Table of contents:
- Old Testament Passover Celebration
- Easter after the New Testament
- How to celebrate Easter
- The meaning of Easter
The entire 2000-year history of Christianity is the preaching of an event that happened on the spring morning of the month of Nisan, when Jesus Christ was crucified, and the day of His Resurrection immediately became the main holiday of Christians.
Although everything began much earlier, and the tradition of celebrating Easter is rooted in the deep Old Testament past.
Long before the birth of Christ, the Jewish people had been in slavery to the Egyptian pharaoh for several centuries. The requests of the Israelites to let them go were invariably ignored by Pharaoh. In the last decades before the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, slavery became unbearable for them. The Egyptian authorities, worried about the "excessive" number of Jews, even decided to kill all the boys born to them.
Prophet Moses, at the command of God, tried to achieve liberation for his people. And then the so-called "10 Egyptian executions" followed - the entire Egyptian land (except for the place where the Jews lived) suffered from various misfortunes that fell on the Egyptians here and there. This clearly spoke of Divine contempt for the chosen people. However, the pharaoh did not take the prophesying signs seriously, the ruler really did not want to part with free labor.
And then the following happened: the Lord, through Moses, commanded every Jewish family to kill a lamb, bake it and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and ordered to anoint the doorframe of their dwelling with the blood of the slain lamb.
This was to serve as a sign of the inviolability of the marked house. According to legend, the angel who killed all the Egyptian firstborn, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh's family to the firstborn of cattle, passed by the Jewish houses (XIII century BC).
After this last execution, the frightened Egyptian ruler released the Jews from their lands that very night. Since then, Passover has been celebrated by the Israelites as the day of deliverance, the exodus from Egyptian slavery and the salvation from death of all Jewish male first-borns.
Old Testament Passover Celebration
The celebration of Passover (from the Hebrew verb: "Passover" - "to pass", meaning - "to deliver", "to spare") took seven days. Every devout Jew was to spend this week in Jerusalem. During the holiday, only unleavened bread (matzah) was consumed in remembrance of the fact that the Jews left Egypt was very hasty, and they did not have time to ferment the bread, but took only unleavened bread with them.
Hence the second name of Easter - the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Each family brought a lamb to the Temple, which was slaughtered there according to the rite specially described in the Mosaic Law.
This lamb served as a type and reminder of the coming Savior. As historian Josephus Flavius testifies, on Easter 70 A. D. 265 thousand young lambs and kids were slaughtered in the Jerusalem Temple.
The family had to bake the lamb, which was called Passover, and be sure to eat it completely in the evening on the first day of the holiday. This meal was the main event of the celebration.
Bitter herbs (in memory of the bitterness of slavery), gruel of fruits and nuts, and four glasses of wine were definitely eaten. The father of the family was to tell the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egyptian slavery at a festive dinner.
Easter after the New Testament
After the coming of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament celebration of Easter loses its meaning. Already in the first years of Christianity, it was interpreted as a prototype of the death and Resurrection of Christ. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “Our Passover, Christ, was slain for us” (1 Cor. 5: 7).
At the present time it is impossible to determine exactly what date (in our chronology) the event of the Resurrection took place.
In the Gospel we can read that according to the Jewish calendar, Christ was crucified on Friday, the 14th day of the first spring month of Nisan, and resurrected on the 16th day of Nisan, on the “first day of the week” (after Saturday). Already among the first Christians, this day stood out from all the others and was called "the Lord's day." Later in the Slavic countries it was called "Sunday". Nisan corresponds to March-April.
The Jews lived not according to the solar, but according to the lunar calendar, which differ from each other by 11 days (365 and 354, respectively). In the lunar calendar, errors accumulate very quickly compared to the astronomical year, and there are no rules for correcting them.
In the 1st century A. D. No one worried about the date of the celebration of Christian Easter, because for Christians of that period, every Sunday was Easter. But already in the II-III centuries. the question arose about the most solemn celebration of Easter day once a year.
In the 4th century, the Church decided to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the spring full moon (not earlier than April 4 and not later than May 8 in the new style).
