Easter has a history that encompasses so much in our culture, from the religious to the secular to everyday meaning and symbolism. For those of you nerds and history buffs interested in what’s behind the naming of Easter, there are these tidbits about its complicated origins from the Venerable Bede (673-735), an English monk who wrote the first history of Christianity in England. He’s one of our main sources of knowledge about early Anglo-Saxon culture. In Detemporum ratione (On the Reckoning of Time, c. 730), Bede wrote this:
In olden times the English people—for it did not seem fitting that I should speak of other nations’ observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation’s—calculated their months according to the course of the Moon. Hence, after the manner of the Greeks and the Romans, [the months] take their name from the Moon, for the Moon is called mona and the month monath. The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giuli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April, Eosturmonath … Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month” and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, whose feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honored name of the old observance.
Ok, those of you who are not so nerdy nor considered to be buffs of history may be glossy-eyed by now; so let me continue…
Whether we trace its roots to the course of the moon or other cultures or Christianity or pagan influences, the season of Easter (coinciding with Spring) has always been about rebirth and renewal. In other words, taking that which once had life in it, yet is now lifeless, and bringing it back to a living existence. Of course, it’s not exactly the same as what it was before. It may be a crocus or a daffodil that returns in the Spring every year, but it’s not the same flower that grew the previous year nor any year prior. It’s reborn as a new organism…yes, similar to what it was, even sharing the genetic makeup of its earlier incarnations, but still uniquely different.
We currently live in an age of coronavirus, COVID-19, quarantine, and social distancing. For most of us, we live in the same country we did last year. We may live in the same city or the same house as before. We still have those we call family and friends. Yet, something has changed. Things and ways and realities that once were, are no more. They are…lifeless…suddenly non-existent in our lives.
Yet, a new season is arriving. New life is stirring beneath the ground, above our heads, all around us…and within us. What was cannot be returned to; what is continues to grow; and what becomes (particularly of us and this new existence), well…that’s something we have a part in shaping as co-creators in this life.
We have many observances that have been inextricably changed by this pandemic: baseball’s Opening Day, senior graduations, birthdays, anniversaries…and yes, Easter. In the words of the Venerable Bebe, “the time-honored name of the old observance” will remain with these rites, yet they will be different…it will be new.
Let us work to make the new (as many already have) as meaningful in its newness as the rites and observances we’ve cherished all along this life’s journey.
So…peace, sanity, love, and joy to all you fellow sojourners as we continue to create the new from this present and soon to be past reality.