Bhubaneswar: Christians across the globe are celebrating Easter Sunday today. Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb, on the third day after his fructification, is also being observed in Odisha. But before we delve into the celebrations, it is important to know what is Easter, why and how it is celebrated.
What Is Easter?
Easter is the fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah who would be persecuted, die for our sins, and rise on the third day. Remembering the resurrection of Jesus is a way to renew daily hope that we have victory over sin. According to the New Testament, Easter is three days after the death of Jesus on the cross.
Easter follows a period of fasting called Lent, in which many churches set aside time for repentance and remembrance. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. The 40-day period was established by Pope Gregory 1 using the 40-day pattern of Israel, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus’ time in the wilderness.
The week leading up to Easter is called The Holy Week, or “Passion Week”, and includes Palm Sunday (the day Jesus entered Jerusalem and was celebrated), Maundy Thursday (the “Last Supper” where Jesus met with his disciples to observe Passover), and Good Friday (when Jesus would be crucified on the cross).
Easter is a very significant date within Christianity and is the foundation of the Christian faith. Jesus, the Son of God, fulfilled prophecy and through his death, has given the gift of eternal life in heaven to those who believe in his death and resurrection.
What Does Easter Mean?
The origin of the word Easter isn’t certain. The Venerable Bede, an eighth-century monk, and scholar suggested that the word may have come from the Anglo-Saxon Eeostre or Eastre – a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. Recent scholars haven’t been able to find any reference to the goddess Bede mentioned and consider the theory discredited.
Another possibility is the Norse eostur, eastur, or ostara, which meant “the season of the growing sun” or “the season of new birth.” The word east comes from the same roots. In this case, Easter would be linked to the changing of the season.
A more recent and complex explanation comes from the Christian background of Easter rather than the pagan. The early Latin name for the week of Easter was hebdomada alba or “white week,” while the Sunday after Easter day was called dominica in albis from the white robes of those who had been newly baptized. The word Alba is Latin both for white and dawn. People speaking Old High German made a mistake in their translation and used a plural word for dawn, ostarun, instead of a plural for white. From ostarun we get the German Ostern and the English Easter.
When Was Easter First Celebrated
The earliest Christians celebrated the resurrection on the fourteenth of Nisan (our March-April), the date of the Jewish Passover. Jewish days were reckoned from evening to evening, so Jesus celebrated His Last Supper on the evening of the Passover and was crucified on the day of the Passover. The origin of Easter started with early Christians celebrating the Passover and worshipping Jesus as the Paschal Lamb and Redeemer.
The origin of some of Gentile Christians began celebrating Easter on the nearest Sunday to the Passover since Jesus actually arose on a Sunday. This especially became the case in the western part of the Roman Empire. In Rome itself, different congregations celebrated Easter on different days!
Many felt that the date should continue to be based on the timing of the Resurrection during Passover. Once Jewish leaders determined the date of Passover each year, Christian leaders could set the date for Easter by figuring three days after Passover. Following this schedule would have meant that Easter would be a different day of the week each year, only falling on a Sunday once in a while.
Others believed since the Lord rose on a Sunday and this day had been set aside as the Lord’s Day, this was the only possible day to celebrate His resurrection. As Christianity drew away from Judaism, some were reluctant to base the Christian celebration on the Jewish calendar.