The Temple of
Christ's Body is restored; He is risen, alleluia! Today is the
Feast of Feasts!
On this, the
holiest day of the entire year, and for the entire Octave of Easter,
Latin Catholics greet each other with the words of Luke 24:34,
"Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia!" ("The Lord is risen indeed!"). The
person so greeted responds, "Et apparuit Simoni, alleluia!" ("And hath
appeared unto Simon!"). Catholics may even answer their telephones with
this greeting. An old Ukrainian legend relates that, after His
Resurrection, Christ threw Satan into a deep pit, chaining him with
twelve iron chains. When Satan has chewed through each of the twelve
chains, the end of the world will come. All year long, the Evil One
gnaws at the iron, getting to the last link in the last chain -- but
too late, for it is Easter, and when the people cry "Christ is risen!"
all of Satan's efforts are reversed. When the faithful stop saying the
Easter acclamation, the end of time has come...
Throughout the entire Easter Season, the Angelus prayer that is
offered, when possible, at the ringing of the Angelus
bells, is replaced by the joyous Regina Coeli, which begins, "Queen
of Heaven rejoice, alleluia: For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
Has risen as He said, alleluia."
On this most beautiful of Feasts, the Easter table should be adorned
with the best of everything -- the most beautiful china, a pure, white
tablecloth, the best possible wine, flowers (especially pussy willow,
lilies, and spring bulb flowers), etc., all with the colors white and
gold -- symbolizing purity and glory -- and the traditional symbols of
Easter predominating. And we should look our best, too; it is common
for those who can afford it to buy a new outfit to wear on this day.
This custom springs from the idea of "newness" inherent in the entire
Season -- the new members of the Church baptized at the Vigil in their
new Baptismal albs, the New Law, a new life in Christ.
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) . The words to pray when making the cuts: 1
the vertical branch of the Cross:
Christus heri et
the horizontal branch of the Cross:
and the End,
the Greek letters:
Alpha et Omega.
Alpha and Omega.
the millenial figure of the year at the upper left quadrant:
His are the times
the second figure of the year in the upper right quadrant:
When cutting the
decade figure of the year in the lower left quadrant:
Ipsi glória et
To Him be glory
When cutting the
last figure of the year in the lower right quadrant:
æternitátis sæcula. Amen.
through all ages
of eternity. Amen
incense for the First Wound:
Per sua sancta
By His holy
incense for the Second Wound:
incense for the Third Wound:
may He guard
incense for the Fourth Wound:
et consérvet nos
and preserve us,
incense for the Fifth Wound:
Christ the Lord.
As the candle is
glorióse resurgéntis díssipet ténebras cordis et mentis.
May the light of
Christ in glory rising again dispel the darkness of heart and mind.
It was once believed that the flesh of the peacock never
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
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 -- see
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!:
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
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). 3
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 an egg, often
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.
Easter eggs that
are to be eaten may be blessed by the priest (sometimes on Holy Saturday with the rest of the
Easter foods brought to church in a basket, or sometimes after the
liturgy today) with the following blessing from the Roman Ritual:
nostrum in nomine Domini
||P. Our help is
in the Name of the Lord
|R: Qui fecit
caelum et terra.
|R. Who made
Heaven and earth
|P. The Lord be
|R: Et cum
|R. And with thy
quaesumus Domine, tuae benedictionis + gratia, huic Ovorum creaturae:
ut cibus salubris fiat fidelibus tuis, in tuarum gratiarum actione
sumentibus, ob resurrectionem Domini nostri Jesu Christi, qui tecum
vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
May the grace of
Thy blessing, we beseech Thee, O Lord, + come upon these eggs, that
they may become a wholesome food for Thy faithful, who gratefully
receive them in honor of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
liveth and reigneth unto endless ages. Amen.
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.
For another great Easter egg idea, see this page on "Confetti Eggs ("Cascarones").
seems to have
its own version of an Easter bread, which, like the eggs, also has its
nostrum in nomine Domini
|P. Our help is
in the Name of the Lord
|R: Qui fecit
caelum et terra.
|R. Who made
Heaven and earth
|P. The Lord be
|R: Et cum
|R. And with thy
Christe, panis Angelorum, panis vivus aeternae vitae, benedicere +
dignare panem istum, sicut benedixisti quinque panes in deserto: ut
omnes ex eo gustantes, inde corporis et animae percipiant sanitatem.
Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
O Lord Jesus
Christ, Bread of the Angels and Living Bread of eternal life, deign to
bless + this bread as Thou didst bless the five loaves in the desert:
that all who taste it may receive health in body and soul. Thou who
livest and reignest unto endless ages. Amen.
Aside from the Easter eggs and Easter bread, the most
traditional Easter foods are those made with all the things once
forbidden or restricted during Lent (meats, butter, etc.), but the
Easter food of all Easter foods is, of course, lamb, in honor of the
Paschal lambs slain by the Israelites and whose blood was painted over
their doors so death would pass them by, all prefiguring the Lamb of
God Who takes away the sins of the world.
Another Easter folk
custom -- one known all over Europe -- is that of watching the sun
"dance" in joy for the risen Lord on Easter morning. The sun, already a
symbol of Christ, is especially a symbol of Him as it rises and pierces
the dawn on Easter Sunday. In the olden days, most people would go to a
hilltop in the morning -- at dawn, just as the sun was rising like
Christ rising from His tomb -- and wait to see if they could see the
spectacle, sometimes watching the reflection of the sun in a lake or in
a bucket of water. But a basin of water on an eastward-facing
windowsill served (and serves) just as well. Of course, parents might
surreptitiously give the basin a tiny shake to cause the waves that
make the "miracle" manifest! (And, of course, too, God can well make
the sun truly dance without our help!)
Many customs surrounding Easter are totally secular in origin, such as
the German egg-laying Easter bunny traditions -- which are fine as long
as they don't detract from the Season's meaning or become its focal
point. Parents often put out baskets of candy "from the Easter Bunny"
for the children to find on Easter morning -- baskets decorated with
flowers and ribbons, lined inside with grass, and filled with chocolate
bunnies, chocolate eggs, Jordan almonds, jelly beans, and other
candies. Here's one recipe to help you fill an Easter
1 cup peanut butter chips
2 TBSP shortening (not butter, margarine, or oil)
3 cups crunchy Chow Mein noodles
Jelly beans, Jordan almonds, Peanut M&Ms, or other egg-shaped
In double boiler or microwave, melt together all the chips and the
shortening. Fold in noodles and stir to coat. On waxed paper, using 1/3
cupful of the mixture for each one, form 3-inch nests. Chill for 30
minutes. Place a few of your favorite candies in each nest to appear as
eggs. Store airtight in refrigerator. Chocolate chips can be used in
place of butterscotch chips for a different flavor and look.
hold Easter egg hunts for the children, too -- hiding painted eggs
around the yard for them to find. One egg is often painted a special
color, and the child who finds this one is a winner of the contest as
is the child who finds the most number of eggs.
-- but, as said, all of these fun things need to be kept in check so
that the focus of the day isn't lost. I strongly, strongly urge your
telling your children the story of Moses and the Passover (Exodus
2-12), and their being types of -- their foreshadowing -- Christ and
the hope of salvation through the Blood of Christ as evidenced by the
Some, such as the French, attribute the candy to the bells that flew
away on Maundy Thursday to return on Easter, bringing candy with them.
Children will get up early in the morning to see what sorts of candies
the bells have left, looking up to the skies to see if they can catch a
glimpse of them flying away first -- only to be told by parents that
they're a little too late. An old French lullaby tells the story of the
dong sleep little man,
Do-do-ding, ding dong,
The bells have gone to Rome.
It is time to sleep,
The bells have flown away.
They have gone to Rome,
Down there, down there, far away, you see,
To visit the Pope, a saintly man,
An old man, dressed in white is he.
The bell of each church
To him secretly speaks
Of all the good little ones,
And he himself le Bon Dieu tells
The name of each good child.
Do-do-ding, ding dong, sleep little man.
The purchasing or making of new clothes to symbolize a new
life in Christ is, or at least used to be, common. Dressed in their
best, Catholics used to make a procession
after Mass on Easter Sunday, a custom that devolved into the Easter
parade, which has now also been mostly lost to us -- and relatively
recently, too. They were common enough in the early 20th c. that a
movie could be named "Easter Parade" and be successful. "Easter
Parade" (1948) starred Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, and in it,
Garland sings the song "Easter Bonnet."