The Bishop of Alexandria, on behalf of the Council, informed all the Churches about the day on which, according to astronomical calculations, Easter falls, with special Easter epistles. Since then, this day has become a "holiday of the holidays" and a "celebration of celebrations", the center and the pinnacle of the whole year.
How to celebrate Easter
Prepare for Easter in advance. The most important holiday is preceded by a seven-week fast - a time of repentance and spiritual cleansing.
The celebration itself begins with participation in the Easter service. This service is different from regular church services. Each reading and chanting echoes the words of the catechurative speech of St. John Chrysostom, which is read even when the morning wakes up outside the windows of Orthodox churches: “Death! Where is your sting? Hell! Where is your victory?"
At the Easter Liturgy, all believers try to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. And after the service is over, the believers "christianize" - they greet each other with a kiss and the words "Christ is Risen!" and answer "Truly He is Risen!"
The celebration of Easter lasts forty days - exactly as long as Christ appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection. On the fortieth day, He ascended to God the Father. During the forty days of Easter, and especially on the first week - the most solemn one - people visit each other, give Easter cakes and colored eggs.
According to legend, the custom of painting eggs dates back to apostolic times, when Mary Magdalene, who arrived in Rome to preach the Gospel, presented an egg to the Emperor Tiberius. Living according to the teacher's covenant “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6, 19), the poor preacher could not buy a more expensive gift. With the greeting “Christ is risen!”, Mary handed the egg to the emperor and explained that Christ rose from the grave, like a chicken that will hatch from this egg.
“How can the dead be resurrected? - followed by the question of Tiberius. "It's like the egg would now turn from white to red." And before everyone's eyes, a miracle happened - the eggshell became a bright red color, as if symbolizing the Blood shed by Christ.
Celebration days shouldn't be just light-hearted fun. Earlier for Christians Easter was a time of special deed of charity, visiting almshouses, hospitals and prisons, where people with the greeting "Christ is Risen!" brought donations.
The meaning of Easter
Christ sacrificed Himself to deliver all mankind from death. But we are not talking about physical death, because people both died and die, and this will last until the second Coming of Christ in His power and glory, when He will raise the dead.
But after the Resurrection of Jesus, physical death is no longer a dead end, but a way out of it. The inevitable end of human life leads to an encounter with God. In Christianity, hell and heaven are understood not as places, but as states of a person who is ready or not ready for this meeting.
The meaning of the New Testament Passover is well expressed in iconography. Now more familiar is the icon of the Resurrection, where Christ stands in shining white clothes on a stone rolled away from His tomb.
Until the 16th century, the Orthodox tradition did not know such an image. The festive icon of the Resurrection is called "The Descent of Christ into Hell." On it, Jesus leads the first people out of hell - Adam and Eve - they are one of those who kept the true faith and waited for the Savior. The same sounds in the main Easter chant: "Christ is risen from the dead by death, trampling upon death and giving life to those in the grave."
The significance of the resurrection of Christ for humanity makes Easter the most significant celebration among all other holidays - the Feast of Feasts and the Triumph of Celebrations. Christ conquered death. The tragedy of death is followed by the triumph of life. After His resurrection, He greeted everyone with the word "Rejoice!"
There is no more death. The apostles announced this joy to the world and called it the “Gospel” - the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This joy fills the heart of a true Christian when he hears: "Christ is Risen!", And the main words of his life: "Truly, Christ is risen!"
A feature of the Gospel of Christ is the availability of its understanding and fulfillment of the commandments of eternal life for people of any culture, any age and condition. Each person can find in him the Way, Truth and Life. Thanks to the Gospel, the pure in heart see God (Matt. 5, 8), and the Kingdom of God dwells within them (Luke 17:21).
The celebration of Easter continues all week after Bright Resurrection - Bright Week. Posts are canceled on Wednesday and Friday. These eight days of the celebration of Christ's Resurrection are like one day belonging to eternity, where "there will be no more time."
Beginning from the day of Easter until its giving up (on the fortieth day), believers greet each other with a greeting: “Christ is Risen! - Truly Risen!"