Sunday, April 08, 2007

Some Thoughts On Easter

First of all, to all that celebrate it, I want to take a moment to wish all of you a Happy Easter. I could write on the events that led up to the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, but if that is what interests you I would recommend you see, "The Passion Of The Christ" (if you haven't already done so). Instead, I will just type out a short synopsis of the day itself, with an Easter thought or two added to stimulate some thinking on this much revered subject.

Much has both been written and said, on the subject of Easter. For Christians, it is the holiest of holidays, because it symbolizes the objective of all that follow the teachings of Christ. This is the day that is used to celebrate His triumphant resurrection that was not heralded for all to see. Many didn't pay much attention, many just weren't aware that this was taking place at the time. In short, access was limited. So naturally, such humble anonymity was not proclaimed to the ends of the civilized world, so easily.

One of the things the Jews were expecting from their Messiah was that of a royal ruling figure. Much of the Gentile world of that day was enamored with royalty that girded itself with pomp and circumstance, as well. Little did the Jews realize at that time, there were two pictures portrayed by the OT prophets that foretold of his arrival; one was that of a majestic monarch and the other was a common man that suffered in humility, and offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. But many in that lived in the world of that time, many that lived far from Israel and Judea, knew nothing at all of the OT portrayal or the events that led to the celebration we have today.

They didn't have CNN International or Al-Jazeera to cover it. There was no Jerusalem Post, no BBC World Service, no mass telecommunications media at all. And because historical records were murky at best, it becomes clear as to why we cannot pinpoint the exact date as to the death and resurrection.

In the years that followed the death and resurrection, not much thought was given to marking the date, for remembrance. It wasn't important to celebrate any of the significant events that surrounded this occasion. As a result of this, there were no cultural traditions practiced or set in any of the Christian communities scattered throughout. Most of the communities were small and dispersed throughout a world that was rich in pagan tradition, and the biggest concern many had during that time was staying alive, to further the Gospel. From lion fodder to outright killings, life was not a bouquet of roses for those that dared forsake the practices of their forefathers and take up a new path.

But when Constantine promoted and eventually converted the Roman Empire to Christianity, those that had been so vehemently persecuted under previous emperors were able to rest a bit easier. But as could be expected, it wasn't easy to convert an entire mass of people that had based their culture around time-honored and highly respected pagan deities (and the feasts to celebrate them), to the simpler more humble teachings that accompanied the Christian message.

Transformation needed to be slow. Constantine and those that were commissioned under him knew that they could not just uproot these traditions and replace them with nothing. So, during this transition period, old pagan customs were paired with significant events, taught by the Christians. The birth of Christ was put with the winter solstice celebration and Easter was infused as the one for the vernal equinox. This is why certain fundamentalist sects refuse to celebrate Easter, even yet, today.

Knowing this, do we (as Christians) err greatly by celebrating Easter? If we are truly Christians would even want to? I believe that Paul addressed this question somewhat, in one of his letters to Corinthian church.

I Cor. 8: 7, 8

Speaking on the subject of knowledge he writes:

7Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

8But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

Paul, as an ever-so studious student of the Gospel, had learned that his deep understanding would not prevent him from going into an idol's temple for the specific purpose of getting something to eat. He traveled a lot and getting a meal on the road was important, even in that day. Idol temples seemingly always had a festival going on and food was almost always part of the celebration. So, it only stood to reason that he do so, when he had the opportunity. You see, Paul deeply believed that his God would not hold him accountable for stepping inside for a moment, long enough to grab a bite to eat. He did not partake of the other activities, he did not submit to their religious practices. He just ate and left, and did so with a clean conscience.


Because he knew that an idol was nothing, nothing but a carved statue of some kind that had no life within itself, and certainly no power over him. He did not worship the god of that temple. But, he was thankful that his God had led him to a place where he had the opportunity to eat something, after doing the many things God had called him to do.

So, tying this in with the celebration of Easter, I think we can safely say: Celebrating Easter for the event that it represents is not an abomination, if we do it of a sincere heart. Regardless of the pagan roots, the day should always be marked with some form of reverence towards what it represents to Christians. I do so, as to honor God, and not to honor any previous pagan gods that were believed to be the source of this and the other feasts. Because in my view, in my humble opinion, they are nothing; just like those statues that Paul looked at as he entered those temples, for an occasional meal.

As for me, being the annual church attendee that I am, I will be going to the early service today. I won't be going to mark or celebrate this as the very day from a historical standpoint, like many. I will be thinking about the event itself and reflect on how thankful I am that it did happen. Because Christ is alive, it is our hope that we too can live. That's my view.

So, again I say:

Happy Easter, to all that celebrate it as such