Happy Easter! This greeting is easily shared this weekend, but I wonder does it mean the same thing to each of us. Even the word “Easter” has roots that could be traced to pagan custom. In the west there seems to be two concepts that are used to name the celebration the Lord’s resurrection. Probably the first name was “Pascha” from the Hebrew “Pesach” or Passover. The Teutonic based languages, however, derive the name from a spring time festival named after the goddess of spring, “Eastre,” which celebrated the triumph of life over death, the winter darkness gave way to the spring light and the sun reappeared. It was very easy for the people to make the connection between their spring festival and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection because whether their route to Christ was “Pesach” or “Eastre” it celebrated new hope in their life. But what about today? A recent theological writer remarked that the time is coming when one will be either a mystic or a nonbeliever. This is based on the fast paced cultural changes that surround us. There is a continued lip service to Judeo-Christian culture and values, but in reality there doesn’t seem to be a single dominate cultural value system, but rather a constant shifting between agnostic, pluralistic, secular, anything goes reasoning systems that challenge the very meaning of Easter. Look at the advertising. Did you know that the very essence of Easter is a honey-baked ham? Those Teutonic people are the cause of this. They brought eggs, and hams and cheese to church for blessing before breaking the long, harsh Lenten fast in the feasting that celebrated Easter. The ham contributed to the celebration—it was their fatted calf—a pig raised for this celebration, but NOT the essence of Easter. Do we really know what we celebrate this Easter? Do we believe that the darkness of our personal winter has given way to the spring light and Son of God has reappeared? Do we see in the Easter Eggs a promise of hope because the egg is the source of new life? The hare (which becomes the American Easter Bunny) was part of the ancient Egyptians spring festival and a sign of fertility or gracious blessings. Do children understand that their Easter Basket is a symbol of abundant blessings, a sign of hope, of caring and nurturing—or does it mean anything to them, beyond the candy? Our Christian, Catholic culture survives when these teachable moments are used to pass on yesterday’s values to tomorrow’s church, to tomorrow’s believers, to tomorrow’s decision makers. With these thoughts in mind, I again say to you “Happy Easter!”
Fr. Michael Doyle, O.S.M.