Reflections on Easter
By Priyangwada Perera
Ceylon Today Features
"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song," Pope John Paul II said in 1986. More than 30 years later, it still remains true. Though most people would like to identify Christians with Christmas, there would have been no Christianity if not for Easter. Christianity remains not because Jesus was born but because he defeated death. It is in the resurrection that the triumph lies. Easter reflections are a plenty. Celebrations are everywhere. Yet, less focus is on significance.
Passover and Easter
Ceylon Today spoke to the Colombo Archdiocesan Chaplain for Young Christians' Society (YCS,) Fr. Pradeep Fernando on the relevance of age old practices of Easter to the modern day. "Easter is what we call a Paschal Mystery. This refers back to the Old Testament, long before Jesus was born. The Pasch or Pasche from old French and Pascha from late Latin all referred to the 'Passover.' This was originally the annually celebrated event in Egypt: done in commemoration of the deliverance of the Israelis from the slavery of Pharaoh. It was the historical and adventurous passing of the Israelis led by Moses to reach the Promised Land. Pasch was also the sacrifice of the lamb. The leader of the household would sacrifice the lamb commemorating the Passover. It was a perennial annual remembrance. By the time we come to the New Testament, the Israelis were again under the Roman Empire. They were in hope of a king of their own. Their wait was for a saviour but a majestic, powerful political saviour who could over throw the Roman rulers. The awaited Messiah was to bring them political salvation."
Fr.Pradeep further explained how the latter beautifully replaced the old. "In the modern context, Jesus the Messiah, the true lamb of God is sacrificed to free humankind from sin. What was the 'saving from slavery' became 'saving from sin' which is also a form of slavery. Christ takes the place of the sacrificial lamb," he said. In the Book of Exodus the Israelis were instructed by God to smear the blood of the lamb on the door posts as a sign of identification so that they would not be destroyed as they found liberation from Pharaoh. While in the New Testament, to liberate the people from sin, it is the blood of Jesus that is smeared."
There were many parallels that Fr. Pradeep brought forth. "The new Pasch is Jesus' passion, passing from death to life and resurrection. It is suffering which ends in a glorious leap conquering death and gaining life. Life here is eternal life. Unlike in the Old Testament's sacrifice, here Christ becomes 'sacerdos, altare et agnus' or the priest, altar and lamb of His sacrifice."
Fr.Pradeep further explained. "Easter is the longest liturgical celebration in our Catholic liturgical calendar. The Paschal Mystery is the mother celebration of all Catholic liturgical celebrations. Lent is for 40 days, a period of preparation for the longest celebration. The Paschal Mystery starts with the Maundy Thursday mass and we do not conclude the Holy Mass. We do not put the Sign of the Cross. We continue till Good Friday with holy hours. Then, on Good Friday till the sun goes down we carry on our prayers. Again the service on Saturday and finally, the Easter Sunday. All this is considered as one mass, making it the longest celebration. If this is not followed, Easter will lose its meaning. This is the greatest and the most sacred celebration of Catholics."
Old Testament to now
It was interesting to note the Catholic view of death. "Easter is a celebration of life. The life of Christ present in the Church," said Fr. Pradeep. We might wonder how that is possible. "Easter is the celebration of victory of good over evil. A message of love over hatred, unity over rivalry. It is generosity overcoming selfishness. Peace triumphing over violence. Co-existence above strive and justice over inequality. Where truth defeats falsehood. Easter represents the cycle of the world. For the Catholics it is a journey," he said.
Fr. Pradeep added, " In the Israel context, the Passover to the Promised Land, led by Moses was a representation of a starting a new phase. We know that those people were originally shepherds. In their lives, literally they had to go in search of greener pastures for survival. The same happened with Moses. They were led to the Promised Land. It is like the transition from winter to spring. A change of environment. A leap from frost and snow to life. Our fore-fathers were taken through 40 years in the wilderness. Similarly for us, this is a chance to consciously walk out of the wilderness of our lives which we fail to recognize. We must make it an opportunity for transition. Like their journey, ours is the leap from the dismal to the hopeful, from the sterile to the fertile. "
Season of preparation
"Starting from Ash Wednesday, we have 40 days of preparation," Fr. Pradeep said. In the 'instant culture' why should it drag for so long, asked Ceylon Today. "40 days are quite significant in Christianity. Immediately after Baptism, Jesus is taken to the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, where he prepares himself. With the work of the Holy Spirit, even Jesus had to face tests and temptations. It had to be decided whether Jesus could listen to and discern God's will. To start His public ministry and act on it was a mighty task. Especially when Jesus knew what His end would be. It was a journey that ended in a sacrifice on the cross.
