A few weeks before Easter, my mom melted beeswax in a coffee can lid. Then she dipped a straight pin inserted in a wooden matchstick into the wax and quickly made strokes on eggs the way her Polish mother taught her. The eggs sat in coffee cups overnight, soaking in vivid colors of Chick Chick dye. Then Mom scraped off the wax with a butter knife, revealing lovely white patterns.
Eggs are associated with Easter because they are a symbol of life. A chick pops out of a seemingly lifeless egg. And Jesus emerged from a tomb with a new and glorious life. His rising was more than resuscitation. Jesus came forth from the tomb no longer bound by space or time but with an entirely new mode of existence. More than 500 people saw him. Other Easter symbols stand for new life: the prolific rabbit, the rising sun, and spring flowers.
Easter (not Christmas!) is our greatest feast, one we celebrate for fifty days, until Pentecost. Our Christian religion is built upon the empty tomb in Jerusalem. St. Paul states that if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, our faith would be in vain. (1 Cor. 15:14) Without the resurrection, Jesus would have disappeared in the sands of time with the other Jewish “messiahs.” His stupendous rising was the climax of his life on earth and his vindication.
Formerly his followers addressed Jesus with the Aramaic for Lord, which is Mar, a title of respect like Sir. Now they realized that Jesus was fully Kyrios, the Greek translation of Lord used in place of God’s name. The disciples’ main message as they proclaimed the good news was “Jesus is Lord.”
Because Jesus rose, we know that we can trust his teachings and promises, in particular, the promise that we too will rise someday. He told us that what we have always hoped for was true. Jesus vanquished our greatest enemy, death. The story of his life has a happy ending, and he made it possible for us—and all of our loved ones—to live happily ever after.
The Paschal or Easter candle is another symbol of new life: Christ has led us out of the darkness and slavery of sin into light. (Fittingly live is evil in reverse.) The Easter candle is first lighted during the moving Easter Vigil. On that night people were baptized all over the world. They died to sin (symbolized by going down into water) and rose to new life with Christ. During every baptism the Easter candle is lit again. It is also lit for every funeral as a sign of the promise of resurrection.
Every Sunday is “a little Easter,” for at Mass, the Eucharist, the saving acts of Christ are re-presented. We gather as God’s people to remember and enter into them. And there we anticipate eternal life at the heavenly banquet. St. Augustine declared, “We are and Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.” The word alleluia is from the Hebrew hallel (praise) and Yah (for Lord). It means “Praise the Lord.” Let us praise our risen Lord with joy and thankfulness. Happy Easter!
From Pope Francis: “We are called as Christians to be watchmen of the morning, who are able to perceive the signs of the Risen One.”
What is your favorite Easter ritual or tradition?