Ever since I was a kid, long before I had much of an active Christian faith, I wondered:
Why do we use eggs to celebrate Easter?
Why Easter Eggs? It is not at all obvious. There is only one mention of eggs in the whole New Testament, and it isn’t about Easter. Unless we paint Christian symbols on them, what do they have to do with the resurrection?
Not that there is a shortage of explanations.
People have found all kinds of clever meanings in the practice. Look closely and they sound kind of goofy.
Some will tell you the egg is a symbol of new life. Good start, since Easter is about Christ’s resurrection and our new life in him.
But we are talking about unfertilized eggs. Hard-boiled unfertilized eggs. New life?
Some will tell you an egg is a symbol of the tomb. But then, we are looking for symbolism about Jesus. On Easter, his tomb was empty. Shouldn’t we be using egg shells rather than whole eggs?
It has always looked like a classic example of Christians taking up a practice and then later trying to force some meaning onto it. That happens often enough.
This week I finally figured it out.
This year the Orthodox celebration of Easter fell one week later than in the Western calendar. I happily joined the crowd at St. Elias the Prophet Greek Orthodox Church for the Vigil. From 11:00 p.m. on Holy Saturday till nearly 2:oo Easter morning, we prayed, and sang, and listened to the Word.
After waiting while Jesus body lay in the tomb, we sang the “Paschal Troparion” in joy at his resurrection,
Christ is risen from the dead,
by death, trampling down upon death,
and to those in the tombs He has granted life!
And when it was all over, and we were being sent forth in joy to join in fellowship or to stumble home to bed, we were all offered something precious.
The priest gave us all Easter Eggs
As I was invited to receive a red hard-boiled egg, beautiful in a little satin mesh bag, I wondered why he was giving me a secular symbol on the most sacred of occasions.
But as he placed it in my hand I thought about something I’d recently read by Bp. Kalistos Ware, a marvelous guide to the Orthodox faith. In article about the Great Fast of Lent he said in passing,
A slice of plain cheese or a hard boiled egg never taste so good as on Easter morning, after seven weeks of fasting.
Then my brain, foggy from lack of sleep and buzzing from the glory of Easter, did the math:
No eggs for seven weeks…
A hard-boiled egg to celebrate the resurrection and the end of the fast…
Of course we have Easter Eggs.
The whole thing is hard for us Protestants to understand because we don’t keep the fast.
We gave up the hard parts of being Christians together, but we kept the treats.
The bunny is a whole ‘nother issue.
May the joy of Christ’s resurrection be yours in abundance.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
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