What is Easter?
AS I AM WRITING, looking at my garden, I am seeing many signs of Spring, signs of new life: the last of the snowdrops are hanging on, and soon crocuses and daffodils and early blossom will give way to hyacinths and tulips. The seedlings are flourishing in the greenhouse, and it will soon be time to sow them outdoors. When you read this, there will be flourishing, sprouting crops in the fields and time for Easter holidays.
The churches will be preparing for our most important festival of the year, Easter. We may remember that the holiday includes hunting for Easter eggs and eating simnel cake and hot cross buns. It seems that we need food to remind us of what is happening. Easter has many symbols to help us, steeped in history, as the name of the festival itself came from the name of a Saxon goddess Aeostre, a fertility figure, a sign of Spring.
The French name for Easter is Pâques, related to Paschal, the time of Jewish Passover, when people ate a lamb to remember their liberty from slavery in Egypt. So it is traditional for us to eat lamb at Easter. Jesus is known as the Lamb of God. That cute baby of Christmas has grown up to be a courageous man, who allows himself to be killed by the occupying forces of his land to save the people. When we say that he gave his life that we might live, we mean that in a spiritual sense. Jesus did not remain dead. He rose up and was alive again, giving us hope that we too could remain spiritually alive. It gives us hope that this is not a finite existence.
The cross we see on our buns reminds us of the cross on which Jesus died. The egg reminds us of his grave, or tomb. The new life of the lambs we see in the fields and the flowers and plants reminds us of the new life we have in Christ. This gives us hope in the dark days of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
When I was at work, a colleague who had lived in the Netherlands told me about the Easter trees they have there. A small branch was fixed in a flowerpot and hung with small painted wooden eggs. I have collected some myself and some have been given to me. I have seen recently on the Traidcraft website that they will be selling small crosses painted with flowers to hang on the Easter tree. I think I will get some for mine, as a reminder that Jesus died for all of us to free us from death and bring us to new life.
All these reminders can help us to lead life in a different way. We have hope for the future, for something wonderful has happened. We can know we are loved and cared for by God. There is someone in whom we can trust for the future, and we don’t have to be afraid of death.
In churches all over the world, the priests, pastors and ministers will greet us on Easter morning with the words, “Christ is risen”, and we will reply, “He is risen indeed, Alleluia”. We are united in him.
The Reverend Margaret Dimmick is an Anglican Minister
at Caversham Park Church