I like to visualize that incredible moment when our Lord burst out of the grave. Death could not keep Him. The grave could not contain Him. If a caption were written for that picture today, it would say, “I’m out of here!”
The stone was rolled away.
“He is not here! Behold, the tomb is empty.”
Prophecy fulfilled. Man forgiven. Mankind redeemed.
What did we do to deserve it? Nothing. Why did He do it? For love.
Easter Sunday is the single Christian event that defines our faith. Most people consider it a religious holiday, and I suppose it is. But it is so much more!
Two thousand years ago, God’s only son, Mary’s first born, the man who calmed the seas, healed the sick and raised the dead, Himself rose from the dead. With His final and supreme sacrifice on the cross Jesus reopened heaven. Resurrection Sunday should fill our hearts with joyful hope.
The Christian world celebrates Easter in a big way. But the festivities are not strictly religious. As usual the world of commerce has horned in to make a quick dollar.
In America and many other parts of the world, including the Philippines, this is the day when people literally try to put all their eggs in one basket. Children and grownups go on a hunt for brightly colored hard-boiled eggs that some frisky rabbit supposedly has hidden, and trade them for candy, chocolates and little gifts. What do eggs and cuddly furry bunnies have to do with Easter Sunday?
The age-old tradition of painting eggs gets underway in the spring. It all began before the advent of Christianity. In many cultures the egg symbolized a new life, a rebirth and fertility. A study of this custom reveals pagan roots.
We are told that in 13th-century pre-Christian Germany, people worshipped many gods and goddesses. Eostra, the goddess of spring and fertility, was honored on the Vernal Equinox. (It is the moment the sun crosses directly over the Earth’s equator. This year the first day of spring was on March 20 at 5:14 a.m. Universal Time.). Eostra’s symbol was the rabbit.
Christians chose the Easter egg to represent the resurrection of Christ. The hard eggshell stood for the rock that sealed the tomb and when it was cracked it was a reminder of the resurrection. In Eastern Catholic churches, eggs were dyed red to symbolize the blood shed by Jesus on the cross.
Today Easter eggs are painted in every possible color. Some are carefully decorated with verses from Scripture and delicate designs of flowers and butterflies.
Enterprising businessmen and marketing experts have trained their sights exclusively on the potential financial returns of Easter, overlooking the spiritual significance of the season, in the same way they conveniently forgot the reason for the Christmas season. Today’s inordinate concern for political correctness has made the situation even worse.
And what is the story of the rabbit? How did this prolific furry creature get connected with Easter?
The first bunny legend surfaced in the 1500s. There was a story about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden. This gave birth to the Easter egg hunt. To make the eggs easier to find, people started making nests for the rabbit. Today these have evolved into fancily decorated baskets deliciously filled with chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and marshmallow chicks.
I was never one for coloring eggs, or hunting for them. I couldn’t see their connection or relevance to the Resurrection.
Back in the day, the observance of Easter was solemn, simple and fun. School was over in March and Holy Week usually came in the middle of summer vacation. We rented a house in Baclaran, one of five or six in a huge compound on the beach owned by Doña Luisa Guevara.
Close friends and family rented the other cottages.
From our front porch we could see the mighty ocean, deep blue with glints of turquoise. It was always crystal clear. There was swimming and volleyball all day. At night we had a bonfire and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows. The grownups had dance parties and played cards.
Playtime tapered off around Wednesday. On Holy Thursday we walked on the beach to the original Redemptorist Church for visita iglesia. It was then just a small wooden structure.
Good Friday was quiet. No swimming. No games. At 3 p.m. we gathered at the Cabarrus’ house and Don Juan himself would lead the siete palabras in Spanish. It was a yearly tradition that was never disrupted, not even by the war. The old doctor was stern and strict. We had to be absolutely quiet. He was on his knees the whole time, his booming voice reverently reciting the last words of our Savior.
On Black Saturday (Sabado de Gloria) we waited for the wild pealing of church bells at 10 in the morning. We were told to jump for joy because the Lord had descended into the dungeons of the damned and defeated the enemy! They also said that the higher we jumped, the taller we would grow.
Easter Sunday was special. We sang in the choir at high Mass and wore our new dresses, new shoes and new hats. Yes, I wore a hat. It was not quite “my Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,” but it was very pretty and festive just the same.
What are your thoughts on an Easter Sunday?
When I read the Bible I become, in my mind, one of its characters. In Bethlehem for example, I am one of the shepherds awakened by the bright star and the song of angels. Did I know that there was something unusual about that night? Did I fall on my knees at the sight of the baby in the manger? Did I go to the stable at all? Or did I choose to lie on the hillside to stare at the heavens? On the day of the Crucifixion, on the road to Calvary, did I walk in tears with the weeping women, or did I join the crowd of rabble-rousers who cried out for His blood? And on that first Easter Sunday, on my way to Emaus with the two disciples, did I know that He was walking with us? Did I even recognize His voice?
The noise of the world distracts us and we miss it. It is sad how we choose to turn away. We have no time. It is too difficult. We are too proud.
But He is a patient friend, our faithful brother, and the constant lover of our souls. When our faith falters, He reaches out and takes us by the hand. When fear surrounds us, He tells us to be of good courage. This is His promise: He will never leave us or forsake us. We must remember that always, and take heart.