CHRISTIAN FEASTS AND CUSTOMS
by Francis Weiser (1952)
FEAST OF THE RESURRECTION
The joy and exultation over this greatest of all Christian feasts is evident in the writings of the saints and Fathers from earliest times. Easter is referred to as the "peak (akropolis) of all feasts" and the "Queen of all solemnities." Saint Gregory of Nazianz (390) wrote, "This highest Feast and greatest celebration so much surpasses not only civic holidays but also the other feast days of the Lord, that it is like the sun among stars."1
Christian Pasch *
The feast is called "Pasch" by most nations: Greeks and Romanians (Pascha), Italians (Pasqua), Spaniards and Portuguese (Pascua), French (Pdque), Norwegians (Paskir), Danes (Paaske), Gaels (case). As stated before, this word is taken from the Greek (and Latin) pascha:, which comes from the Hebrew word pesach (passover). The Passover was celebrated by the Jews on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, which began about a week before the full moon of spring. It was instituted to commemorate the deliverance of the people of Israel the night before their departure from Egypt. The angel of God destroyed the first-born of Egypt but passed over the houses of the Israelites. It was the command of God, announced by Moses, that each Hebrew family should slay a young lamb without blemish, and sprinkle its blood on the frame of the door. In the evening the lamb was to be roasted, no bones were to be broken, and it was to be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs by all members of the family. According to divine ordination, this rite was to be repeated every year in a solemn ceremony on the eve of the feast, and is still celebrated by Jewish people everywhere today.2 Jesus observed it for the last time on the night before He died.
There is a significant link between the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter, because Christ died on Passover Day. It is also symbolic because the lamb that had to be sacrificed for the deliverance of Israel is considered by the Church as prophetic of Him Who is the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1, 29). Thus the name and meaning of the Hebrew Pasch was devoutly accepted into the Christian liturgy. Although the death and Resurrection of the Redeemer would have been commemorated by Christians at whatever time they might have occurred, it is of special significance that the Lord actually did die and rise during the days of the Passover celebration.
From the very first, the Resurrection of Christ was celebrated as the greatest and most important festive day of the whole year.
(NOT SO AT ALL..... THE APOSTLES OF CHRIST NEVER WROTE THAT WE SHOULD KEEP SUNDAY IN HONOR OF CHRIST BEING RAISED ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK. THERE IS NO EXAMPLE OF OBSERVING SUNDAY AS CHRIST'S RESURRECTION DAY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. SUCH LANGUAGE AS THE AUHTOR HAS USED HERE, IS THE FIGMENT OF THE IMAGINATION OF THE TRADITIONS OF MEN - Keith Hunt)
In fact, every Sunday is a "little Easter" consecrated to the memory of the Risen Christ. In the Eastern Churches, Sunday bears the name "Resurrection" even today.3 The Council of Nicaea (325) prescribed that on Sundays and during Easter time all Christians should pray standing, never bend their knees, to indicate "that we are risen with Christ." 4 A relic of this custom is the practice of saying the Angelus (daily prayer commemorating the Incarnation) standing, instead of kneeling, on Sundays. At Easter time the antiphon of the Blessed Virgin, Regina caeli, laetare (Queen of Heaven, rejoice) is said standing.
In addition to this weekly celebration of Christ's resurrection, the Church has observed each year from the earliest centuries a special feast at the time of the Jewish Pasch to commemorate the anniversary of the greatest events in the Christian world. Since there is an intimate bond between the Resurrection of Christ and the sacrament of baptism, the Church united these two "resurrections" in a common ritual. It celebrates the "new life" not only of Christ as the Head, but also of His Mystical Body, His faithful followers. This is why the prayers of the liturgy in paschal week constantly reflect those two thoughts: the Resurrection of our Lord and the baptism of the faithful.5
Other Names •
The English word Easter and the German Ostern come from a common origin (Eostur, Eastur, Ostara, Ostar), which to the Norsemen meant the season of the rising (growing) sun, the season of new birth. The word was used by our ancestors to designate the Feast of New Life in the spring. The same root is found in the name for the place where the sun rises (East, Ost). The word Easter, then, originally meant the celebration of the spring sun, which had its birth in the East and brought new life upon earth. This symbolism was transferred to the supernatural meaning of our Easter, to the new life of the Risen Christ, the eternal and uncreated Light.
