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While Easter is known for being all about egg hunts and chocolate, it’s still a religious holiday and you can bet your child is going to have some questions for you.
“Christians make up one-third of the world’s population, meaning children will hear about Easter from their friends and neighbours, on television and social media,” Dr. Josephine Lombardi, theologian and professor at St. Augustine’s Seminary, tells HuffPost Canada.
But how do you explain what Easter is really all about if you’re not religious?According to parenting expert Alyson Schafer, it doesn’t have to be so complicated.
“I would explain that Easter is a celebration that came from Christianity. It marks the celebration of the day that Christians believe Jesus was resurrected,” Schafer told HuffPost Canada in an email. “Most kids don’t know that word, so you may share the story of how he was left for dead in a cave, but when they rolled away the stone that was blocking the door, he was not inside! People believe he was brought back to life and returned to heaven.”
“Every major religion and pagans have some major celebration about the return or resurrection of spring with birth and renewal as a theme,” she added. “It is also the time for Passover celebrations for the Jewish faith.”
Dr. Lombardi agrees with Schafer that parents should explain Easter honestly.
“The best method is to tell them the truth about the origins of Easter,” she says. “Easter is the most important day in the Christian calendar. It is the main religious feast in Christianity followed by Christmas. One cannot speak of Easter without speaking about Jesus Christ.”
Even if you aren’t religious, there are benefits to teaching your kids about the true meaning of Easter. For one, it can introduce your child to the concept of death and loss.
“Just as the seasons change throughout the year, Easter is about the seasons of our lives changing, that there is hope for our future, especially after a difficult struggle,” Dr. Lombardi explains. “Easter reminds us that separation from our loved ones after they die is temporary. Easter is a reminder that there is life after death.”
Additionally, Easter can be a great opportunity to teach kids about other people’s faiths.
“Whether parents are religious or not, we have an important role in educating our children about world religions and cultural customs,” Schafer noted. “Even if we don’t believe the stories of the Bible, many still do the cultural customs as a tradition. Christmas was originally about the birth of Jesus — but many who do not believe in Jesus still have a tree and stockings and exchange gifts because it is a custom, not a religious practice. The same goes for Easter.”
So if Easter is about Jesus’ death and resurrection, then why do we have Easter eggs? According to Schafer, it’s because “eggs are a sign of birth.”
The term “Paschal Triduum” means “the three days of Passover.” Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery. These days are the heart of the liturgical year.
Holy Thursday: The Call to Serve
Holy Thursday is a special day when we recall
- the Institution of the Holy Eucharist (the Last Supper),
- Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and
- the institution of the priesthood.
Holy Thursday establishes us as a eucharistic people and as people of service. Jesus came as one who serves. His humility was overflowing. After he washes the feet of his disciples, he says, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). Just as he did at his baptism, Jesus shows us how it’s done. God honours humility. God blesses humility. This is a radical idea! If everyone lived with humility, family life would change, the workplace would change, school would change, marriage would change, society would change. Those who are called to leadership or supervisory roles are called to acts of humble service and love of neighbour.
Like Passion (Palm) Sunday, however, Holy Thursday presents us with another bittersweet revelation: on the night that Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his friends, one of them betrays him.
Many of us can relate to this scenario:
- The day we get a new job, we hear that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer.
- Two years into a marriage, a spouse passes away.
- Three months into a pregnancy, a miscarriage occurs.
- Fifteen years into a marriage, a spouse decides to leave.
- Weeks after graduation, a beloved child dies in a car accident.
The list can go on and on. We may be living the paschal mystery in our daily lives without making the connections. As Jesus relates to our bittersweet seasons, we relate to his.
Good Friday: Spiritual Drought
Good Friday is a painful day as we meditate on the events leading up to the death of our Lord. It is not unusual for Christians to place themselves at the scene. Do we relate to the crowd? To the women? To Mary, Jesus’ mother? To his apostles? To Jesus himself?
Many who have experienced the loss of a loved one find themselves relating to Mary and to the many others who loved Jesus. Grief can be lonely and isolating. The waves of grief come and go and can leave us paralyzed from time to time. The good news, however, is that Jesus conquered death: the loss of our loved ones is temporary. We have the promise that we will see them again. When Martha is grieving the passing of Lazarus, Jesus says: “Your brother will rise again …. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:23-26). Similarly, St. Paul discourages us from grieving, as those who have no hope do (1 Thess. 4:13). The separation we experience is not forever. Our pain is healed; our hope is restored.
While we honour Good Friday in the present, we live it within the reality of the paschal mystery: Jesus died, Jesus rose from the dead and Jesus will come again. This mystery consoles us in times of grief and reminds us that God can and will redeem our losses. We participate in the fullness of the paschal mystery.
Good Friday reminds us that Jesus was victorious in the end. Through his death, Jesus conquers death, darkness and sin. Sometimes God can use what we perceive as a setback or a disappointment to bring a greater good. God can redeem all of our losses and disappointments with renewed strength, insights and emotional healing. The key is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and his truth.
Holy Saturday: Light that Overcomes Darkness
The early Church celebrated the night before Easter by illuminating the churches and even entire cities. Services started around three in the afternoon and ended with the Mass of the Resurrection on Easter morning. At the Easter Vigil we celebrate this ancient rite. On this day, we reflect on the time Christ remained in the tomb, his descent to the dead, and his resurrection. The Easter Vigil fills us with hope and expectation as it inspires us to stop and reflect on the great gift of the paschal mystery. We die and rise with Christ in the past, present and future as we wait at the empty tomb with wonder and awe. We are reminded that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). Holy Saturday is a good time to reflect on how well we wait on the Lord. Are we too busy and distracted to see him among us? Do we place value on unimportant things rather than on our loved ones?
Holy Saturday challenges us to be like Mary, who chose the better part (Lk. 10:42). Waiting for prayers to be answered, lives and relationships to be restored, requires trust and rest in the Lord. Jesus waited for the resurrection. God’s timing is the best timing. Are we mindful of those times we are called to be still and wait?
Easter Sunday is the feast of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities. It is, writes St. Athanasius, the Great Sunday. Easter Season begins on Easter Sunday and ends with Evening Prayer on the Solemnity of Pentecost. The Church teaches “The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful exultation as on a feast day, or better as on ‘Great Sunday.’” (General Norms for the Liturgical Year, #22)
Easter is the reason for the liturgical season and for the spiritual journey. Easter is a reminder that
- the resurrection of Jesus really happened;
- we, too, will be resurrected and receive a glorified body;
- death, darkness and sin have been conquered once and for all;
- we can be made new, despite our pain and loss;
- truth prevails;
- brokenness is healed;
- creation is restored;
- eternal life with God is possible.
Easter is the season of restoration, healing and reconciliation.
I hope God showers you and your family with graces this Holy Week,