1. Names and their Significance

Easter, the festival of our Lord's resurrection is, with Christmas, the most joyous festival observed by the Church. The English and the German equivalent Ostern, are derived from the Anglo-Saxon Ostard. or EQstre, the name of the goddess of spring and the dawn (cf. Skeat's Etymological Dictionary ; Bede, De rations temPortcm, xv.). The French peqvzs and the terms used in the other Romance languages are derived from the Hebrew Pesah, " Passover ." In the early Church the term Pascha was used for the festival next preceding Pentecost, whatever it was that that festival commemorated (see Pentecost). It remains to show whether the term stood only for the festival of the death of Christ, or for both the festivals of the death and resurrection, or for the festival of the resurrection alone. It is certain that if the resurrection of Christ was annually commemorated, the festival of commemoration was called pascha and by no other distinctive term. The word pascha. was at first derived from Gk. paschein, " to suffer " (so Tertullian, adv. Jud.; Irenaeus, Hcrr., iv. 23, etc.). Later the true derivation from the Hebrew pesah was recognized and the meaning diabasis, transitus, " passing over " was given to it (e.g., by Gregory Nazianzen, Sermo xlv., MPL, zxxvi. 636; Augustine, EPist., Iv., MPL, xxxiii. 205). After the year 300 the day of the resurrection was called the "day alone great" by Leo I. (Sermo de resurrections Domini, MPL, liv. 498), " the most royal day of days," by Gregory Nazianzen (MPG, xxxv. 101?); " the festival of festivals," " the happiest of days," and by other designations which show that it was looked upon after that date, if not before, as the most joyous and important festival of the year. John of Damascus has given expression to the devout feelings of the ancient Church in regard to Easter in his resurrection hymn:

The day of resurrection, earth, tell it out abroad, The Passover of gladness, the pesaover of God.

2. Origin of the Celebration

Two questions present themselves: (1) When did the custom of the yearly commemoration of the resurrection begin? (2) on what day of .the week and what day of the year was the festival celebrated? For the period after the Council of Nica?a (325), the difficulty largely vanishes. The comparatively lengthy statement of Eusebius (Hist. eccl. V., xxiii. xxv.) does not relieve the difficulty for the anteNicene period, but by its vagueness, growing out of what Eusebius assumes to be known, rather increases the difficulty. If we were in possession of the lost tracts called forth in the third century by the paschal controversies (see below, II.), to which Eusebius makes reference, all uncertainty might be removed.

The only possible allusion in the New Testament to the observance of a Christian Passover, or festival of the death of Christ, is I Cor. v. 7,

1. Testimony where "Christ our Passover" is said to have been sacrificed for us. That of the the Jewish Christians continued to Nicene keep the Jewish festivals is altogether Period. probable, if not certain, from Paul's habit. On the other hand, Paul seems to disparage the observance of special festivals except the first day of the week (I Cor. xvi. 2). What was the custom of the Gentile Christians 7 Did they also keep the season devoted to the Jewish Passover, putting into it Christian ideas? And if so, did they observe it as a commemoration of the resurrection of Christ as well as of his death and burial? In the literature of the subapoetolic age, (excepting Justin Martyr) there is no reference to a celebration of a yearly festival of the resurrection or paschca. There is no hint of anything of that kind in the Didache. Trypho charged thh Christians with not keeping the Jewish feasts or the Sabbaths; the reply was that Christians did not place any virtue in keeping such festivals (Justin Martyr, TryPho, x.). From Tertullian it seems to be evident that there was a struggle between the Jewish and Gentile elements in the Church over what was included under the feast of the pascha and a struggle within the Gentile portion of the Church as to whether any yearly festivals were to be observed. Tertullian says: if the Apostle set aside all special reverence for days and months and years, why do we celebrate the pascha in the first month of each year? (De jejuniis, xiv., ANF, iv. 112). It is evident from this that the pascha was observed. But that there was a difference in respect to what was included under the term pascha is evident from Ter tullian. In his De orations (viii.) he refers to it as Friday the day of the Lord's death, and in De corona (iii., ANF, iii. 94) he says: "we count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord's day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Whitsunday." Similarly in De baptismo (xix., ANF, iii. 678) he says that they did not fast on the Lord's Day and that the period between the day of the pascha and Pentecost the Christian spent in joy. From this it seems to be apparent that the whole season of the pascha was observed with sadness and grief. So far then it would appear that the pascha observance was a time of grief and it is left uncertain whether the resurrection was observed annually by a special day, or, if observed at ail, whether it was observed separately from the festival of the death of Christ.