Based on a passage in the writings of Saint Bede the Venerable (735), the term Easter has often been explained as the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess (Eostre),6 though no such goddess is known in the mythologies of any Germanic tribe. Modem research has made it quite clear that Saint Bede erroneously interpreted the name of the season as that of a goddess.7
(NEVERTHELESS IT WAS ALL TO DO
WITH THE WORSHIP OF THE SUN -
Some Slavic nations, such as Poland, call Easter the "Great Easter (Wielkanoc); the Ukrainians, Russians, and Serbs say the "Great Day" (Velik Den). In Hungary it is referred to as "Feast of Meat" (Husvet), because the eating of meat is resumed again after the long fast.8
Civic Observance •
In medieval documents Easter is often recorded as the beginning of a new year, especially in France, where this custom prevailed until 1563. At Easter time the Roman emperors, starting with Valentinian in 367, released from prison persons who were not dangerous criminals; this practice was followed by emperors, kings, and popes all through medieval times and up to the present century.
Leading citizens in the Roman Empire imitated the clemency of the emperors at Easter time, granting freedom to slaves, forgiving enemies by ending feuds and quarrels, and discontinuing prosecutions in the courts. These customs, too, prevailed all through medieval times in the Christian countries of Europe.9
Easter Greeting •
In the early centuries, the faithful embraced each other with the words "Surrexit Dominus vere" (Christ is truly risen), to which the answer was "Deo gratias" (Thanks be to God). In the Greek Church the greeting is "Christos' aneste" (Christ is risen), the answer, "Aletlws aneste" (He is truly risen). This greeting is still generally used by Russians and Ukrainians (Christos voskres. Vo istinu voskres).10
In Russia the Easter kiss was bestowed during Matins before the night Mass; people would embrace each other in the church. All through Easter week the mutual kiss and embrace were repeated not only in the homes but also on the streets, even with strangers. The Poles and western Slavs greet each other with the wish "A joyful alleluia to you!" (Wesolego AUelujd).
In medieval times, when the bishop celebrated Easter Mass in his cathedral and the clergy received Communion from his hand, the priests and ministers would Mss him on the cheek after Communion, according to the regulations.11
Easter Communion •
Another ancient rite of Easter is the solemn Easter Communion. Church law requires the reception of the Holy Eucharist at least once a year, during Easter time.
This edict dates from the fourth Council of the Lateran (1215).12 The law was not made to inaugurate a new practice but to safeguard the minimum demands of an old tradition. In the early centuries a great deal more was expected from the faithful than Communion only once a year. The Council of Agde (506), for instance, had urged all Christians to receive at least three times a year.13
In the beginning, the obligation of Easter Communion had to be fulfilled on the feast day itself. However, the Church gradually extended the time of this obligation, which now officially begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Low Sunday. By provision of canon law, however, and by special indults, this period has been prolonged in most countries (usually from the first Sunday in Lent to Trinity Sunday).14
THE EASTER VIGIL
Among early Christians, from the fourth century on, in all cities and towns the mood of quiet, somber expectancy suddenly turned into radiant exultation and joy at the sight of the first stars in the evening of Holy Saturday. Thousands of lights began to illuminate the growing darkness. The churches seemed to burst with the blaze of lamps and candles, the homes of the people shone with light, and even the streets were bright with the glow of a thousand tapers. At a time when electric lights were unknown, this tremendous annual illumination was overwhelming.15 The deep impressions it created are still reflected in the writings of the Fathers and in the text of our liturgical service. The night was called the "Mother of All Holy Vigils," 16 the "Great Service of Light" (sacrum lucernarium), the "Night of Radiant Splendor" (irradiata fulgoribus), the "Night of Illumination" (luminosa haec nox).17 We are told that Emperor Constantine (331) "transformed the night of the sacred vigil into the brilliance of day, by lighting throughout the whole city [of Milan] pillars of wax, while burning lamps illuminated every house, so that this nocturnal celebration was rendered brighter than the brightest day."18 Saint Gregory of Nyssa (394), in one of his Easter sermons, mentioned "this glowing night which links the splendor of burning lamps to the morning rays of the sun, thus producing continuous daylight without any darkness."19
Many hymns have been written in praise of this illumination on the vigil of Easter, the best known being the poem Inventor rutilis written by Prudentius (405), a layman and government official of the Roman Empire, and a great Christian poet
Eternal God, O Lord of Light, Who hast created day and night: The sun has set, and shadows deep Now over land and waters creep; But darkness must not reign today: Grant us the light of Christ, we pray.20
It is difficult to picture today the solemn joy and excitement that filled the hearts of Christians in the early centuries on that night. For them the Easter Vigil was the glorious annual triumph which they celebrated together with Christ over sin, death, and the powers of evil. Their excitement was increased beyond modern comprehension by the universal belief in those days that Christ would return for the Last Judgment during one of these Easter Vigils. Nobody stayed at home, not even the little children. The multitudes crowded into the churches, and thousands thronged around the house of God, joining in prayer with those who had been fortunate enough to find places inside. Gold and silver candelabra shed their cheerful light through the open doors and windows; hundreds of lamps suspended from the ceiling illumined the church with a new splendor.21
The custom of spending the Easter Vigil in prayer seems to date from the time of the Apostles. Tertulhan (third century) mentions this prayer per noctem (through the night), and even earlier writings indicate the practice among the early Christians of spending the night before Easter Sunday in common prayer.22
In later centuries the vigil service began with the lighting of the paschal candle, which from the earliest period was considered a sacred symbol of Christ's Person. The praeconia paschalia (jubilant Easter songs) which accompanied the lighting of the candle were already performed in the Roman Empire at the end of the fourth century. The earliest manuscript containing the present text of the song (Exultet) dates from the seventh or eighth century.23 After the blessing of the candle, a prayer service was held; passages of the Bible were read (the "prophecies"), then the priests and people recited psalms, antiphons, and orations. This service lasted much longer than today, but the faithful did not mind, since they spent the whole night in church anyway.
