Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday 2008


My favorite Easter Hymn is the ancient Eastern Orthodox Paschal troparion--a brief stanza often used as a refrain between the verses of a Psalm, but is also used on its own during the Easter Vigil. Its authorship is unknown. I first learned and practiced it in 1989 during a Holy Week retreat at Mount Tabor Monastery near Willits in California. As I processed with the Byzantine Catholic monks around the church at midnight, I found myself dancing, kicking my feet up, and trampling down the sting of death, chanting:

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!


This year I’ll be celebrating Easter in a less demonstrative way at our Presbyterian Church, but enjoying the season nonetheless.

Easter Sunday this year coincides with your anniversary--March 23—and will not do so again until 2160, friends told my wife Rebecca and me. Wow, I thought. Maybe this is not just a coincidence; maybe there’s a message in it. (I tend to reading meaning into calendaric and cosmic events). Rebecca rolled her eyes, but took pleasure in my delight of the auspicious significance of our 23rd anniversary. April 23. Twenty three years. Easter. WOW! I bought a beautiful blue basket flower arrangement: 12 white roses in celebration of our anniversary and 12 purple irises in commemoration of Easter in a perfect mix.

Interesting Technical Notes from Wikipedia:

Easter is the most important religious feast in the Christian liturgical year.[1] It is believed by the Christians to be the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe occurred on the third day after his crucifixion around AD 33. Many non-religious cultural elements have become part of the holiday, and those aspects are often celebrated by many Christians.
Calculation of Easter:

Computations:

Easter on the solar calendar always falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox; the vernal equinox is fixed as March 21. There are some highly technical rules for determining the actual date of the full moon, but when you take all this into account the result is that Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25. Easter has not fallen on the earliest of the 35 possible dates, March 22, since 1818, and will not do so again until 2285. It will, however, fall on March 23 in 2008, but will not do so again until 2160. Easter last fell on the latest possible date, April 25, in 1943 and will next fall on that date in 2038. However, it will fall on April 24, just one day before this latest possible date, in 2011. The cycle of Easter dates repeats after exactly 5,700,000 years, with April 19 being the most common date, happening 220,400 times, or 3.9% compared to a median for all dates of 189,525 times, or 3.3%.

How Easter got its name.

For several hundred years, Easter was not called "Easter." Prior to the fourth century, Christians observed Pascha, Christian Passover, in the spring of the year. Adapted from Jewish Passover, Pascha was a festival of redemption. As Jews, these early followers of Jesus celebrated both their liberation from slavery in Egypt, and their new liberation from the power of death itself.

As Christianity spread throughout the Roman world, however, the celebration became more and more a distinctly Christian one. But there also developed some disagreement about when and how the holiday should be observed. One of the principal reasons for organizing the council of Nicea in 325 CE was to set a firm date for the celebration.

Though the record is not complete, the church fathers were intent on making the holiday into something that those acquainted with the gods and goddesses of the Greco-Roman world be comfortable with. Thus the festival came to be known as "Easter," a name derived, some think, from "Eostre," the Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe; others suggest it was derived from an ancient word for spring "eastre." Without doubt some elements of pre-Christian religious practice have been incorporated into the Easter traditions.