Festive bonnets, Sunday brunch, and chocolate-covered eggs galore are all things we’ve come to associate with the secular commemoration of Easter — a time to gather with family and friends and celebrate the start of the spring season, while shedding the last vestiges of winter.
Yet for Christians worldwide, Easter is the most significant day of the year, commemorating and celebrating Christ’s glorious Resurrection.
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Easter, or Pascha (which means Passover in Greek) is the culmination of 50 days of preparation, including fasting, almsgiving, and repentance. For the faithful, it is also a day brimming with joy, splendor, and magnificence.
Pascha comes from the Jewish word Pesah, which means Passover. In the Jewish tradition, it commemorates the freeing of the Hebrew people from Egyptian bondage.
The early Christian church reinterpreted Passover into a feast symbolizing the death and subsequent resurrection of Christ — which ultimately emancipates all of humanity from death, transcending time and space.
In essence, Christ is the True Pascha as referenced in the New Testament, according to 1 Corinthians 5:7: “For our paschal lamb, Christ has been sacrificed.”
The holiest day of the year is also considered the Feast of Feasts, as expressed in the eloquent Paschal homily by St. John Chrysostom (meaning golden-mouthed), an early church father and once archbishop of Constantinople. The homily is read at the conclusion of the resurrection service and divine liturgy in the wee hours on Sunday morning.
A portion of the homily, written around 400 AD, reads:
Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord.
First and last, receive alike your reward.
Rich and poor, dance together.
You who fasted, and you who have not fasted, rejoice together.
The table is fully laden: let all enjoy it.
The calf is fatted: let none go away hungry.
Let none lament his poverty, for the universal Kingdom is revealed.
Let none bewail his transgressions, for the light of forgiveness has risen from the tomb.
Let none fear death, for death of the Savior has set us free …
Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.