And now for a
few gorgeous readings for you to read over Easter dinner. The first is
a sermon given by St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407); the second was
written by Fortunatus, who lived ca. A.D. 530 - 609. Fortunatus was a
student at Ravenna, Italy when he became almost blind. He was healed
when he annointed his eyes with oil that burned in a lamp before an
altar to St. Martin of Tours, for whom he later wrote a lengthy poem
(one of his poems, by the way, inspired St. Thomas Aquinas's Pange
Lingua). He made a pilgrimage to St. Martin's shrine in Gaul and
remained there the rest of his life, becoming a priest, and then Bishop
By St. John Chrysostom
Is there anyone
who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright
festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice
and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If
any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in
the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt;
for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth
hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived
only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He
gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him
that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He
bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He
honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive
your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful,
celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for
the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted
one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been
revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for
forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the
Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar
even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having
risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
A Poem on
By Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus
blush varied with the flowery, fair weather, and the gate of the pole
lies open with greater light. His path in the heaven raises the
fire-breathing sun higher, who goes forth on his course, and enters the
waters of the ocean. Armed with rays traversing the liquid elements, in
this brief night he stretches out the day in a circle. The brilliant
firmament puts forth its clear countenance, and the bright stars show
their joy. The fruitful earth pours forth its gifts with varied
increase, when the year has well returned its vernal riches. Soft beds
of violets paint the purple plain; the meadows are green with plants,
and the plant shines with its leaves. By degrees gleaming brightness of
the flowers comes forth; all the herbs smile with their blossoms. The
seed being deposited, the corn springs up far and wide in the fields,
promising to be able to overcome the hunger of the husbandman. Having
deserted its stem, the vine-shoot bewails its joys; the vine gives
water only from the source from which it is wont to give wine. The
swelling bud, rising with tender down from the back of its mother,
prepares its bosom for bringing forth. Its foliage having been torn off
in the wintry season, the verdant grove now renews its leafy shelter.
Mingled together, the willow, the fir, the hazel, the osier, the elm,
the maple, the walnut, each tree applauds, delightful with its leaves.
Hence the bee, about to construct its comb, leaving the hive, humming
over the flowers, carries off honey with its leg. The bird which,
having closed its song, was dumb, sluggish with the wintry cold,
returns to its strains. Hence Philomela attunes her notes with her own
instruments, and the air becomes sweeter with the re-echoed melody.
Behold, the favour of the reviving world bears witness that all gifts
have returned together with its Lord. For in honour of Christ rising
triumphant after His descent to the gloomy Tartarus, the grove on every
side with its leaves expresses approval, the plants with their flowers
express approval. The light, the heaven, the fields, and the sea duly
praise the God ascending above the stars, having crushed the laws of
hell. Behold, He who was crucified reigns as God over all things, and
all created objects offer prayer to their Creator. Hail, festive day,
to be reverenced throughout the world, on which God has conquered hell,
and gains the stars! The changes of the year and of the months, the
bounteous light of the days, the splendour of the hours, all things
with voice applaud. Hence, in honour of you, the wood with its foliage
applauds; hence the vine, with its silent shoot, gives thanks. Hence
the thickets now resound with the whisper of birds; amidst these the
sparrow sings with exuberant love.
O Christ, Thou Saviour of the world, merciful Creator and Redeemer, the
only offspring from the Godhead of the Father, flowing in an
indescribable manner from the heart of Thy Parent, Thou self-existing
Word, and powerful from the mouth of Thy Father, equal to Him, of one
mind with Him, His fellow, coeval with the Father, from whom at first
the world derived its origin! Thou dost suspend the firmament, Thou
heapest together the soil, Thou dost pour forth the seas, by whose
government all things which are fixed in their places flourish. Who
seeing that the human race was plunged in the depth of misery, that
Thou mightest rescue man, didst Thyself also become man: nor wert Thou
willing only to be born with a body, but Thou becamest flesh, which
endured to be born and to die. Thou dost undergo funeral obsequies,
Thyself the author of life and framer of the world, Thou dost enter the
path of death, in giving the aid of salvation. The gloomy chains of the
infernal law yielded, and chaos feared to be pressed by the presence of
the light. Darkness perishes, put to flight by the brightness of
Christ; the think pall of eternal night falls.
