Monday, April 21, 2003
There are many secular calendars throughout America with the term "Orthodox Easter" for April 27, 2003. That's peculiar because the Orthodox Church does not celebrate Easter at all. The word Easter does not come from a Christian origin. The Eastern Orthodox Church uses only Holy Tradition as its source of beliefs. Holy Scripture is a major part of the Eastern Orthodox traditions, along with the teaching of the Apostles themselves, the Fathers who learned directly from the Apostles and the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Innovations are out of the question.
The word Easter is found only once in the Bible, in Acts 12:4, and only in the King James Version of 1611. This word was mistranslated from the Greek word Pascha, meaning "Passover." The Amplified, the Living New Testament and the Revised Standard Versions avoid the word Easter simply because it is not there.
How did the greatest of all the Christian feasts come to be named Easter in the English language? That term comes from the word Eastre, a pagan Germanic goddess of spring (named Ostarun in that old high German language).
As to Eastre, it was not only the name of the goddess, it was also the name of her festival. It is quite strange how her name came to be given to the very foundation of the church, the resurrection of Christ.
Could it have been the Marcion heresy that rejected the Old Testament and much of the New because for them Jesus couldn't have been a Jew, everything Jewish was out, and therefore the word Passover was out and Easter was in?
Matters of continuity
The Hebrew term pesah or pesach means "Passover," and on this feast the people celebrated their deliverance from slavery. Our Christian Passover is in direct continuity with the Jewish feasts involving the paschal lamb's blood that was to be without blemish as a reminder that they're saved from death.
In employing the heathen term Easter, the deepest and holiest significance of this holy day is lost. When we say Pascha, we are reminded of the greatest event of human history. Christ's resurrection is the end of mankind's redemption, one's passing over from death to life by dying and rising with Christ.
Now you know the Orthodox don't have "Easter."
The Orthodox Christians are truly a peculiar people as both St. Peter and St. Paul state in their letters. (1 Peter 2:9 and Titus 2:14).
An example of being peculiar is the Gospel reading at the Divine Liturgy on the so-called "Easter" service. It is John 1:1-17. This reading has nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ. This great message has an incarnational theme saying, "In the beginning was the Word ..."
If that is not peculiar enough, how about the date of Pascha?
Others seem to be a week early and we seem to be a week late, or is it some other way? Year by year, who knows? Before 1583 and for well over a thousand years, there was no difference at all. The date of the resurrection of Christ was the same date all over the world.
In 1583, the pope of Rome, Gregory XIII, changed the Julian calendar and repeatedly pressured the patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremius, to follow him in the calendar innovation. Jeremius convened a council in Constantinople that same year with Eastern patriarchs and bishops. This council issued an official letter to all the regional Orthodox churches to make them aware and more able to defend their historical faith. This sigillion, or sealed letter, listed eight articles that anathematized those who would change the faith in any way.
Article Seven states: "Whosoever does not follow the customs of the Church which the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils have decreed, the Holy Pascha and Calendar which they enacted well for us to follow, but wants to follow a newly invented Paschalion [the method of fixing the date of Pascha] and The New Calendar of the Atheist Astronomers of The Pope; and opposing The Councils, wishes to overthrow and destroy the doctrines and customs of the Church which we have inherited from our Fathers, let him be under Anathema and let him be outside the Church and the Assembly of the Faithful."
From the very early years of the church in 325 A.D., the pope of Alexandria -- yes, the pope of Alexandria -- was in charge of informing the other bishops by letter as to the date of Holy Pascha. Not much has changed over these many years. Our theology is solid and history is our witness. We don't say "Happy Easter," we shout "Christ is Risen!"
Yes, we're peculiar -- but in a good way.
XFather Andrew Gall of Liberty is a supply priest with Ukrainian Church U.S.A.