8 Apr 2012

8th April 2012 - Easter Sunday

Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia! Et apparuit Simoni, alleluia!

The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia! And hath appeared unto Simon, alleluia!

On this weeks programme we join in the celebration of Easter and the Resurrection of the Lord! We celebrate with a reflection on Resurrection and the Easter gospel as well as a look at some Easter traditions which have become commercialised today.

The weeks podcast is available HERE.

Gardening and the Resurrection of the Cosmic Christ - John 20: 1-9

We are talking this week about the keystone to the Christian faith, without what we celebrate today our faith would be in vain! The event of the Resurrection is central to everything we believe.

Easter morning is very much focused on gardens and new life which is erupting at this time of the year. The focus on the garden comes to mind as the tomb was in a garden and in John's gospel Mary encounters the risen Lord in the garden and mistakes him for the garden. It reminds us of the first garden where Adam and Eve walked in innocence with God until their act of disobedience ruptured that innocence and communion with God which is now restored on this new morning!

Sunday is the first day of the week, Resurrection Sunday is the first day of the new Creation, Christs resurrection is a renewal of that creation which was lost through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Like the song reminds us "Morning has broken, like the first morning". Movement in John again this weeks passage for darkness to light, the early morning sets the imagery for the emerging dawn coming out of the darkness of night, the darkness of sin.

Our Easter ceremonies are generally held in Spring and are very appropriate, it is very easy to see the idea of new life all around us. Who hasnt been able to experience that whole feeling of new life and the giftedness of new life, epecially anyone that ha ever been a gardener or a farmer.  We share in the gift of creation in our ability to participate in the Divine Creation, any one who has grown something from a pot plant to a field of corn can testify to how Easter has restore that participation in that Divine Life which has been renewed and restored.

The Resurrection Event is an unknown. Nobody actually witnessed the event of the Resurrection but are left with the empty tomb. We are reliant on the witness of the people present at the time like Peter and John who we hear about this morning. We are reliant on the witness of such failed individuals such as Peter who abandoned Jesus yet the event gave him the courage to go out and proclaim the Resurrection event across the Near East as far as Rome even unto death.

When we are baptised we enter into the tomb with Christ, but what are the stones that keep us locked into that tomb away from the light of Christ. What are we doing to turn ourselves to turn away from God? What do we need to do to roll away the stones in our lives to turn back to God to celebrate the hope we have as Christians.

Like Peter and John do we run to Jesus? Does the Easter message give us joy and urgency about our faith? Peter had run from the court of the High Priest's house in tears of shame and betrayal, now he runs to the tomb in hope thinking, wondering could it be possible? Are we like Peter able to discover that new hope despite what may have happened in our lives, are we open and willing to a personal relationship with the RISEN Christ?

Other reflections on this weeks gospel:

Easter Symbols and traditions


The Paschal Candle representing the Light of Christ (Lumen Christi) is the centerpiece of the table today and, like the Paschal Candle at church, is relit each day (such as at dinner and during family prayer) until the Feast of the Ascension in 40 days when the Light of the World leaves us to ascend to His Father. The candle should be large and white, and should be surrounded with flowers and the symbols of Easter. It can be carved with the Cross and the numbers for the current year as the church's Paschal Candle was yesterday -- first the Cross, then the Greek letters, then the numbers of the current year as in the diagram below. The cuts can be painted to make them stand out (try gold or deep red paint), and 5 grains of incense can be inserted at the ends and center of the Cross to symbolize the 5 Wounds (some people use cloves in place of incense at home, but if you have 5 grains of incense blessed on the Feast of the Epiphany, all the better) .
It was once believed that the flesh of the peacock never corrupts, so peacocks became the classic symbol of immortality. They are an ancient Christian symbol of the Resurrection, and representations of them are found on the tombs of ancient Christians as an expression of their hope to follow Christ in His defeat of death.