But restore the promised pledge, I pray Thee, O power benign! The third
day has returned; arise, my buried One; it is not becoming that Thy
limbs should lie in the lowly sepulchre, nor that worthless stones
should press that which is the ransom of the world. It is unworthy that
a stone should shut in with a confining rock, and cover Him in whose
fist all things are enclosed. Take away the linen clothes, I pray;
leave the napkins in the tomb: Thou art sufficient for us, and without
Thee there is nothing. Release the chained shades of the infernal
prison, and recall to the upper regions whatever sinks to the lowest
depths. Give back Thy face, that the world may see the light; give back
the day which flees from us at Thy death.
But returning, O holy conqueror, Thou didst altogether fill the heaven!
Tartarus lies depressed, nor retains its rights. The ruler of the lower
regions, insatiably opening his hollow jaws, who has always been a
spoiler, becomes a prey to Thee. Thou rescuest an innumerable people
from the prison of death, and they follow in freedom to the place
whither their leader approaches. The fierce monster in alarm vomits
forth the multitude whom he had swallowed up, and the Lamb withdraws
the sheep from the jaw of the wolf. Hence re-seeking the tomb from the
lower regions, having resumed Thy flesh, as a warrior Thou carriest
back ample trophies to the heavens. Those whom chaos held in punishment
he has now restored; and those whom death might seek, a new life holds,
Oh, sacred King, behold a great part of Thy triumph shines forth, when
the sacred laver blesses pure souls! A host, clad in white, come forth
from the bright waves, and cleanse their old fault in a new stream. The
white garment also designates bright souls, and the shepherd has
enjoyments from the snow-white flock. The priest Felix is added sharing
in this reward, who wishes to give double talents to his Lord. Drawing
those who wander in Gentile error to better things, that a beast of
prey may not carry them away, He guards the fold of God. Those whom
guilty Eve had before infected, He now restores, fed with abundant milk
at the bosom of the Church. By cultivating rustic hearts with mild
conversations, a crop is produced from a briar by the bounty of Felix.
The Saxon, a fierce nation, living as it were after the manner of wild
beasts, when you, O sacred One, apply a remedy, the beast of prey
resembles the sheep. About to remain with you through an age with the
return of a hundred-fold, you fill the barns with the produce of an
May this people, free from stain, be strengthened in your arms, and may
you bear to the stars a pure pledge to God. May one crown be bestowed
on you from on high gained from yourself, may another flourish gained
from your people.
1 An unscented candle can
be scented by burning it a while, and then adding a few drops of
fragrance oil (not essential oil, which is rather volatile) to the
melted wax. For Easter, why not try floral and green scents?
2 When you buy an Easter
Lily, get one that has some unopened buds on it. Care for it by
watering carefully, being careful not to let it sit in water or get
waterlogged. Keep it cool, out of direct sunlight, and away from drafts
and heat. Cut off dead blossoms and remove the yellow pollen anthers to
prolong the bloom (be careful; lily pollen stains clothing!). After
blooming has finished, keep the plant (with its foliage) in a cool,
bright area inside the house. When all danger of frost has passed,
shake the plant from its pot and plant it in your garden three to six
inches deep, depending on the size of the bulb, on a slight hill for
good drainage, in a sunny spot in loose soil. Mound 3 inches of soil
over the bulb, and when foliage turns brown and dry, cut its stems back
to the mound surface. Fertilize and keep watered. Mulch in the Winter.
Your lily will grow new foliage the first Summer, and, though it
probably won't bloom again that first Summer, it might bloom next year.
Please note that Easter Lilies are highly toxic to kitty-cats!
In 2006, a 250-tomb 2,000-year-old Christian burial ground was
discovered inside the walls of the Vatican, complete with frescoes,
mosaics, mausoleums and Latin headstones. Among those buried there was
an infant -- who was buried holding a hen's egg to symbolize his
parents' hope in his resurrection.
Notes: the earliest possible date for this, the greatest Feast of the
entire liturgical year (followed by the Pentecost and then Christmas)
is March 22, and the latest possible date for it is April 25.
The Monday and Tuesday following Easter have customs that vary from
country to country, usually involving playful tormenting of one sex by
the other, with boys doing something to girls on Monday, and girls
retaliating on Tuesday. In other places, it is just Monday that is
devoted to this sort of banter, with both sexes "tormenting" each other
in some way. For example, in Eastern European countries, people throw
water on each other on Easter Monday (even complete strangers); in
other places, boys and girls will try to smack each other (playfully)
with a pussy willow branch or some such. Not too long ago in England,
the practice involved lifting each other up in chairs three times.
Also, in almost all places, Easter Monday is the day for visiting,
especially the old and sick.