Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Resurrection Sunday

Some people have noticed that I tend to use the term Resurrection Sunday instead of Easter Sunday. This is because of an internal struggle that I have been dealing with for any years. For most of my younger life I was content to celebrate Easter with all of our western traditions such as the easter bunny, colored eggs in baskets filled with cellophane grass. O yes there was also the religious thing at church. I was indeed happy with that annual celebration of spring and new life.  Then in seminary I was given an assignment to write a paper on the word “Easter” not the day but the word. That school paper changed the way that I think about our annual celebration.

I discover that for almost the first four hundred years of the Christian Church the Christians referred to the day as “Resurrection Day” and not Easter. That was because back then, when pagans ruled the Roman Empire Easter referred to the European fertility goddess “Easotor” or in English “Easter.” Her symbols were the bunny and eggs, which were colored and rolled in the grass.  Until 325 AD it was illegal in the Roman Empire to be Christian so the celebration of the Resurrection Day was a quiet congregational remembrance of the Resurrection of  Jesus the Christ. Then came the day when the emperor became a Christian and all that changed when he made the Christian religion the official religion of the Roman Empire.

The celebration of the pagan fertility goddess Easter came at the spring equinox, which happens to be the same time as the Jewish Passover. Because the Resurrection happened on the Sunday after Passover the two religious celebrations happened at the same time. At first the Christian Church in Rome tried to destroy the pagan religions turning most of the pagan temples in to churches. The Roman church discovered that though they stopped the official pagan worship the people kept the Easter pagan traditions, as traditions die a slow hard death. The Roman church then decided to simply change the meaning of the eggs from fertility to new life in Christ. It worked very well as the common people over several generations forgot that Easter referred to a pagan goddess. Through there are still some pagans who worship “Eastor” with the old pagan traditions.

I was shocked and appalled to discover this information and began a slow personal reformation of my own Resurrection theology and traditions. Our Church has prided itself on being a “New Testament” church that uses Bible names for Bible things so I have began referring to Resurrection Sunday. I think that it is time that the Christian Church began to reclaim that reference to our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. What do you think?

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