The Holy Bible: John 11:25-26: “And Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
The fundamental bedrock of Christianity lies in the overwhelming resurrection of Jesus – on Easter Sunday; three days after he died – on Good Friday. By His words, as quoted above by His apostle John, in the Bible, Jesus granted everlasting life to all those who follow His path. Jesus’s death is a reminder call to all Christians to face their truths, repent for sins, and renew the path to deeper Christ consciousness.
A spiritual finale begins with earthly pleasures
Through time, human beings have established rituals leading up to the feast of a risen Christ. Ceremonies commence from the crazy carnival weekend— a global phenomenon — which culminates on Shrove Tuesday in February/ March, also known as Pancake Tuesday. This is traditionally the day to eat up all the sweet treats (Christians in India generally make jaggery and coconut pancakes), in advance of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, marking a 40-day period of sacrifice and service meant to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in contemplation in the desert. Religious and spiritual rituals during Lent include praying more deeply to God, meditating, fasting, abstinence, being more charitable with one’s time, talents and donations, repentance and forgiving, to name few.
Solemnity leads to joy…
The forty days preceding Easter is a time of solemnity — profound introspection, deep prayer and sincere repentance. Turning inward, aligning with one’s truths, internalising Christ’s everlasting light, are some ways to transform the soul from suffering to salvation; from death to rebirth. By choosing to be a light and spread light, there is a deep acknowledgment of expanding ones consciousness during the Easter season.
The solemnity and incredible joy that Easter signifies, marks this enormous sacrifice of Christ, of His body and blood, His whole being suffering, overcoming, and coming out of the death that was inflicted upon Him. It is this immense sacrifice of Christ on the Cross that frees all Christians from their sins.
Renewal— through surrender, suffering, sacrifice and service
The last week of Easter is Holy week, marked by Palm Sunday and seven days of devotion to Jesus. During his last days Jesus created the sacrament of the Eucharist – by the ritualistic and symbolic offering of His body to his disciples. Before the last supper, He washed His disciples’ feet, beside innumerable others, these acts reflect symbols of selfless service. Before his agonising death on Good Friday, Jesus suffered beyond comprehension. Every Christian who loves Christ is deeply moved by his suffering and death. We see in the person of Jesus, suffering, sacrifice and service held inextricably together for the good of humanity.
Suffering comes our way as part of the process of life, and by the strength of our faith, we make our peace with it and place it at the feet of Jesus. This surrender or letting go is a test of our faith.
In our journey, service is sacrifice in the small print of everyday living. The things we do for each other in service involve a little sacrifice, and our trials may seem hard to bear, but it (our surrender, service, sacrifice and suffering) all comes together in the person of Jesus, in the Risen Lord, who restores our faith, strengthens our confidence, and gives us again a true hope that He is indeed our way, our truth and our life — beyond death for eternity.
A universal time for reflection and rejuvenation
Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, which is the first full moon on or after 21 March (a fixed approximation of the Vernal Equinox). Unsurprisingly, the festival conjoins with the spirit of renewal and rejuvenation that is celebrated by many religions – Zorastrians and Baha’i’s with Nowruz, Passover is marked by the Jews, Thailand rejoices in Songkran, Hindus celebrate Holi, Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Baisakhi amongst others.
Easter like all these festivals, remind us that the Supreme and Universal God has not forgotten his creation, and we must not forget our path or purpose here on Earth.
The heightened spirituality of Easter is succinctly transmuted through a profound prayer by Parmahansa Yogananda —
“O Christ, thou art resurrected in Spirit.
We rejoice in thy resurrection, and in its reassurance of thy promise: that as children of God, having descended into the sepulchre of flesh, we too shall re ascend into our Father’s kingdom. On this Easter, all our devotion, all the cries of our hearts, all the perfume of goodness within us, we lay at thy feet of omnipresence.
We are thine, receive us! Through the Christ Consciousness, resurrect us with thee in the Eternal Spirit. Keep us in that kingdom of Bliss ever and forever.”
SYMBOLS OF EASTER
Below are the spiritual significance of some of the symbols of Easter:
The cross is among the most powerful and important religious symbols of Easter and the religion of Christianity. A plain wooden cross most accurately depicts the cross upon which Jesus was crucified and where he died, before being placed in a tomb and being resurrected three days later.
Palm Sunday is the week before Easter Sunday. During Catholic Church services on Palm Sunday, parishioners are provided with palm fronds that are used to ceremonially recreate Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion. This represents the biblical story of townspeople honouring Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey by tossing small branches (likely including palms) and other items ahead of his path. Palms are said to symbolise victory and peace.
The Empty Tomb
Imagery depicting Jesus’s empty tomb is also a significant religious symbol for Easter. The fact that the tomb is empty symbolises the mystery of the resurrection. It demonstrates the role of God in performing a deed that no man could make happen. It points to the hope and promise of new life and rebirth for those who walk with the Lord.
Easter lilies are often the centerpiece of Easter celebrations. Legend has it that white lilies sprung from the ground around Jesus as he spent his final hours on the cross. It is said that when his perspiration hit the ground, a lily grew up in that spot. As a result, Easter lilies are symbolic of new life, as well as purity.
Easter Eggs and the Easter Bunny
While Easter eggs symbolise new life, the bunny is an ancient symbol of fertility, rebirth and new life, both associated with springtime and renewal.