day and night gets an equal share of the day.
The English name "Easter" is much newer. When the early English Christians wanted others to accept Christianity, they decided to use the name Easter for this holiday so that it would match the name of the old spring celebration. This made it more comfortable for other people to accept Christianity.
However Easter as we know it today is associated more date wise with the Jewish Passover. Which is celebrated during the Jewish month of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew lunar year. The Jewish Passover under Moses commemorates Israel's deliverance from about 300 years of bondage in Egypt.
It was during Passover in 30 AD that Christ was crucified under the order of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate as the then Jewish high priests accused Jesus of "blasphemy". The resurrection came three days later, on the Easter Sunday.
The early Christians, many of them being brought up in Jewish tradition regarded Easter as a new feature of the Pascha (Passover). It was observed in memory of the advent of the Messiah, as foretold by the prophets.
Thus the early Christian Passover turned out to be a unified commemoration of the passion-death-resurrection of Jesus. However, by the 4th century, Good Friday came to be observed separately. And the Pascha Sunday became the date to observe Christ's miraculous Resurrection.
Throughout religious observances in early Christendom, the Sunday of Pascha had become a holiday to honor Christ. At the same time many of the pagan spring rites were also a part of the celebration.
But despite all the influence there was a shift. No more worship of the physical return of the Sun God. Instead the worship of Christ and His Resurrection and miraculous triumph of death became tantamount in the rites.
The Feast of Easter was well established in Europe by the second century.
In North America
Easter was not a popular custom among the early settlers in America. Because most of them were Puritans or members of Protestant Churches who had little use for the pagan customs associated with the celebrations; most of them entered in as part of the ancient spring rites celebrated during the Vernal Equinox.
It was around the Civil War period in the United States that the message and meaning of Easter began to be celebrated as it had been in Europe. Mostly due to the Presbyterians. The scars that the Nation felt during this time in seeing widespread death and destruction opened many to the observance. They found the story of resurrection as a great source of inspiration and renewed hope.
Eggs : The Origins
Eggs, like rabbits are fertility symbols of antiquity.
Easter eggs & baby chicks symbolize new life. Eggs have been a symbol of spring since ancient times. An egg also is a symbol of the rock tomb out of which Christ emerged when he arose again. The chick, hatching out of the egg, symbolizes the Resurrection and new life.
But for me the true meaning is....
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.