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Sunday, April 24, 2011

*THE TRUE STORY OF EASTER

Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (in short, either March 20 or 21, the first day of Spring).  Last year Easter fell on April 4, and you can read my posting on Resurrection, Eggs and the Bunny.  

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning, it moves around, for today is April 24.  This is where it gets really complicated, for there is a Western Easter and an Eastern Easter, the former following the Gregorian Calendar and the latter the Julian.  Last year and this year Easter occurred on the same day, but next year, the Western Easter will be on April 8 and the Eastern on the 15th.  For us, only remember Western Christianity, where Easter will always be between March 22 and April 25.  One more complication is the  Jewish Passover calendar, but let me stop here.


Year  Full Moon  Sunday  West     East     Jewish
                           after                           Passover
2010March 30April 4April 4April 4March 30
2011April 18April 24April 24April 24April 19
2012April 6April 8April 8April 15April 7


Now that you are totally confused, Western Easter or Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday (the week before  Easter), when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and his followers lay down cloaks, branches and palm fronds on the riding path.  There is a celebratory dinner.  Some churches keep the palm and burn it the following year for Ash Wednesday (first day of Lent, that 40 day fasting period ending on Easter).


Nothing much (prayers, worship, etc., of course) happens until Holy or Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper (da Vinci's above and Dali's to the right--there are reports that da Vinci had it all so wrong, from lunch to clothes as worn at the time of Leonardo, etc.) Jesus had with his twelve Apostles.  Terms applied are the Eucharist, Holy Communion, sharing of bread and wine, plus the matter of betrayal and Judas Iscariot.  Some have said that this dinner occurred on Wednesday, and, more specifically, 1April33, that is, on April Fool's Day of the year 33.  In determining exactly which room this meal was held, there is mention of the streets of Jerusalem then being about 10 feet lower.  Does dust accumulate at that rate over only a 2000 year period?

After supper, things moved quickly, in the period into Good Friday, known as the Passion:  Judas kisses Jesus, who is arrested, immediately put on trial, condemned to death, sent to Governor Pontius Pilate, re-condemned by Jewish leaders and the orchestrated crowd on Friday to death, leading to His carrying the cross to His crucifixion.  In the turmoil, Judas realizes what he has done and commits suicide.  Mel Gibson went downhill from his Passion of Christ.

Crucifixion, where the execution involved nailing (a spike six inches long and 3/8 inches each side, or tying) the victim to a cross until death, is a particularly gruesome and humiliating sentence to terrorize and teach a lesson, and was abolished by Emperor Constantine I three centuries later.  In Japan, twenty six christians were nailed to the cross (below) in Nagasaki, Japan in 1597, and this practice continued into the Meiji Period.  Interestingly enough, crucifixion is still being used today in Saudi Arabia, Africa and Europe (Romania).


Back to the Passion, Jesus, was too worn down by whippings that he had to be helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry this crossbeam (weighing about 125 pounds--but all paintings show the full cross, as the one by Bosch to the left) anywhere from much less than a mile to two, from the alleyways of Jerusalem to Golgotha, where the Crucifixion took place.  Two other criminals were also similarly executed with Jesus.  It is surmised that his mother, Mary, and his girlfriend (?) Mary Magdalene, witnessed the event at the cross.  He was on the cross from 9AM to 3PM (or  maybe only for three hours), where at the end a guard speared him to further insure for death.  The sky darkened (maybe an eclipse) at one point and there might have been an earthquake.  Yes, there is drama, but this might be too much.

The main event to this all is the Resurrection.  Crucifixion is not like a hanging, which brings immediate death.  In Iran, for example, if you live for three days, you are released.  While it is possible that Jesus was still alive when placed in, the reality is that this was hardly likely, for he was probably already dead before being crucified, and the protocols of the day made survival impossible.  Yet, as Pontius Pilate was supposedly surprised to hear that Jesus was dead when a disciple Joseph asked for the body, maybe there might be a lot more to this than reported, as the process was all accomplished in haste.

In any case, the body of Jesus was placed in a new tomb sealed with a boulder on Friday night, guarded by Roman soldiers.  Nothing significant on Saturday, termed Black Saturday.  In those days, if you had lunch on Friday, it is three days later when you have lunch on Sunday.  Clearly, the period is 48 hours, but in biblical times, Friday to Sunday is considered to be three days.  When Mary Magdalene (plus, perhaps other women) opened the tomb way less than 48 hours later, there was no body.  THIS WAS THE RESURRECTION.  Easter is celebrated because Jesus escaped, and more, from being dead to becoming alive.  Further, He allegedly talked to his disciples and hung around for 40 days, until He ascended to Heaven.

On 12January2010 I reported on the Antioch Jesus Movement, and how Christianity might have been formed.  To start a religion, you need a God and the timing was right to suggest a Son of God, as, for example, Jesus.  He can't just be crucified, so why not resurrect him and have him ascend.  Much of what is in the Bible was not composed at the time of Christ, this came decades later.  What is real and what is myth is not important.  Like the Big Bang, just the development of Christianity, Mormonism and any religion from almost nothing, was a "miracle."

So we have Easter, which had Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peters Square, Vatican, but is today mostly noted for colored eggs and parades.  Remember the movie with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire?  Fifth Avenue New York City still has an Easter parade.  The festivities are morphing, as gay activists protested outside the Roman Catholic Church.  The White House will have their egg roll tomorrow.

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