Easter feast: Christ is risen

In Photo: The icon of the Resurrection with Christ having kicked down the gates of Hades and pulling Adam and Eve out of the tombs. Christ is flanked by saints, and Satan, depicted as an old man, is bound and chained.

After 40 days of sadness, penance and fasting is a feasting to celebrate Easter. Like all feasts a meal like no other is shared—a Eucharistic meal and Christians renew their vows of baptism—a public declaration that “we do not belong to Satan, the Prince of Evil on the tomb of sin, but to Jesus Christ”.

Early beginnings

Easter is derived from the word Eostre, the pagan goddess of the season of sun and rebirth, honored during Ostarum, a pagan spring festival. It was a spring feast of the early nomad Jews, who coated their tent poles with blood of animals to frighten hostile spirits and ensure fertility of flocks.

Easter is celebrated on the same day as the Jewish Pasch, or Passover, until 325, when the Second Ecumenical Council convened Nicaea I in 325. The assembly of bishops representing the whole church proclaimed the Divine Nature of Christ, to negate Arianism, a heresy initiated by Arius, who professed that Jesus is only a man. The council defined Jesus Christ as a real God and a real man.

A new dating system was also introduced. Easter would be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after March 21, the Vernal Equinox when both day and night are equal to 12 hours.  But if March 21 is a Sunday, Easter will be celebrated on the following Sunday. Since then, Easter Sunday is always between March 22 and April 25.

Jesus appears to His disciples

To Mary Magdalene, Jesus first manifested Himself as the Savior risen from the dead, although she did not recognize Him (John. 20:13).

Then He walked with two disciples on their way to the village of Emmaus who also failed to perceive that it was He they were talking about (Luke 24: 13-15).

On the evening of the first day of the week, Jesus, likewise, stood in the midst of His disciples, except Thomas. “Peace be with you,” He greeted them. Jesus breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive are forgiven and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20: 19-23).

Then when Christ again met the disciples, Jesus told Thomas to put his finger on his side for the apostle to believe He had, indeed, risen (John 20:27).

The third time Jesus revealed Himself to his disciples was at the shores of the Sea of Tiberias.  Jesus told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat to catch fishes (John 21:5-6).

From grief to joy

In literary form, Paul presented a theological truth how Christ redeemed man from eternal damnation: Jesus Christ who is true God and true man except in sin.

Adam, a Hebrew word in Genenis, is a common noun for mankind and a proper noun for the first man, thus, emphasizing man’s death with Adam, and man’s resurrection from the dead through Christ.

Adam became a living being, the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The first man was from the earth; the second man from heaven.

With Adam, mankind died to sin, and “bore the image of the earthly one”. But with Christ’s resurrection from the dead, we also “bear the image of the heavenly one” (1 Corinthians 15:49).

What a redemptive victimhood. No less than God, the Son, reconciled us with God, the Father. He conquered sin and death, and those who believe in Him and die to their sinfulness will also rise and live with Him.

How then can Saint Paul not declare joyfully: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

Proclaim the Gospel

Jesus gathered the 12 disciples (learners), prime witnesses to the resurrection for leadership roles in the community. Theologians also called them apostles (one who is sent) and with other Christian leaders were sent to “introduce a moral reform”. Thus, early Christian writers noted 70 apostles who helped “proclaim the gospel to every creature”.

So the disciples with confidence started to remind others of Jesus’ teachings. Even the high priests, elders of Jerusalem and upper-class leaders were amazed with their eloquence.

His followers divided the world and cast lots for assignments. Unafraid, they preached the gospel, and like Jesus, some were crucified and others met martyrdom, with joyful hearts.

Barnabas, who was with Paul to evangelize the Gentiles, was the first apostle to preach in Rome and Milan. He was martyred by the Jews in Cyprus. After three centuries, the Christian faith became the official religion of Rome.

Peter became the principal apostle of the Jews, and Paul of the Gentiles. Paul wrote 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament, and seven of the 13 letters had been attributed to him.

Peter, the Rock, was crucified in Rome upside down, while Paul was executed by Nero in Rome in 67 A.D.

Andrew, the First Apostle to be called, was bound to a cross, whipped by seven soldiers while he preached for two hours, before he died in Greece. Philip, the first disciple, was also crucified, with his ankles fixed with iron hooks and hung upside down in Syria.

Bartholomew died in India or Armenia. Skinned alive, his body was cut into strips, pulled off, leaving his body bleeding for a long time and crucified head down.

James the Greater was beheaded in Jerusalem, while James the Less was thrown from the pinnacle of a temple, a hundred feet high, then beaten to death.

Matthias, who replaced Judas, was burned to death in Syria, while Jude Thaddeus was shot to death by arrows.

John, the apostle who stood at the foot of the cross, was thrown in boiling oil and survived miraculously. He was exiled in Pathmos, where he wrote the Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, in a cave. He died of old age.

Matthew, the tax collector, was slain with a sword in Ethiopia. Doubting Thomas was killed by a lance in Coromandel, East Indies.

After the death of the apostles, the Christian faith spread, although it was declared an illegal religion.


Santiago is a former regional director of the Department of Education National Capital Region. She is currently a faculty member of Mater Redemptoris Collegium in Calauan, Laguna, and Mater Redemptoris College in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons


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