Easter, generally known today as the Festival of Christ's Resurrection, is the oldest, greatest, and highest Feast of the Church Year. This day is the climax of the Church Year, the feast of feasts, the king of days. This day of the week, Sunday, has become the Lord's Day.
Easter is the past, however, has been associated with at least two other religious celebrations held at the same time; (1) the Jewish Passover - a spring feast of both harvests and deliverance from bondage. (2) the pagan Anglo-Saxon celebration of the goddess of light and spring Eostra, from whose name the English word Easter is probably derived. Or, the English word Easter may have derived from Eostur, the Norse word for the spring season. For the Christian Church, Easter is the Christian equivalent of the Jewish Passover.
The New Testament and the early Fathers of the Church failed to indicate the existence of any celebration of the resurrection. The churches of the 2nd and 3rd centuries disputed long the exact day on which the event should be commemorated, those of Jewish descent holding the Passover should determine the date, and the Gentiles insisting that the day of the crucifixion was the important factor. The church Council of Nicaea ( 325 A.D. ) settled the dispute by adopting the rule now acknowledged, that Easter should be the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon, or next after March 21 ( the spring equinox ), and then when the full moon happens on a Sunday, Easter Sunday shall be the next Sunday. This sometimes brings Easter Sunday as early as March 22nd, or as late as April 25. The Easter churches still adhere to the old Eastern calendar, which brings the day either before or after the day observed by the Western churches. Efforts have been made in recent years, through the English Parliament and the various European governments now working with the Untied Nations, to secure a fixed Easter day, the choice being the second Sunday of April, but without any present agreement. The dates of all moveable church feats are determined by the date of Easter, since it is the central most important feast of the year.
Easter Processional Cross
Following the Holy Saturday Vigil Service, the Processional Crucifix, made in the 1700's and used in our second church built in 1866, is removed. During the Easter Season, the Memorial Processional Cross is used, which symbolizes the empty cross, "For He Is Risen." The Memorial Processional Cross is used in all worship services from Easter Sunday until Ascension Day, and is used during the Lutheran Veterans Worship Service. The cross was given, by Rev. Arthur Kreinheder, in memory of those service men of Historic Trinity who were killed in action in World War II. They were Arnold Stowszkop (North Carolina), Clarence Hohl and Harold Hartmann (Philippines), Robert Mann (Germany), and Thomas Klix and Gunther Pollack (Pacific). The name of James Ellison Scott, a member of Historic Trinity who was killed in action in the Vietnam War, has been added to the Memorial Processional Cross.
The Coronation Paraments and vestments are used on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and each Funeral Service here at Historic Trinity Lutheran Church. They symbolize our union in birth and death with the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. New this Year, each Pastor of the Cathedral Ministry participating in the Christmas or Easter Festival Worship Service is wearing a “Coronation Chasuble.”
The Easter Lily
The sweet white Candidum Lily (Easter Lily), found wild in what is now Palestine, Asia Minor, and Syria, was cherished for its food and medicinal value by ancient nomadic tribes of the Near East. The lily has had sacred and royal associations throughout history, beginning with the Aegean civilization 3000 B.C. when the lily was associated with the Creatan goddess of fertility Diktyma. Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations all associated the lily with fruitfulness and fertility. A lily bulb was found in an Egyptian mummy case now in a museum in Paris. The Advent of Christianity brought a new importance to the Candidum Lily, for it became the symbol of the Virgin Mary. In the catacombs of Rome, the laity was often carved on tombs. The white Madonna Lily (Luilium candidum) was considered the special flower of the Holy Virgin, and during the Middle Ages it was almost always found in paintings of the Virgin Mary. In Christianity, the lily represents purity, chastity and innocence, and is the symbol of the Resurrection and Easter because it flowers from what seems as a lifeless bulb. The lily was carried from the Near East to southern Europe, from there, over the Alps into northern Europe, and from England and Holland to the New World of America.
Since the 5th Century, the Paschal Candle has been used in the Church from Easter Sunday to Ascension Day. The Paschal Candle is lit for all Worship Services, during these 40 days, as a symbol of the Resurrection. The rest of the year the candle stands beside the Baptismal Font. The Paschal Candle is lit for each Baptism, and placed by the casket of each Burial, reminding us we are baptized and buried into Christ our Risen Lord. Paschal means "pertaining to the Passover," or in the Christian Church "Easter."
Easter Tree Cross
The large Tree Cross, in the front of the church, is made from the trunk of a Christmas Tree that was used here at Historic Trinity during the Christmas Season. This worship aid, helps to demonstrate to us that Jesus Christ the Son of God, who's birth we celebrated at Christmas, came into the world and took on the form of the Son of Man, that He might lay down His life upon the Cross, as the Lamb of God, in payment for the sins of all persons. Mary His Mother, and the Risen Christ, are represented by the two figures who are standing before the empty cross.
A number of popular customs mark Easter Sunday and the rest of the week.
Sunrise Easter Service
A custom allied to the coming of spring with its earlier sunrise, is an outdoor sunrise service celebrating the resurrection.
Easter Clothing and Parade
In the early church it was custom to administer Holy Baptism at "cockcrow." The candidates of Baptism were dressed in shinny white robes which they wore throughout the week. This led to the custom of individuals wearing new clothes on Easter Sunday, and to show them off by walking around the town and country side; thus originated the Easter promenade or Easter parade.
Among the familiar symbols is the Easter Egg. The egg symbolizes new life breaking through the apparent death (hardness) of the eggshell. The egg probably a pre-Christian symbol, was adopted by Christians to denote Christ's coming forth from the tomb. In many countries the exchange of colored or decorated eggs at Easter has become customary.
The Easter bunny or rabbit is also most likely of pre-Christian origin. The rabbit was known as an extraordinarily fertile creature, and hence it symbolized the coming of spring. Although the Easter bunny has been adopted in a number of Christian cultures, the Easter bunny has never received any specific Christian interpretation. The Easter bunny appeared in the 1500's in Germany. The Penn Dutch brought it to the United States; however, it was not widely used till after the Civil War.
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