The Meaning of Easter

In celebration of Easter, a traditional reflection on the holiday’s significance

Posted 4/5/21

“Welcome, happy morning.”

 

That anthem will greet worshippers at many churches Sunday — as it has for so long. Bells and organ peals and gathered voices will belt out …

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The Meaning of Easter

In celebration of Easter, a traditional reflection on the holiday’s significance

Posted

“Welcome, happy morning.”

 

That anthem will greet worshippers at many churches Sunday — as it has for so long. Bells and organ peals and gathered voices will belt out the good news, the ancient words that age to age shall say will warm the stalwart huddled in their jackets at sunrise services and entertain the confection of little girls in pastel dresses at the day’s indoor celebrations.

Welcome indeed, for Easter is unsurpassed for Christians. The reason is summed up by the hymn as it continues: “Hell today is vanquished, heaven is won today!”

Happy morning hardly does justice to the joy Easter brings to the faithful. They rejoice in everything their faith is about: All those astounding promises of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life, the promises made by God, spoken by the prophets, manifest in a baby’s birth — and delivered when the stone was rolled back to reveal an empty tomb.

The hymn goes on, deeper into the meaning of today: “Lo, the dead is living.”

That coming of new life out of death is the message of Easter, for Christians and for nonbelievers who have their own way of looking at this springtime ritual. Rebirth. Renewal. The do-over we crave, whether we believe our flaws took root in the Garden of Eden or derive from the destiny of human biology or from individual failings.

As we are one-year from the beginning of pandemic, people hunger for a fresh beginning. Many of us started the year on a spurt of renewal, flush with resolutions for reordering our lives. We hoped for a return to normal — whatever that is — and to be able to hug and see the people we hold most dear.

Today serves as a touchstone — a measuring point — to gauge our efforts since we made those resolutions with where we are now. How are we coming along? And if our progress has waned, then we ask what went awry?

If many of us crave a renewed boost of encouragement, we can find it in this season of natural awakening. It’s an annual delight that ancient hymn writer understood: “Earth her joy confesses, clothing her for spring. All fresh gifts returned with her returning King: bloom in every meadow, leaves on every bough.” Ah, spring — ripe with dogwood and redbud, baby animals and flowers, renewal and rebirth.

What’s an Easter basket but a big, calorie-stuffed symbol of all that? Consider the iconic baskets themselves — for what were baskets designed for but gathering the bounty of nature’s cyclical regeneration? And the grass we stuff those baskets with, pink and purple impersonations of nature’s own green stuff. And the marshmallow chickens, the dyed eggs and their mini-cousins, egg-shaped jelly versions. And the mother lode of fertile symbolism: bunnies.

Easter is also a day for families and friends to reconnect, to pause from their busy lives to share a meal and hide candy-stuffed eggs for younger generations to find. Renewed kindships between acquaintances invigorate our spirits and refresh our minds.

Easter is a day with symbols of renewal all around. For Christians, the one at the center of their faith — the cross speaking of the resurrection sealing the promise of redemption, rebirth into grace and everlasting life. For anyone with a sweet tooth, a basketful of symbols of revival. For nature, the awakening of life after winter’s slumber.

Welcome, happy morning.