The next point of approach is through Eusebius


(Hist. eccl. V., xxiii.-xxv., NPNF, 2d ser., i. 241 sqq.). In this famous passage the historian has especially in mind the conflict as to the day of the

week and of the year on which pascha 2. Teed. was to be celebrated. He records that

mony as early as the middle of the second cen of the to , there was dispute over this double

Nioene question, Polycarp of Asia Minor and Period. Anicetua of Rome being at that time

the representatives of the two views. Eusebius further says that the churches in Asia Minor derived their custom of observing the pascha from the Apostle John and Philip. Without doubt Christian elements were incorporated into the celebration. It was not a question of whether a day corresponding to the Passover should be celebrated, but a question of the time at which it was to be celebrated. Further, according to Eusebius, the churches of Asia Minor finished "their fasting on the festival of the Savior's passover." This was the 14th of Nisan. In other parts of the Church, Eusebius goes on to say, it was not their custom " to end it on this day " but, " on no other day than that of the Lord's resurrection." From this it would seem on the surface that in Asia Minor the Churches finished the fasting on the day set apart for the pascha, that is in all probability the day commemorating the crucifixion, and in the rest of the world they carried the fasting over to Sunday. Joy is not mentioned as an element in the celebration in the case either of Asia Minor or of the rest of the world, so that if the resurrection was celebrated at all as a separate feast, Eusebius does not indicate it. We can not think that, if the resurrection was celebrated, fasting and grief entered into its observance, as has been deduced from this statement of Eusebius. (For the fast preceding Easter, see Fasting , II., § 3). To this passage of Eusebius have been added recently passages from the Canons of Hippolytus (TU, vi. 4, pp. 115-116) and from Aphraatea (ed. Bert, T U, new ser., iii. pp.170-171). The former speaks of the pascha as a time of fasting and lamentation. Aphraatea also (cf. Bert, in TU, ut sup. p. 83) seems not to have in mind the resurrection when he speaks of the Christian pascha. However, Alexander of Egypt (d. 264, Routh, Religuice Sacra,, iii. 223 sqq.) distinguishes the festivals of the death and of the resurrection.

From these unsatisfactory notices, different views have been deduced. Neander, Hilgenfeld and P. Schaff have held that in the second and third centuries the pascha included the celebration of the resurrection and death of Christ; Steitz and Drews

only the death; while Schürer, Karl n- Moller, and others hold the modified

oln- view that it celebrated the completion

eions. of the full work of redemption and not specifically either the death or the resurrection. It must be .lid that the silence of the writers of the ante-Nicene period, who give such scant notice of the pascha feast, can not safely be interpreted to mean that the resurrection was not celebrated as a distinct part of the pascha festival. The few extant notices, taken by themselves, seem to favor the theory that there was but one festival of the

pascha and that it included the death and the resurrection. Certainly in the fourth century the term pascha stood for both the resurrection and the death of Christ. It was then called "the holy feast, the pascha of our salvation" as by the Council of Antioch 341 (canon i., Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, i. 513); and Athanasius frequently describes the pascha as a feast of joy at which the Lord himself is the festival. It is a festival of redemption (cf. "Festal Letters," ANF, 2d ser., iv. 506-556). Finally, in the fourth century pascha came to be used in a limited sense for Easter Sunday alone, as by the Councils of Arles 314, Carthage 397, and the First Synod of Toledo 400 (canon xx.). Contemporaneously the whole feast of the pascha was known undet the two names the pascha of the crucifixion and the pascha of the resurrection. They were parts of a single festival.

3. The Day of Celebration: As already indicated, Eusebius states that there was a wide difference in the customs prevalent in Asia Minor and the rest of the Christian world in regard to the day of the year and of the week on which the pascha festival was to be celebrated. The Christians of Asia Minor were called 6,)uartodecimana from their custom of celebrating the pascha invariably on the 14th of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year and falling in the springtime. The date might fall on Friday or on any of the other days of the week, which fact made no difference in the celebration of the paschal feast. For this reason the day of the resurrection did not always fall on a Sunday. In the churches of the West and also in parts of the East a different custom prevailed. The result of these differences was that different sections of the Church might and did observe the pascha on different dates. Out of this difference grew the Paschal Controversies, so-called (see II., below). The Council of Nica'a had for its second object the unification of the date of the Christian pascha, which the Council of Arles (314) had referred to as a moat desirable thing " that the pascha of the Lord should be observed on one day and at one time throughout the world " (cf. Hefele, Con ciliengeschichte, i. 205). The decree of Nicwa fixed as Easter Sunday the Sunday immediately following the fourteenth day of the so-called paschal moon, which happens on or first after the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox invariably falls on Mar. 21. Easter, then, can not occur earlier than Mar. 22, or later than Apr. 25. In the former case the fourteenth day of the moon would coincide with Mar. 21, the day of the veinal equinox. In the latter, the fifteenth day of the moon would happen on Mar. 21, and a whole lunar month would have to intervene before the condition, "the fourteenth day of the moon first after the vernal equinox," was fulfilled; and, as this might be Sunday, Easter Sabbath would not occur till seven more days had elapsed, i.e., Apr. 25.

4. Bites of Celebration: Up to the year 300 notices are very scant. Eusebius states that the pascha was celebrated with mourning, and that church synods (exclusive of those in Asia Minor) ordered that "the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord" should be observed only on the Lord's



day and that on that day " the clone of the paschal fast " should be observed. The pascha was a time of fasting. " The mystery of the recur

1. Prior rection of the Lord " must refer to to 300 the Eucharist. Tertullian (Ad uzo- A.D, ram, ii. 4) and others refer to vigils extending into the night of Saturday or until the cockcrowing of the Sunday morning (Apostolic Constitutions, ANF, vii. 447). The chief source of information is the Didaskalia (xxi., Apostolic Constitutions, v. 18-19) which speaks of the fasting beginning on the Monday of the paschal week and continuing with growing rigor into Saturday night, and adds that on Saturday night the whole con gregation met and engaged in prayer, especially for the Jews, and in reading from the Scripture. Sunday was then observed by the meeting to gather of rich and poor in the love-feast and the Eucharist.

After 300 notices of the festivities of Easter are frequent and many sermons on the pascha are preserved in Ambrose, Augustine, and other writers. The day was looked upon as the most joyous festival of the year. The week beginning with Easter Sunday was observed with special religious festivities and each day had its sermon.