Toward midnight the bishop and clergy went in procession to the baptismal font, a large basin built in a structure outside the church. There the baptismal water was consecrated with the prayers and ceremonies still in use today. Once more the catechumens were addressed by their spiritual shepherd. Then, divested of any ornaments or jewelry, they stepped into the "life-giving waters." The bishop, also standing in the water, baptized them one by one, first the men, then the women and children. After baptism they were anointed. Finally they put on sandals and flowing white garments of pure linen. In this attire they appeared at all services until the end of Easter week.
Long after midnight, probably at the first dawn of Easter Sunday, the vigil was concluded with the customary prayers of the litanies and celebration of the Holy Sacrifice.24
(HOW ALL THIS SEEMS TO BE SO
RELIGIOUS AND HOLY AND FULL OF
PIETY - IT DECEIVES NEARLY 2
BILLION CHRISTIANS ON EARTH IN
ONE WAY OR ANOTHER - THE
HARLOT MOTHER CHURCH AND HER
MANY DAUGHTERS - Keith Hunt)
This basic structure of the ancient Easter Vigil had been altered somewhat and reduced in significance through the practice of anticipating the vigil service on Holy Saturday morning in past centuries.25 It was restored, however, by Pope Pius XII to its original place and character, so that once more the impressive light symbolism attains its full effect during the darkness of the night, and the faithful may take their active part in it as of old. The solemn baptism of adults is to be administered, if possible, and the Eucharistic service has again become a celebration of the very time and event of Christ's resurrection.26
Our restored vigil celebration has retained some rites that were added in the course of later centuries. The most notable of them is the blessing of the Easter fire.
Easter Fire •
The Germanic nations had a popular tradition of setting big bonfires at the beginning of spring. This custom was frowned upon by the Church because it served a pagan symbolism, and consequently was suppressed when those nations became Christian. As late as 742, the prohibition of such fires was firmly upheld.27 However, Irish bishops and monks who came to the European continent in the sixth and seventh centuries brought with them an ancient rite of their own: the setting and blessing of big bonfires outside the church on Holy Saturday night. Saint Patrick himself, the Father and Founder of the Church in Ireland, had started this tradition, to supplant the Druidic pagan spring fires with a Christian and religious fire symbol of Christ, the Light of the World.28
(SO TAKE WHAT THE PAGANS DID TO
FALSE GODS AND ADAPT IT TO
CHRISTIANITY, WITH SOME HOLY
WATER, OR WHATEVER SEEMS RIGHT
AND-SO-RIGHT TO MEN - Keith Hunt)
This Christian usage of an Easter bonfire naturally appealed to the population of the West Frankish kingdom (France), where the Irish monks established flourishing monasteries. In the East Frankish kingdom (Germany) the Easter fires remained suppressed for a long time, mostly because the missionaries of those regions had not come from Ireland, but from England, and thus did not know the custom of a Christian Easter fire. In the course of the eighth and ninth centuries, however, the custom became so popular in the whole Carolingian empire that it was eventually incorporated into the liturgy of Rome during the latter part of the ninth century.29 Thus the blessing of the fire has now become the opening rite of the ceremonies on the Vigil of Easter.30
Resurrection Service •
In medieval times it was a general custom to celebrate the Elevatio (Raising) of the sacred Host or the cross from the shrine of the Sepulcher during the night of Holy Saturday or in the early morning of Easter Sunday. In many places this was done by the clergy alone. A procession would bear the Blessed Sacrament or the cross from the shrine to the main altar. A more solemn variety of this custom was the Resurrection service, widely practiced in central Europe. With the church already decorated for Easter, the priest took the Blessed Sacrament from the shrine, removed the white veil, and holding the monstrance aloft intoned the ancient antiphon "The Lord is risen, alleluia." While the faithful sang their traditional Easter songs and all the church bells rang, the procession moved from the shrine to the main altar. There the Te Deum was intoned, and a solemn benediction concluded the service.31
Christian folklore has adorned the Easter Vigil with a wealth of interesting customs, most of them based on the joyful liturgy of the solemn service.32 In many sections of Europe the lights at the domestic shrines are extinguished before the vigil service. No fire or light is allowed anywhere in the house. The stoves, lamps, and candlesticks have been cleaned and prepared on the preceding days; now they stand ready to receive the blessed fire. Meanwhile, the boys build a pile of wooden logs in front of the church, each contributing a piece to which a strand of wire is fastened. At this pile the priest strikes the Easter fire and blesses it. As log after log begins to burn, the youngsters draw them out and rush home swinging the glowing pieces. From them the lamps and the stove are lit. Then the faggots are extinguished and put aside; pieces will be placed in the kitchen stove when storms and lightning threaten throughout the year.33
In other places people carry the flames of the blessed fire in lanterns back to their homes. A vigil light before the crucifix is lit, and zealously guarded all through the year.
