Dear Christ Church Family,
In these past weeks, we’ve focused purposefully on our current situation with the Pandemic. Since Easter is about the conquest of Fear and Death, I thought I’d focus on JOY instead. So, today and tomorrow, read the Daily Scripture Lessons, and focus on the joy. And to help with that, here are some Fun Facts about Easter.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
AM Psalm 103
1. Why does Easter Sunday move each year?
Answer: It’s because the ancient church calendar, like the Jewish one, was based on the phases of the moon. The formula for finding Easter Sunday was finally settled as: The first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the Vernal Equinox. Since the first full moon moves around, so does Easter Sunday. Arriving at this formula was actually no small accomplishment. For the first six hundred years or so, there was a roiling debate about whether Easter should be dated from the nearest full moon to the Equinox (which could be just before the Equinox in some years), or be always the first after the Equinox. Constantinople wanted the “nearest” formula, while Rome wanted the “first” formula. Curiously, our ancestors in Britain, the Celtic Church, also went by the “nearest” formula. When St. Augustan of Canterbury arrived and informed the Briton Church that it had to conform to Rome’s view, there was a small rebellion. The King of the Angles, however, went with Augustan, and, eventually, grudgingly, so did the Briton Church. Soon after, all Anglo-Saxon Kings would bear the title of “Vicar of Christ in England” because of their loyalty to Rome. Some have suggested, though, that this is where the seeds of the Anglican Church Reformation were first sown. (Note that the decision of the Church was to follow the decision of the King, their “Vicar,” more than it was to follow the directive of the Pope – a policy that would have great consequences in about 800 years.)
2. Where does the word “Easter” come from?
Answer: Short answer, The Pagans! Easter is a corruption of Oestra, an ancient Celtic goddess of sex and fertility. (Those pesky Celtic ancestors of ours!) Oestra was comparable to the Roman Venus, or Greek Aphrodite. Her festival was celebrated in the spring. Oestra stemmed from the Middle Eastern fertility goddess Ishtar or Ashtoreth. As Judaism arose, it replaced this pagan spring festival of Ashtoreth with the celebration of the Passover. When Christianity came to Britain, following the Jewish example, the Paschal feast replaced the worship of Oestra, but the name remained and eventually evolved into “Easter.”
3. So, what about all those eggs? Are they just pagan too?
Answer: Well, yes and no! Here is some good news. The egg was an emblem of Oestra, but it also had distinctly Christian symbolism as well. It is a very ancient pagan symbol of spring, representing the re-birth of the earth from a seemingly dead “stone.” But, to Christians, the chick emerging from the egg has always been seen as symbolic of Christ emerging from the tomb. Early Christians would often punch a hole into an egg and remove its contents, leaving the empty shell as a symbol of the empty tomb. Since it was such a joyous symbol of Resurrection and life, people soon began decorating them with festive designs and colors. In the Middle Ages, Easter egg decoration rose to become a fine art form in many Mediterranean regions. By the time Faberge’ wrought his magnificent jeweled eggs, however, the religious significance of them had been all but forgotten (although Tsar Nicholas gave a Faberge’ egg to the Tsarina Alexandra every year at Easter). One note: the idea of the “Easter Bunny” laying colored Easter eggs is pure American invention. (Even though the Brits try to claim that the chocolate ones are really the work of the Cadbury Bunny.)