"Do not be afraid!”
1 Samuel, Chapter 12, Verse 23-24
23As for me, far be it from me to sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you and to teach you the good and right way. 24But you must fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart, for you have seen the great things the LORD has done among you.
Samuel here is reminding the Israelites at the coronation of Saul that even though they now have a king like all the other nations they are not to be like all the other nations; that they must serve first the Lord of heaven and earth. Yet, they did not nor could not; they like all men needed a savior. “We have no king but Cesar.” Today our Lord, Christ, the Messiah; rises and defeats death and gives us the crown of His victory, Happy Easter.
WHAT is the feast of Easter? The celebration of the day on which Jesus Christ, according to the predictions both of Himself and the prophets, by His almighty power, reunited His body and soul, and arose alive from the grave.
Why is Easter Sunday sometimes called Pasch or Passover? It is from the Latin Pascha, and the Hebrew Phase, meaning “the passing over” because the destroyer of the firstborn in Egypt passed over the houses of the Israelites who had sprinkled the transom and posts of the door with the blood of the paschal lamb and because the Jews were in that same night delivered from bondage, passing over through the Red Sea into the land of promise. Now we Christians are by the death and resurrection of Christ redeemed and passed over to the freedom of the children of God, so we call the day of His resurrection Pasch or Passover.
How should we observe the feast of Easter? We observe the feast in such manner as to confirm our faith in Jesus Christ and in His Church, and to pass over from the death of sin to the new life of grace.
What is the meaning of Alleluia, so often repeated at Easter-time? “Alleluia” means “Praise God.” In the Introit of the Mass of the day the Church introduces Jesus Christ as risen, addressing His heavenly Father as follows “I rose up and am still with Thee, alleluia ; Thou hast laid Thy hand upon Me, alleluia. Lord, Thou hast proved me, and know me; Thou hast known my sitting down and my rising up.”
Why did the holy women desire to anoint the body of Jesus with sweet spices? The women wanted to anoint Jesus’ body out of love for him. This love God rewarded by sending to them an angel, who rolled back the great stone from before the mouth of the sepulcher, comforted them, and convinced them that Christ was really raised from the dead. From this we learn that God always consoles those who seek Him. The angel sent the holy women to the disciples to console them for Christ s death, and in order that they might make known His resurrection to the world. St. Peter was specially named not only because he was the head of the apostles, but because he was sadder and more dispirited than the others on account of his denial of Our Savior.
How did Our Savior prove that He was really risen from the dead? Our Lord proved Himself risen by showing Himself first to the holy women, then to His disciples, and finally to five hundred persons at once. His disciples not only saw Him, but ate and drank with Him, not once only, but repeatedly, and for forty days.
It was through combat and inexpressible sufferings that Our Savior gained victory. So also with us we gain heaven only by labor, combat, and sufferings shall we win the crown of eternal life; though redeemed by Christ from the servitude of Satan and sin, we shall not be able to enter the kingdom of Christ unless, after His example and by His grace, we fight till the end against the flesh, the devil, and the world; for only he that perseveres to the end shall receive the crown (n. Tim. ii. 5).
The Easter Kiss and Greeting
The day that the risen Christ appeared to His apostles, breathed the Spirit on them, and wished them peace is the day that Christians greet each other with special fraternal affection. Early Latin Christians embraced each other on Easter with the greeting, Surrexit Dominus vere ("The Lord is truly risen"). The appropriate response is Deo gratias ("Thanks be to God"). Greek Christians, on the other hand, say, Christos aneste ("Christ is risen"), to which is answered, Alethos aneste ("Truly He is risen"). The mutual kiss and embrace last throughout the Easter Octave.
There was a time in both the Eastern and Western churches that no one would dream of eating unblessed food on Easter. Priests would either visit families on Holy Saturday night and bless the spread made ready for the following day, or they would bless the food brought to church after the Easter Sunday Mass. The old Roman ritual attests to this tradition by its title for Food Blessings: Benedictiones Esculentorum, Praesertim in Pascha - "The Blessings of Edibles, Especially for Easter".
New Clothes & the Easter Parade
Most people are familiar with the old-fashioned images of ladies bedecked in crisp new bonnets and dapper escorts during the annual Easter parade. What at first blush appears to be no more than a spectacle of vanity, however, is a combination of two deeply religious practices. The first is the custom of wearing new clothes for Easter. This stems from the ancient practice of newly baptized Christians wearing a white garment from the moment of their baptism during the Easter Vigil until the following week. The rest of the faithful eventually followed suit by wearing something new to symbolize the new life brought by the death and resurrection of Christ. Hence an old Irish saying: "For Christmas, food and drink; for Easter, new clothes." There was even a superstition that bad luck would come to those who could afford new clothes for Easter but did not buy them. The second practice is the Easter walk, in which the faithful (mostly couples) would march through town and country as a part of a religious procession. A crucifix or the Paschal candle would often lead the way, and the entourage would make several stops in order to pray or sing hymns. The rest of the time would be spent in light banter. This custom became secularized after the Reformation and thus became the "Easter parade" so popular before the 1960s.
