This Sunday is Easter! Easter Sunday also begins the season called the “Great Fifty Days.” It begins at sunset Easter Eve and continues through Pentecost. The Easter Season is more than an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. The initial purpose of the 50-day Easter season was to continue the faith formation of new Christians who completed their final preparatory period during Lent.
Easter really needs no description in one sense — it is the holiday (holiday literally means holy day) that celebrates and commemorates the central event of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the oldest Christian holiday and the most important day of the church year. All the Christian movable feasts and the entire liturgical year of worship are arranged around Easter. It is the centerpiece of the Christian faith, according to the Apostle Paul, who says that if Jesus Christ has not been resurrected then the Christian faith is worthless and futile. Without Easter, there is no Christianity.
Recall that I had written that the name Easter has caused a disconnect with the past. The word does not have any Christian or Jewish meaning. It is a term whose derivation comes from the word Eastre, a Teutonic goddess of springtime and fertility. We don’t know exactly when the term Easter was popularized, but it is certainly not the original term. “Pasch” was the original name used to describe the day and season. The word derives from the Hebrew term for Passover, therefore the obvious connection between the Resurrection and the Exodus affirms the continuity between Judaism and Christianity.
The first Christians were Jews. It was inevitable that they would see a natural albeit symbolic connection between the Exodus and the Resurrection:
• The symbolic continuity between the slaughtered lamb of the Passover Seder and the crucified lamb of God.
• As Moses led the Israelites from bondage to Pharaoh, so Jesus provides the way out of bondage to sin and death.
• The crucifixion of Jesus took place during the Passover season.
• Until the rise of anti-Semitism, Christianity saw itself as the natural development and culmination of Judaism.
These among other reasons affirm that we are a continuation of and share in the Jewish faith and history. Christianity is not a drastic displacement of Judaism. While it seems highly unlikely that the name Easter will be replaced by Pasch, and in fact I prefer to call it Resurrection Sunday, we should nonetheless have some background and understanding of our history and what we share of the Hebraic faith. Christianity is not a dispensation; it is a continuation of the covenants God made with Israel.
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