Sunday, April 4, 2010

Notes on Easter, a Singular Feast

It is a movable feast and hence not bound to a fixed date. It is tied both to the sun and to the moon, its time of celebration decreed by the First Council of Nicaea to take place on the Sunday that follows the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. The state ignores it, has to—that “separation,” don’t you know. Commerce has failed to exploit it. It celebrates a death (a non-starter in Modernity) and a resurrection (unbelievable to the Enlightened).

The Council of Nicaea took place in 325, thus in the time of Constantine as Christianity gained ascendance. The Council met to deal with Arianism, a doctrine that denied the reality of the Trinity. The adjustment of the calendar was peripheral business convenient to handle now that more than 250 bishops had assembled at one location, in a city which is now Turkey’s Iznik just south and east of Istanbul, hence fairly accessible for bishops gathering from Egypt, Syria, Persia, Greece, and Europe.

The word in English, Easter, the Catholic Encyclopedia tells me, comes from a Teutonic goddess named Estre, the Anglo Saxon goddess of light, and we have that by the authority of the Venerable Bede. It pleases me to find a goddess and a symbol of light in this festival. In German we called the festival Ostern, suggesting a similar origin. Estre is also written as Ēostra, and the Germans tell me that the Old Germanic Austrō stood for Morgenröte, the light of dawn, the aurora. Urbanism has swallowed the ancient religions whole leaving only the residual symbolism of rabbits and eggs. You will find me approving there too. Two religions still manage to guard the transcendental light even today—until, in the future, it shall burst forth more amply. Both come from the same source. One celebrates Christ’s resurrection, the other the Jewish Passover, that last festival harking back to the days of Exodus when the wrath of God passed over the Jewish people and did them no harm.

1 comment:

  1. While I find no great joy in letting you know this, I must tell you, Easter is the third biggest holiday of the year for commerce, folliwing Christmas and Mothers Day. Or, so I heard on Market Place last Firday.