The result was salvation for humankind. To do this, Jesus had to make the decision. How did He do so? Through prayer, fasting and abstinence. This is how we should find our mission and commit ourselves to it. We reach Good Friday after a meaningful journey. A journey of conscious decisions."
Fr. Pradeep also referred to his experience as a priest and the many occasions he came across such external and internal change of heart that actually transformed people. "We can prepare by getting rid of something that we are addicted to. There are children who save their pocket-money and offer that at the end of the season. In one of the parishes I served, I had a man coming up to me with a till. He said as his Lenten sacrifice he quit smoking. Offering me a till full of money, he wanted me to use it on two deserving children to help their studies. The till had Rs 7,860 and that is a real Lenten sacrifice." He emphasized that fact that this should be a 'pass-over' in life. "Jesus suffered, died on the cross and was resurrected. What we have to remember is that we don't have to die to resurrect. There are many ways we can rise from death in defeating sin or temptations. That is how Easter becomes timely. "
When questioned on cultural additions to Easter celebrations in Sri Lanka, Fr. Pradeep mentioned the plays which are done on grand scale and also the 'pasan' singing that is done in some parts of the country. "These are the very sad songs, close to the Sri Lankan tradition of woeful poetry sung at funerals in the olden days. Some parishes and certain places of the country continue these things. Even though they are not affiliated with Christianity in a liturgical sense, throughout the years they have been established culturally. They are very sad, thought-provoking songs and plays that definitely intensify the meaning and feelings of the Catholic devotee. As a country, on the whole, cultural adaptations get infused."
"In the present time, we focus mainly on Jesus' way to the cross. The journey is very similar to our journey of life. It is an ample opportunity to reflect on the whole process. The denial, betrayal and temptations that Jesus underwent. He was denied by his closest disciple Peter. He was betrayed by Judas who lived and ate from the same plate for three years with him. Pilot and Herod both knew Jesus was a guiltless man but neither had the strength to stand up for the truth. They were greedy for power and wanted to safe-guard their chairs. Then we also had the unfailing love of Mary and the disciple John, the women of Jerusalem, the brave Veronica who came forward to console Jesus. Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross. They are our examples. Imperfect people with the exception of Mary. We are such people. To make religion timely, our reflection is focused on such things. That is the difference in the way we look at Easter and the preaching of love," Fr. Pradeep concluded. "A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act." Two thousand years later, it was Mahatma Gandhi who said so. Celebrated with cultural differences, the essence of that 'perfect act' remains the same.
Ministry Secretaries should be appointed on Best interest of Public not Minister Lethargy blocking change
- ‘A prisoner in Indian jail on Eelam soil’
- Sagala vows to crush Aava group Police deployed in full strength
- Politico’s son-in-law in school frock drama Teacher threatened after student is reprimanded
- Lanka alarmed over increased smuggling of ‘KG’
- SC to hear Tangalle ASP assault case
- 656 kg Glyphosate nabbed
- FPTP opens gate for undesirables, warns Amunugama
- EC to issue nomination notice on 27th
- NPC Education Minister shuns national flag Sarveshwaran was Chief Guest at school event
- Geological changes in Jaffna – Academics
- Violence against children World Vision launches campaign
- Females from soldier families on SLPP list
- JO goes to CIABOC against five COPE members
- Warrant issued on Jaliya Wickramasuriya For failure to appear in court
- Appuhamy admits to communicating with Aloysius Denies wrongdoing
- Gota’s objections thrown out Avant Garde case to go ahead
- JVP to team up with the devil! Vows to defeat LG polls gazette case
- UNP and JO in ‘secret deal’ to tarnish SLFP – Dayasiri
- CID evidence on COPE members and Aloysius JO urges Speaker to investigate
- An Inconsistent US Assertive China and Asia’s Hobbesian Order
- Jorge Sharp and Citizen Movements:New Momentum for Chilean Left?
