Still, I like Easter. The tulips we planted a couple of autumns ago are starting to come up. The bicycle is on the road. Easter is hope. If you’re not of the Christian tradition, there’s that link to spring:
East and Easter are related in that they have a common Indo-European root: aus- ‘to shine’. From this we get east ‘the direction of the sunrise’. Our word Easter comes from Old English eastre (there’s a macron over the first e), which, according to the Venerable Bede, derived from Eostre, the Teutonic goddess of the dawn. The Indo-European word *ausos- meant ‘dawn’ or ‘a goddess of the dawn’, and the names of the Greek and Roman dawn goddesses Eos and Aurora come from the same root.
But what does an Anglo-Saxon dawn goddess have to do with Easter? Eostre’s festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox, and the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection had to be a spring feast because of the connection with the Jewish Passover. The early Christian missionaries to Britain seem to have been practical folk and found it easier to attach the most important feast of the new religion to an already-existing spring festival. The rabbits and the eggs are, of course, also vestiges of the pagan celebration of spring and fertility. And the sunrise service on Easter morning? At pre-Christian spring festivals, there was dancing to greet the sunrise, and there is an old belief that the sun rising on Easter morning dances in the heavens. The custom of lighting the “new fire” at the Easter Even service also has its origin in pre-Christian Celtic customs.
In many European languages (the exception is German Oster), the name for Easter comes from Pesah, the Hebrew word for ‘Passover’: Greek pascha, Latin pascha, French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, and Dutch Pasen. From the Old English period until the 17th century, both Easter and Pasch (pronounced “pask”) were used interchangeably to mean ‘Passover’ and ‘Easter’. In the Peterborough Chronicle of 1122 we find: “On this geare waes se king Heanri on Christes maessen on Norhtwic, and on Paxhes he waes on Norhthamtune” (This year King Henry was in Norwich for Christmas and in Northampton for Easter). A 1563 homilist spoke of “Easter, a great, and solemne feast among the Jewes.” Easter eventually won out for the name of the Christian holiday, though “Paschal” (“PAS kul”) is still an adjective meaning ‘Easter’, as in “Paschal candle.” In Scotland and the North of England, children hunt for “Pasch eggs.”
In case you’re wondering about Easter’s status as a “movable feast” (meaning that its date is based on a lunar cycle), the Council of Nicaea in 325 decided that the festival would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. That didn’t settle the question by any means. The Roman and Celtic Churches argued for another 300 years before agreeing on a date. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the date is also determined by the full moon, but Easter must come after Passover, which is why it usually falls on a different date than in the Western Church.
Easter is observed on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. The commonly stated rule, that Easter Day is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs next after the vernal equinox, is somewhat misleading because it is not a precise statement of the actual ecclesiastical rules.
The actual conditions to determine the date for Easter are:
Easter must be on a Sunday;
this Sunday must follow the 14th day of the paschal moon;
the paschal moon is that of which the 14th day (full moon) falls on or next follows the day of the vernal equinox; and
the equinox is fixed in the calendar as March 21.
In the Western World, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring—unless the date falls on the first day of the Jewish Passover festival. In which case, Easter is moved to the next Sunday.
Indeed now is the Spring well-sprung!
The bushes bloom, the streams all run
free of ice-rime’s glassy rind,
we’ve set our clocks,
revised our time.
The sun shines brightly
though cool the night;
the may flies swarm
to harry and bite.
A season new, though seen before,
so wash your windows,
fling wide your door!
Elán vital, the Life Force flows!
It carries us along
on its mysterious road;
we’ve trod this path
for years untold.
For our Lenten study last year, we read a book by the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. entitled A Passion For The Possible . It was inspiring to read the words of this long time peace activist, who was the inspiration for Doonesbury’s Rev. Sloan. He died during Holy Week this year, which seems somehow appropriate.
Not a Good Friday for baseball