What then is the true meaning of Easter?
Celestial spirit that doth roll
The heart's sepulchral stone away,
Be this our resurrection day,
The singing Easter of the soul -
O gentle Master of the Wise,
Teach us to say: "I will arise."
~Richard Le Gallienne
More than one billion Christians around the world, including about 60,000 Dominicans, will celebrate Easter next week, on Easter Monday. Those of us who will participate will once again stand in wonder of the power of the living God who died on the cross, rose from the dead and promised to save the world. Easter, therefore, is the essence of the Christian faith and, if you believe, the real reason for life on earth.
At Easter every year, Christians celebrate the resurrection, God raising His beloved Son from his earthly grave. But to many Christians, Easter symbolizes the fact that the majestic God can also work wonders to transform the most wayward life of the most terrible sinner. Jesus rising from the grave tells us if we live like Him, we too will one day rise from the grave and live for eternity.
The fascinating story will begin on Good Friday when Jesus Christ was crucified and buried. But lo and behold, when the women who followed Jesus awoke on Sunday morning to perform their ritual duty to Jesus they discovered an empty grave.
The Apostle Luke tells us that on the first day of the week at early dawn they would come to the tomb taking with them the spices they had prepared. Imagine their surprise when they found the stone that covered the grave rolled away from the entrance and the body of Christ missing.
Jesus had earlier predicted that He would have vacated the grave after three days. The faithful believed Him because they had faith that the mystery f the resurrection is part of a larger wondrous plan. Easter then is like rain on a parched field after a severe drought. Easter lifts Christians out of their daily frustrations of living. Easter brings freedom after one wanders lost in the forest of life. After the celebration of Easter, Christians become fully alive. This is what Easter is all about. This is what Christianity is all about.
It is a day, a period, when Christians are reminded of the power of God and his potential to transform lives. Hence, every day is Easter because every day we need to hope that changes for the better will come through Christ no matter how bleak the hour before the dawn.
But many Christians lament the fact that Easter and the other religious holidays are now considered to be times to organise fetes and to have a good time. Carnival has just ended and it brought fun and frolic and the excesses always cloud the meaning of the occasion. Christians do the same thing at Christmas. That is why there has been the suggestion that the name of many Christian holidays should be changed to reflect the true meaning of the occasion.
Reverend Hill suggests, for example, that that the name Good Friday should be changed to Crucifixion Friday and Easter Monday should be changed to Resurrection Monday. The same could be said about carnival. It would seem that the Catholic Church, despite its concern of the debunciousness of event and the association with Church, has decided that carnival will remain on the traditional dates; that is, two days before Ash Wednesday and the Christian practice of Lent. What more should we say about that?
But by whatever name, Easter will always be the occasion to remind Christians of the unrelenting darkness that seems to surround Dominica and the rest of the world. Every day we are bombarded with news of unbelievable violence, ISIS terror, famine and the scourge of diseases such as Ebola, and hunger and ignorance. So who can blame Christians who doubt their faith and wonder to themselves, or aloud, whether the God who rose from the dead on Easter Monday is alive or whether He has given up on this wicked world.
Easter then is hope – for those who believe and act on that belief.
But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust.