We will soon be celebrating Easter, that great Christian festival which speaks of an empty cross, the risen Christ, new life and of course chocolate eggs.
This year we will be gathering for a sunrise Holy Communion service at 6am (ouch!) in the ancient castle grounds of Old Bolingbroke (or in the parish church if it is raining). The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) and was the birthplace of King Henry IV (1366).
The castle was besieged by the Parliamentarians commanded by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War (1643). So, we will be standing in history and as we think back in time; we will have our bible readings from the King James Version of the bible which celebrates 400 years since publication this year. For the hardy among us, a full cooked breakfast will await the intrepid sunrisers at a local pub. All are welcome to attend but we need numbers, in advance, for the breakfast extravaganza at £5 a head.
For those who prefer a lie in, then the 10am service at the Station Church will be a short family festival service with Easter treats.
Recently I was quizzed in Clinton Park Community Centre about why the date of Easter wasn’t fixed like Christmas, what was it’s meaning and why the eggs? So here is my reply. The word Easter derives from Eostre, the pagan goddess of spring and to the Saxons, April was ‘Ostermonud’ – the month of the Ostend wind (wind, that is from the east) so that Easter became by association the April feast, which lasted eight days.
Easter Sunday nowadays is the first Sunday after the first full moon following March 21 and can be as early as March 22, or as late as April 25. This year Easter Sunday is on April 24 (for us in the Western world, basing our dates on the Gregorian Calendar, but that’s another story). For many years in earlier times, it was a popular belief that the sun danced on Easter Day. We do not believe that any longer, but we do have affection for the Easter egg!
The presentation of eggs at Eastertide goes back to Persian times when it was held that there were two contending forces in the world (good and evil). The egg was the ‘bone of contention’ between these forces. The Jews, Egyptians and Hindus also clung to the idea and made symbolic presentations of eggs to each other. In due course, Christians adopted the custom signifying new life within the egg: the resurrection of Christ from the darkened tomb. They also coloured the eggs red to represent the blood of Christ.
It is my prayer this Easter that you too may share the new life which Christ gives, that the resurrection will cease to be a past event but a present reality and that the empty cross of Christ may tower as a symbol of hope for all people.
May your faith of Easter strengthen you and it’s peace remain with you.
Padre Mike Elliott
PS. We are also providing four thoughtful evenings on each Thursday night in May, called 4x4x4 4 Thought. Four talks by four people for four weeks – all being held in the Hero’s Bar. Watch out for details soon to be forthcoming.