April 24, 2011
April 4, 2010
In March the Protestant and Catholic Churches celebrated Easter; last week Jehovah’s Witnesses observed the Memorial of Christ’s Death; but today the Eastern Orthodox Church gets the last word, celebrating the Resurrection in what is known in many countries as Pascha.
The English word Easter is thought to derive from early pagan deities such as Eostre. In most Christian countries the holiday celebrating the Resurrection is referred to by variants on the Greek Pascha. (Pascha, or pesach in Hebrew, was the holiday Jesus and His disciples observed on the occasion of the Last Supper. Often translated as “pass over,” pesach can also mean “hover over” as in to protect, or safeguard.)
The Orthodox Paschal cycle repeats every 19 years, as opposed to the Western Paschal cycle, which repeats every 84 years. One proviso of the Orthodox date of Pascha is that it cannot fall before the Jewish Passover, which partly accounts for the different dates when Easter is celebrated.
Lewis Patsavos, in Dating Pascha in the Orthodox Church, points out a conundrum in the New Testament:
In the Gospels the Last Supper is described as a Passover meal, while St. John records the death of Christ as the same hour in which paschal lambs were sacrificed in preparation for the holiday.
Two traditions grew out of this discrepancy. One in which Pascha was observed on Passover itself, “regardless of the day of the week. The other observed it on the Sunday following Passover.”
The latter approach won out, which is why virtually all Churches celebrate Pascha on Sunday.
In Pascha Means Passover Reverend Anthony Michaels draws an analogy between the sacrifice of the lambs in Egypt by the Hebrews, the blood of which was meant to protect them from the tenth plague, and the “Sacrifice of the Son of God who is the ‘lamb that takes away the sin of the world.’”
The site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection is believed to be the present day site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
“It stands on a site that encompasses both Golgotha, or Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, and the tomb (sepulchre) where he was buried. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century, and it remains the holiest Christian site in the world.”