|Posted by Catholicize on April 13, 2012 at 6:10 PM|
So, I teach religious education on Wednesday nights for ninth graders. This last Wednesday we were talking about what Easter was about. A girl asked, "Why is it called Easter? Why not just call it Resurrection day?" I sort of answered her question, but I thought I would do a little more research into the roots of the term Easter.
I was surprised to find out that the explanation I gave to the girl in religious education was pretty insufficient.
I found out that Easter was actually named after a German goddess! So, who was this goddess and why did the Christianity adopt this for its greatest feast?
I would like to answer the second question first. (If you aren't interested in the theology behind choices like this, and just want to know where the name Easter comes from, use your scroll button and head down the page a bit!) Many people think that because Christianity has adopted certain pagan traditions, Christianity is therefore not an inspired religion but rather made up. This gets to the core of what it means to CATHOLICIZE!
I would like to make the case that any religion, if it be true religion, needs to have the ability to change in a way that does not alter the fundamental principles of the faith. In Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's Development of Christian Doctrine, he outlines what is necessary for a development to be a true development as opposed to a corruption.
He compares assimilation in religion to assimilation in the physical universe. "Whatever has life is characterized by growth, so that in no respect to grow is to cease to live. It grows by taking into its own substance external materials." Only living beings can take something external and internalize. This power is called the unitive power. Just as the body takes food and assimilates into the body, so true religion takes on elements external to it and assimilates them into the religion.
He continues to say that, "The stronger and more living is an idea, the more able is it to dispense with safeguards, and trust to itself against the danger of corruption." In other words, Christianity is so sure of it's truth that adopting certain elements, even if they are pagan, do not in any way disturb the confidence in the faith.
So, to say that because Easter was named after a German goddess, or that wedding rings and Christmas trees were pagan, somehow that voids the truths and principles of the Catholic faith is simply not true. Some think that since the liturgical calendar has some relations with pagan holidays that is also a sign that the religion Jesus started was corrupted.
The contrary is actually so. Because Catholicism was not a local religion, but universal, She was able to go to all corners of the world and live among cultures (and not destroy them). The Church did not abolish cultures, but was able to be with them, and even more incorporate some of the customs into the faith. This is what it means to CATHOLICIZE!!!
*If you dispute anything I said, feel you have something to add, or want to improve upon this idea- comment away!
So on to the German goddess! So, the name Easter is potentially related to Estre the German goddess of the rising light and spring time. It is also the Old German word for spring: ôstra. Both words are nearly the same, so it could be either. Easter is merely the common name given to the feast of Christ's resurrection. The name the Church uses is the Pascha, or Passover. Christ is the new Lamb of the Passover. We celebrate the pascha crucififxionis and the pascha resurrectionis, or the passover of the crucifixion and the passover of the resurrection. So is Easter named after a German goddess? Maybe. Maybe not. In the Church we celebrate Christ as the new Passover! In a figurative way I have also heard that Easter has to do with the "rising sun" or the Rising Son! Christ will come again from the East, just as the Sun rises in the East! I think it is a cool little explanation, even if it isn't etymologically correct! haha.
Happy 8th day of Easter! Sorry if this post was confusing! I promise my next post will be lighter! Until next time, God bless!