For many Christians, modern Easter celebrations would not be complete without bonnets, bunnies and colored eggs. As fun as those components can be, Christianity is at the heart of Easter, which is the most important date on the Christian religious calendar. Easter Sunday marks the culmination of events that shaped the beliefs and teachings of an entire faith.
Easter marks the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which Christians believe occurred within days of his crucifixion and burial. The New Testament indicates that the Resurrection of Jesus is one of the chief tenets of the Christian faith and established Jesus as the Son of God. Easter is an example that God will righteously judge the world by sacrificing His son for the sins of others. And any person who chooses to follow Jesus receives everlasting life thanks to Christ’s Resurrection.
Easter is linked to the Jewish celebration of Passover due to its proximity on the calendar and the fact that Jesus was Jewish. The Bible states that Jesus participated in the Passover meal during The Last Supper. At The Last Supper, Jesus identified the matzo (bread) and wine as his body and blood, soon to be sacrificed and shed. Christians believe The Last Supper marked the first transubstantiation, or the turning of bread and wine into the actual substance of Christ’s body and blood. This also was the first celebration of the Eucharist and Holy Mass that would become another core component of the Christian faith.
Easter is a time of great celebration that is preceded by Lent, a weeklong period of reflection, prayer and repentance. The days immediately prior to Easter are commonly referred to as Holy Week. This encompasses Palm Sunday and lasts through Holy Thursday (the day of The Last Supper), Good Friday (when Jesus was crucified and placed in the tomb), and Holy Saturday (the 40-hour-long vigil that the followers of Jesus Christ held after his death and burial).
On Easter Sunday, four women, including Mary Magdalene, went to Christ’s tomb to anoint his body with spices and oils. They found the tomb was empty and were met with an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead. A biblical account in John 20:14-16 indicates that Mary Magdalene was the first to speak with the risen Jesus. She mistakes Jesus for a gardener and says to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!” In regard to his apostles, Simon Peter was the first to see the risen Christ.