Bells are another lovely symbol for the day as they are said to have gone to Rome on Maundy Thursday only to have started returning home at last evening's Easter Vigil to ring joyfully (in France and Belgium, it is these bells, not the Easter bunny, that bring the Easter eggs).
In the United States, the most common symbol of that glorious resurrection for the entire Easter Season is the lily (lilium longiflorum). Jesus loved lilies!: 

Luke 12:27 - Consider the lilies, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these. 
The lily represents purity, chastity, innocence, and St. Gabriel's trumpet, and is a symbol of Our Lady and used to depict the purity of the Saints, especially SS. Joseph, Francis, Clare, Anthony of Padua, and Catherine of Siena. In America, it has become, too, a symbol of the Resurrection. Legend says that lilies originated with Eve's tears when the first couple was banished from the Garden of Eden. Other legend says that they sprang up from the ground when drops of blood fell to the foot of the Cross. It is interesting that these two legends exist, because Christ, the New Adam, wipes away the tears of the children of Eve who became the children of Mary when Christ gave her to us, through John, from the Cross. Mary herself is symbolized also by another lily, lilium candidum, or the Madonna Lily (or "Annunciation Lily").
Butterflies, too, are an apt symbol of the day's meaning. Beginning life as lowly humble caterpillars, they "entomb" themselves in cocoons only to emerge with jewel-colored wings and the ability to soar. What better symbol of the Resurrection -- except maybe for eggs, which had always been symbols of Spring and were items of wonderment to all -- an inanimate object out of which comes life. For Christians, they became the perfect symbol of the tomb Christ conquered, and Jews used (and used) them on their Passover, too, as the Haggadot specifically calls for it as a symbol of rebirth (this is a rabbinical command, not a Scriptural one). 
Another level of symbolism is that the egg represents birth, the Creation, the elements, and the world itself, with the shell representing the firmament, the vault of the sky where the fiery stars lie; the thin membrane symbolizing air; the white symbolizing the waters; and the yolk representing earth. Painted red, eggs are a demonstration that the salvation and re-birth of the world comes through Christ's Blood and Resurrection. Old legend has it that St. Mary Magdalen went to Rome and met with the Emperor Tiberius to tell him about the Resurrection of Jesus. She held out an egg to him as a symbol of this, and he scoffed, saying that a man could no more rise from the dead than that egg that she held could turn scarlet. The egg turned deep red in her hands, and this is the origin of Easter eggs, and the reason why Mary Magdalen is often portrayed holding a scarlet egg.Because of this legend and all of the egg's symbolism, and because eggs are special because they were once forbidden during Lent, Christians make great use of them on this day, eating them, decorating them, and decorating with them. Red is the classic color to use when dying eggs to be eaten, but other colors are more often used these days (pastels being the most common in the United States). Eggs used only for decorative purposes may have their contents blown out and their shells turned into highly ornamental works of art.("Longshanks" -- King Edward I of England, 1239-1307 -- paid to have 450 eggs decorated with gold leaf to give out to the members of his household). Or the "eggs" may be wooden or ceramic and used to adorn the Easter table. The exquisite pysanky of Eastern Europe, made by subsequent applications of wax and dipping in dyes, are one of Easter's treasures, and the forty-nine ceramic, bejewelled eggs created -- only one or two each year at Eastertime -- for the Russian royal family by master jeweller, Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), are museum pieces.
There is yet another tradition involving Easter eggs: at the dinner table, each family member has his own egg. The first person turns to the person next to him and they strike their eggs against each other. When hitting the eggs together, the eggs can only touch rounded end to rounded end; they can't make contact from the side. The person whose egg cracks, which symbolizes the breaking open of Christ's tomb, yells the Easter greeting mentioned above, "Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia!" ("The Lord is risen indeed!"). The person with the intact egg responds, "Et apparuit Simoni, alleluia!" ("And hath appeared unto Simon!") and then goes to the next person and repeats the egg smashing. And so it goes around the table, with the survivor of each round turning to the next person in line and trying to crack his next opponent's egg. If your egg cracks, you're out. The person who remains at the end with the intact egg will be blessed for the year. 

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