Page 4, 7th April 1972

7th April 1972
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Page 4, 7th April 1972 — Was Easter 'too early' this year? by MARION DESCHAMPS D I° you
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Was Easter 'too early' this year? by MARION DESCHAMPS D I° you

find Easter "too early" this year? There has for long been question of making the date of Easter a fixed one; one suggeStion is that it should fall on the first Sunday following the full moon of the spring; another favours the Sunday after the second Saturday in April, that is, in the case of this year, the day after tomorrow. The controversy over its day goes back, in fact, to the time of the early Church. According .to the first three Gospels Jesus partook of the Jewish Passover with his disciples in the usual manner on the evening of the 14th Nison (as the first month of the year was called), instituting on that occasion a memorial of himself; so that he must have been crucified on the 15th. In St. John's Gospel, however, the Last Supper took place on the 13th, so that his death would have taken place on the 14th.

At first the Church observed the Paschal or Easter festival on the 14th, according to the first three Gospels, but soon there arose a difference of opinion between the Western and Eastern Churches on this point,

the West attaching more importance to the Resurrection together with a feeling that it was incongruous to stop the preceding fast on the 14th and to make a festival of that which ought to be instead a mourning for Christ's death.

The authority of St. John's Gospel was then invoked to show that the Jewish Passover was completely abolished by the crucifixion of Christ on the flay on which the lamb was Sacrificed, since Jesus took the place of the Iamb, and that the fast ought properly to cease on the first day of the week to commemorate his resurrection.

This feeling was further strengthened by the difficulty of adjusting the solar year to the lunar mode and when, by the edict of Constantine in 321 the Sun-day was consecrated as a day of rest and religious observance, Easter was finally transferred from the 14th Nison to the Sunday following the full moon on or next after the vernal equinox.

Having narrowed down the area of dispute on the Easter date, the alternatives have now been circulated to the Churches concerned. It seems that those of the Orthodox faith would prefer a variable date linked with the movements of the moon according to historic tradition.

From historic tradition to the ancient world of pagan deities it is, of course, only a short step when it comes to tracing the symbolic mysteries of Easter, which was originally a heathen festival appropriated by the Church and applied to the Resurrection.

The Spring Equinox was observed from long distant times as the beginning of a new year, a season of rejoicing in honour of the sun-god and of his return to clothe the earth with greenness, triumphant over darkness and death which were symbolised by winter._ As in most folklore ritual, many of the old customs and beliefs still observed are based on legends long since forgotten. Even the custom of colouring eggs red, and supposed to represent the blood of Christ, also existed in ancient times when it was interpreted as signifying the Sun and Fire.

As far back as we can remember, however, it is the egg that has been the most widely accepted symbol of Easter, symbol of renewed life and fertility.

There is a profound beauty, too, in the humble egg containing, as it does, the germ of new life, giving birth renewal of a living being — of resurrection.




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