2. In the Easter Sunday was called dominica Post- in (ylb2S (see Alb; Catechumenate, § 4) or octavo infantium and the

Period Sunday closing Easter week was and

M ddle called octavo pasehce or pascha clams sum. Ambrose in his sermon on the "Mystery of the Pascha" (MPL, xvii. 695) gives full expression to the joyous feelings which were involved in Easter. He called the day the real beginning of the year, the opening of the months, the new revival of the seeds and the res toration of the joy interrupted by the cold of winter. On that day God, as it were, relighta the sun and given light to the moon. The Easter cele bration began on Saturday, sometimes as early as three o'clock in the afternoon, as is stated to have been the case in Jerusalem by the "Itinerary" of Silvia (cf. Hauck-Herzog, RE, xiv. 743). This Saturday celebration was known as the Easter or Paschal Vigils. Augustine called this vigil the "mother of all the sacred vigils" (Sermo ecxix., MPL, xxxviii. 1088), and says that even the heathen kept awake on that night. According to Lactantius (De divinis institutionx'hua, VIL, xix., ANF, vii. 215) and Jerome (on Matt, xAV. 6, MPL, xxvi. 184), the Lord was expected to return at that time. The celebration is referred to by other authors, in missals, in the codes of Theo dosius and Justinian and in the acts of coun cils. The services in the churches consisted of readings from the Law, the Prophets and the narratives of the Lord's passion, in the administration of baptism and confirmation, and ended with the Eucharist. For Spain and Gaul these services are recorded in the Mozarabic Liturgy (MPL, Ixxxv.), and in the Gothic missal the Gallic missal, the Gallic sacramentaryand the Lectionary of Luxeuil (all in MPL lxxii.). The use of lighted candles became universal and is attested as the custom in Rome at least as early as the middle of the third century. The Canons of Hippolytus (TU, vi. 4, p. 136) say " that on the night of the resurrection no one should sleep and every one should have a light, for on that night the Redeemer made every one free from the darkness of sin and the grave." Augustine bears witness to the custom of lighting and carrying candles. Eusebius says that the whole city of Constantinople was illuminated with wax candles and columns of wax (" Life of Constantine," iv. 22). Gregory Nazianzen (d. 390) and Gregory of Nyssa (d. 395, " Oration on the pascha," xlii.) speak of persons of all ranks carrying tapers and lamps. The custom of the paschal fire was also an early institution and can be traced back to 600 at least as in vogue in France. Alcuin (De diz;inis ofj'rciis, xvi.17,MPL, ci. 1205) and Boniface (d. 752, MPL, lxxxix. 951) definitely refer to it. The new fire was struck from a atone and the tapers and candles lighted from it. Perhaps the custom was drawn from the ceremony of the Romans at the altar of Vests at the opening of the New Year, Mar. 1. The symbolical significance of such an act, as a means of instruction to the people and as an expression of piety for the new light brought into the world by the resurrection is so natural that it is not necessary to fall back upon the old Roman ceremony. In Gaul the custom was also observed, how widely is not known, of placing five pieces of incense in the great paschal candle to symbolize the five wounds of Christ. The codes of Theodosius and Just*nian recognized the joyous character of the day by encouraging the emancipation of slaves and the liberation of minor criminals, and ordering the omission of spectacular entertainments during Easter week. It was also made a time for the presentation of gifts and the distribution of alma. The acts of councils (Orleans, 538, Macon, 581, and others) down through the Middle Ages to the Fourth Lateran (1215) and later councils forbade the Jews to tread the streets or to show themselves out of doors from Maundy Thursday till after Easter, lest the joy of the Christians should be interrupted.

At the present time the religious festivities of Easter time in the Greek and Latin Churches involve the substantial elements in the ancient custom of the day. Elaborate solemn rites are observed on Saturday and until the cockcrowing of Easter morning when the tapers (extinguished on Good Friday) are lighted with the words " The Light of Christ." In the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem until a few years ago the pious fraud of the "holy fire" was perpetrated by the Greek patriarch who presented from the sacred tomb s. In three times a lighted taper or torch which he declared had been lighted ern by a miracle without human interven Times. tion. The spectators, wrought to great excitement, struggled to light their tapers at the miraculous fire, and then carried it throughout the Greek world. Often disgraceful scenes occurred and the intervention of the Turkish soldiery was required to prevent or check violence. In the twelfth century Saladin is said by an early tradition to have witnessed this miracle and acknowl-


edged its miraculous character (Itinerarium Ricardi I. v. 16, ed. W. Stubbs, London, 1864). Easter is observed throughout the Continent by the various bodies of Protestants. The Church of England has always observed the day and the Protestant Episcopal Church of America follows it. The Puritans abolished all special recognition of the festival. The churches of Scotland as well as the different nonepiscopal branches of the Protestant Church in America are more and more using the day as a means of commemorating the resurrection of the Lord, confirming the faith of men in the hope of the resurrection, and giving expression to the joyous character of the Christian religion.

D. S. Schaff.


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