Somewhere in history, probably earlier than we think, Easter became marketable. Someone realised they could make money from Easter celebrations and then came the chocolate egg. Now almost everyone, especially those who have children in their lives, participates in Easter. This commercial Easter is basically about chocolate and that mythical gift of the four day weekend! For Christians, however, Easter is THE moment of ultimate significance for all of space-time and the people who occupy it.
Easter is a borrowed word. Basically Easter means “April”. In pre-Christian times people in this part of Europe called the month of April Eostre which was the name for the goddess of spring. Before this co-option the festival was (and still is) called Pascha which is basically Greek/Latin for Passover (the Jewish festival that happened around the time of Jesus death). For Christians Easter is not just a day, it is a season lasting for seven weeks on the liturgical calendar. So we celebrate Resurrection Sunday (Anastasis), but then we continue to celebrate the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus up until Pentecost where we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.
What do Christians mean by resurrection and ascension?
For us Jesus, as simultaneously human being and God, dies in solidarity with all humankind to demonstrate God’s love, mercy and grace for us. In doing so, Jesus enters fully into the two fundamental forces that enslave human beings, Sin and Death. On Easter Sunday we believe that Jesus rising from the dead shows that he has physically and spiritually overcome both Sin and Death and therefore has relativized their power in the cosmos. The resurrection power of Jesus’ saving love is now the most powerful force within human grasp. For us, Jesus literally came back from the dead, it's not a metaphor or a clever bit of symbolism. We believe a human being returned from the dead and ascended into heaven (in other words the place where God is God, the heart of God if you like). As such, humanity has become a part of the divine and that means that the divine can become part of humanity. Evil, suffering, death--none of these have the last word in the cosmos. Instead resurrection that leads to a connecting of heaven and Earth, of Human and Divine, is the compass point to which all of reality is irrevocably turned, and the possibility for a person to receive the Spirit of God is now open to all who would bind their lives to the life of Jesus Christ. In Easter we are delivered from death into a kingdom of eternal life; it is for us the Passover on the grandest cosmic scale.
Though this event happened one time in history, for the Church this story is something that is ongoing and something that we intentionally remember each year. In this sense we are acting out our belief that, in Easter, time is being transformed by and into eternity. Easter is, if you like, not just a celebration but a way of life year after year.
When I was little I was most excited by the biggest Easter eggs. As I have grown older (not always wiser) I have realised that a bit of chocolate and a four day weekend is not big enough for me. Even the gifts of a decent home, a job with a steady income, a holiday every now and then and acts of charity to ease my conscience are not enough. I desire a big story, one that redefines who I am and places me in a different relationship to reality. One that puts me in close connection with God, my own spirit, and the people I share this planet with. Easter is big powerful stuff.
We at 3 Cups Church wish you a Happy Easter, but we also wish you a life of meaning, joy and belonging. We wish for you the transforming presence of the love of Jesus Christ this Easter.
If you want to know more about Easter, anything else about the Christian story, or just need someone to talk to, please use the contact page to connect with us.
Image: Henry Ossawa Tanner, Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City (1885)