Friday, November 24, 2017
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Easter is the annual festival observed throughout Christendom, in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated as falling on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal (pertaining to spring) equinox. Because of the connection with the lunar cycle this is why, unlike Christmas, it never falls on the same date every year.

Four different periods may be mentioned as connected with Easter:

First, the preparatory fast of the forty days of Lent;

Secondly, the fifteen days, beginning with the Sunday before and ending with the Sunday after Easter, during which the ceremonies of the Holy Week and the services of the Octave of Easter were observed;

Thirdly, the Octave of Easter, during which the newly baptized wear white garments;

And Eastertide proper, or the paschal season beginning at Easter and lasting till Whit Sunday, during the whole of which time the festival character of the Easter season was maintained in the services of the church.

 

Jesus Christ was crucified on Good Friday. The subsequent events are described in the versions contained in the gospels of Saint(s) Mark, Luke, Matthew and John.

 

The day after Jesus Christ was crucified, the chief priests gathered (on Saturday) in the presence of Pilate and said,

“Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’

Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day..”

(Matthew, chapter 27, verses 63, 64.)

 

From the gospel according to St. Mark (chapter 16) after the sabbath was over, people close to Jesus (including Mary Magdalene) came to the tomb early in the morning, at sunrise. They were wondering about their ability to roll away the great stone that had been used to seal the tomb.

 

Mary Magdalene, along with the others had come to anoint Jesus. Suddenly, there was a great trembling of the earth, because an angel of the Lord came to the place, descending from heaven, and rolled away the stone and sat over it; his face shone like lightning, and his garments were white as snow; so that the guards trembled for fear of him, and were like dead men. The tomb was empty, except for some linen cloths.

 

Mary Magdalene ran and came to Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” (From the gospel according to St. John, chapter 20.)

In the gospel according to St. Luke, the narration is as follows: The holy women went into the tomb, but could not find the body of the Lord Jesus. They were still puzzling over this, when two men came and stood by them, in shining garments. These said to them as they bowed their faces to the earth in fear, “No need to be dismayed; you have come to look for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. Why are you seeking one who is alive, here among the dead?” (St. Luke, chapter 24.)

“He is not here; He has risen, as He told you.” (St. Matthew, chapter 28.)

 

In the gospel according to St. John, the events are described thus: Mary Magdalene stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. She saw two angels clothed in white sitting there, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. They said to her, “Woman, why art thou weeping?”

“Because they have taken away the Lord, and I cannot tell where they have taken Him.” Saying this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but did not know that it was Jesus. (St. John, chapter20.)

 

Jesus asked her why she was weeping and for whom she was searching. She thought that he was the gardener and said to him “If it is thou, Sir, that has carried Him off, tell me where thou has put Him, and I will take Him away.”

Jesus said to her “Mary!” and she turned and said, “Rabboni!” (Hebrew for Teacher, or Master.) Then Jesus said, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet  ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”

 

Later, Jesus told His disciples, “Peace to you!” He said that, as His Father had sent Him on an errand, He was now sending them. He further said that “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any they are retained.”

Thomas, (one of His disciples who had not met Him after His crucifixion till then) saw Him after eight days, and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas because you have seen Me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

The birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus did not only establish a new faith. It showed a path that everyone should tread. His teachings cannot be confined to the Holy Bible, or indeed, only to followers of the Christian faith. They contain a message of sacrifice and compassion that is universally applicable. Jesus Christ explained, in the simplest possible way that, if one can imbibe the values that He lived for, died for, and then rose again; earthly life can be touched by the blessing of the Divine. That life does not end with physical death. The belief  contained in verse 16, chapter 3, of the gospel according to St. John is that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The Son suffered for the sins of others. His resurrection reasserts the belief in life beyond this earthly one.

The events outlined above occurred more than two thousand years ago. Yet their relevance today is, perhaps even more profound than ever, in a world that is torn by strife and hatred. In Shakespeare’s play, “Julius Caesar”, Mark Antony says, “The evil men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with the bones.”

 

The inspiration from Easter, for humankind, is far more optimistic. The values to abide by, the ideals to cherish and the reasons to live for, contained in the teachings of Jesus Christ, are timeless and eternal.

 

 

 

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