Two kinds of activities (besides eating) surround this famous feature of Paschal celebration. The first is the decoration of the egg, a custom that goes back to the first centuries of Christianity. Colored dyes are the easiest way this is done, though different customs from various cultures sometimes determine which colors are used. The Chaldean, Syrian, and Greek Christians, for example, give each other scarlet eggs in honor of the most precious blood of Christ. Other nations, such as the Ukrainians and Russians, are famous for their beautiful and ornate egg decorations. Egg games are also a familiar part of Easter merriment. Most Americans are familiar with the custom of Easter egg hunts, but there are other forms as well. Egg-pecking is a game popular in Europe and the Middle East (not to mention the White House lawn), where hard-boiled eggs are rolled against each other on the lawn or down a hill; the egg left uncracked at the end is proclaimed the "victory egg."
The Dancing Sun
There is an old legend that the sun dances for joy or makes three cheerful jumps on Easter morning. In England and Ireland families would place a pan of water in the east window to watch the dancing rays mirrored on it. Other "sun" customs involve some kind of public gathering at sunrise. Greeting the daybreak with cannons, gunfire, choirs, or band music was once very popular, as was holding a prayer service, followed by a procession to the church where Mass would be offered.
According to some scholars the beautiful sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes sung during the Easter Mass in the traditional Roman rite is the inspiration for the development of medieval religious drama. The poem's dialogic structure, with its question and answer format, became the foundation on which more lines were added until a separate play was formed. This play, in turn, inspired the composition of the other medieval "mystery" plays held on Christmas, Epiphany, Corpus Christi, and so on. Solemn vespers and benediction were a traditional part of every Sunday afternoon in many parishes, but especially so on Easter. Perhaps one reason for this was the medieval custom of Easter fables where, prior to the service, the priest would regale the congregation with amusing anecdotes and whimsical yarns. This served as a sort of antidote to the many sad or stern Lenten sermons of the previous weeks.
The Easter Octave
The entire Octave of Easter constitutes an extended exultation in Christ's victory over death. Obviously, the two most important days of this Octave are the two Sundays. As mentioned elsewhere, Low Sunday was once the day that the neophytes took off their white robes and resumed their lives in the daily world, and it was also the traditional time for children to receive Holy Communion. Other days of the Octave, however, also had distinctive customs of their own. Easter Monday was reserved as a special day for rest and relaxation. Its most distinctive feature is the Emmaus walk, a leisurely constitution inspired by the Gospel of the day (Luke 24.13-35). This can take the form of a stroll through field or forest or, as in French Canada, a visit to one's grandparents. Games of mischief dating to pre-Christian times also take place on Easter Monday and Tuesday. Chief among them are drenching customs, where boys surprise girls with buckets of water, and vice versa, or switching customs, where switches are gently used on each other. Easter Thursday in Slavic countries, on the other hand, was reserved for remembering departed loved ones. Mass that day would be offered for the deceased of the parish. Finally, Easter Friday was a favorite day for pilgrimages in many parts of Europe. Large groups would take rather long processions to a shrine or church, where Mass would be offered.
Orthodox Easter commemorates Jesus' resurrection three days after his crucifixion and death. Following his death, he was removed from the cross and hastily buried in a tomb. On Sunday, it was discovered that Jesus' tomb was empty and angels informed onlookers that Jesus had risen. Throughout the next 40 days, Jesus appears to his apostles and disciples before finally ascending to heaven. Orthodox Easter is the highest and holiest of holidays in the Christian Orthodox faith. Orthodox Easter follows the Julian calendar and must take place after the Jewish Passover. For these reasons, Orthodox Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, following the vernal equinox and always after Jewish Passover.
Orthodox Easter Facts
· Easter is often called Pascha in the Orthodox tradition. Pascha normally falls either one or five weeks later than the feast as observed by Christians who follow the Gregorian calendar. However, occasionally the two observances coincide, and on occasion they can be four weeks apart.
· Eggs represent new life as well as Jesus' tomb. In some Orthodox churches eggs are dyed red to symbolize either the blood of Christ or the red cloak Roman soldiers put on Jesus as they tortured him.
· In the Orthodox tradition, the Easter season lasts for 100 days. It begins as a time of preparation, 49 days before the holiday. The proceeding 50 days after Easter is dedicated for strengthening faith in Jesus Christ.
· The final worship service of Pascha is usually held at noon on Sunday. Called the Agape Vespers, the service highlights St. Thomas' encounter with the risen Jesus. Thomas doubted that the resurrection was real until Jesus told him to touch his wounds. Thomas' story is usually read in a number of languages to emphasize the universal nature of Christ's life, death, and resurrection.
Orthodox Easter Top Events and Things to Do
· Stay up late and go to an Orthodox vigil service. Bringing light into the church is a dramatic and joyous occasion.
· Wear some new clothes to church. This is an ancient tradition that goes back to the early church when newly baptized persons were given a white gown to wear on Easter.
· Take an Easter basket to an Orthodox church and have it blessed. Some Eastern Orthodox Church members put together special baskets with particular items that symbolize different aspects of their faith. These items often include bread, wine, salt, cheese, ham, and horseradish.
· Russian Orthodox believers often visit the cemetery on Easter, placing a dyed red egg on each loved one's grave. The eggs are dyed red because of a tradition that says Roman soldiers put on Jesus' red cloak after he was crucified. Consider paying homage to your deceased loved ones on Easter.
Today bring to me all devout and faithful souls
 Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.