- Zimbabwe’s Tailspin: The Lessons for Africa
- Lankan family facing deportation due to MS diagnosis
- Malaysian security forces in SL Undergo sea combat training
- Customs nabs man with gold jewellery
- HNB clinch two titles
- Nadal wins defamation case
- One-legged footballer melts hearts
- Paine handed shock recall for Australia
- Italy's stars fall back to earth in Serie A
- 20th Army Para Athletic Meet 700 Servicemen and 5 Koreans in the fray 2 Korean Olympians provide international flavour
- 47 successful at AASL Technical Officers exam
- England’s May up to speed for Wallabies
- MCA Premier League 2018 MAS and DIMO into Semis
- 34th MBA Inter-Firm Team Badminton Championships 2017 McLarens Group are overall champions
- Fourteen teams for beach tag rugby
- CH in vigorous win over CR
- Havies up against tough Navy SC
- Pujara holds on as India struggle
- Waruna off to Finland
- Sevens players given SLR contracts 20 men and 16 women players will be signed on starting November
- ‘Singer Cup’ U-19 Cricket Sanjula gets 150 runs
- Lakmal rattles India on rain-hit day
- Curious case of Sri Lanka Winter Sports Association
- Inter Club Rugby League Tournament CR clash with arch rivals CH today
- Asian Markets Rise As Risk Appetite Improves
- Singapore suspends trade ties with North Korea
- House Republicans pass $1.4Tn Tax Overhaul bill
- The world’s largest automaker is putting big money into electric vehicles in China
- Emotional toll of diabetes 'needs more recognition'
- Could buying paintings make you rich?
- Walmart helps to lift US markets
- $7.5 million Schumacher Ferrari sets record: Sotheby's
- Norway's state fund ‘needs to drop oil and gas investments'
- Japan railway 'deeply sorry' after train leaves 20 seconds early
- Creditors rule Venezuela state oil firm PDVSA in default
- Asia Property Awards in Singapore Capital TRUST Residencies wins Best Condo in SL
- Lanka IOC reports losses for 3rd consecutive quarter
- Airtel and Google debut online purchasing in SL
- AIA Insurance Lanka revenue up 17% in Q3
- Full day of CSE trading from Disaster Recovery site
- Introducing Mars to agriculture
- How an oil giant came to dominate wheat
- Asian Shares Higher Ahead Of US Tax Vote
- Going green needs defined regulations to go forward
- Remembering ‘Dictionary Johnson’
- Budgetary design of blue green enterprise
- A Time of Gifts Different Perspectives
- We were forced to work like animals
- Enjoying the bounty and giving thanks
- BREXIT Impact on free movement of people
- Padmavati triggers stir in Bollywood
- Military burning houses Rohingya refugees flee to Bangladesh
- Rice Revolution Role of Dairy Centres
- Pollution in India: 2.5 million people killed in 2015
- There is no journey with the UNP
- Core values of the UNP are eroding - Pradeep Jayewardene
- UN compensation for Kuwait workers Rs 3.2 B on migrant worker welfare
- Professor Matteo Legrenzi says: Gulf States are not keen on all-out war
- I regret the inconvenience caused to the public
- An argument for a new Constitution
- ‘Otriachchi’, ‘Orumiththa Nadu’, ‘Aekeeya Rajya’ and unitary state
- A Constitutional Framework for Sri Lanka
- PAST LIFE AND RULING PLANETS IN KRISHNAMURTHI PADHDHATHI
- Astrological remedies for Agriculture
- Unintentional Murder and law
- An Idyl in South India
- GRANDMA’S HAIR GROWTH OIL
- INTERPRETING ASIAN CINEMA: CHALLENGES AHEAD
- How Sanskrit journalism is slowly hogging headlines
- ice manufacturing in South Asia
- CMSC’s season finale concert
- Two documentaries on Sri Lanka in Film South Asia 2017
- Politics of nostalgia
- Vibrancy of classical Sinhala poetry
- Gazing at the 'gems' of Sri Lanka
- Kite Surfing Lanka Kalpitiya An experience of a lifetime
- Ella and mini Adam’s Peak
- A cave of history -Ravana Cave
- Man who rebelled against the British
- Rohingya kids fill void of parents
- Looking back at Sri Lanka Police