At the moment of the Gloria in the Mass, when suddenly all the bells start ringing again, the people who have to stay at home embrace and wish each other a blessed Easter.34
"This is the day which the Lord has made, the Feast of Feasts,, and our Pasch: the Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ according to the flesh." With these solemn words the official calendar of the Western Church announces the celebration of Easter Sunday. Equally solemn are the words of the calendar (Pente-costarion) of the Eastern Church: "The sacred and great Sunday of the Pasch, on which we celebrate the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord and God, the Saviour Jesus Christ."35
(WHILE THE RESURRECTION OF
CHRIST WAS A MAIN PART OF THE
GOSPEL WITH THE APOSTLES, THERE
IS NO INSTRUCTION FROM CHRIST OR
ANY OF HIS FIRST CENTURY APOSTLES
TO SET ASIDE THE OBSERVANCE OF
THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK OR
HOLD ANY FANCY SERVICE AS LIKE
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH DID
INTRODUCE IN THE SECOND CENTURY
- Keith Hunt)
In the Latin Church there are no special ceremonies other than the Mass itself, which is celebrated in all churches with festive splendor and great solemnity on Easter Sunday.
In the Greek Church, the solemn services in honor of Christ's resurrection begin at midnight. The priest and all the congregation, hghted candles in hand, leave the church by a side door after the Vigil of Easter. The procession walks around to the main door, which has been closed (representing the sealed tomb o£ Christ). The priest slowly makes the sign of the cross with the crucifix he holds in his right hand. At this moment the doors swing open, the people intone the hymn "Christ is risen," all the church bells start pealing, and the jubilant procession moves -into the brightly illuminated church.36 The candles in the hands of the worshipers fill the building with a sea of sparkling lights. The Matins of Easter are then sung, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, at which all present receive Communion, is celebrated.
After Mass the solemn Easter blessing is bestowed upon the food brought by each family. In the cities of Russia this blessing used to be held outside the church. People would pile the food on tables, around their Easter breads (Paska); each bread bore a lighted taper. The priests in their resplendent robes, accompanied by assistants, passed in procession beside the waiting multitude, blessing the food and the people as bells rang and the church choir intoned joyous Easter hymns.
Of particular historical interest in the Latin liturgy is the sequence. The sequences originated in the tenth century as Latin texts to be substituted for the long-drawn final "a" of the alleluia, which is sung at the end of the Gradual.
The sequence of Easter Sunday, Victimae Pasohali Laudes (Praise to the Paschal Victim) was written by the priest Wipo (about 1030), court chaplain of Emperor Conrad. It soon became part of the official text of the Easter Mass and is sung or recited in all Catholic churches every day during Easter Week.37
The significant fact is that the Victimae Paschali was the first inspiration for the famous miracle plays that developed into a wealth of religious drama from the tenth century on. All drama performances of sacred subjects, both within and without the churches, are traced back to this Easter sequence.38 The dramatic question-and-answer structure of Wipo's poem lent itself naturally to this lovely scene:
Tell us, Maria, what didst thou see on thy way? I saw the tomb of the living Christ And the glory of the Risen Lord, The angels who gave witness, The winding-sheet and the linen cloths.
Christ, my Hope, is risen!
He precedes you into Galilee. Now we truly know that Christ is risen from the dead. Thou, Victor, Saviour-King, have mercy on us.
The words of Wipo's text were soon amplified by other phrases from the Bible, and the appealing play was eventually presented with appropriate devotion before the shrine of the Sepulcher on Easter Sunday morning. It was called the "Visit to the Tomb" (Visitatio sepulcri). In front of the shrine, now empty (the cross or Blessed Sacrament having been removed), the clergy played the scene of the Gospel that tells of the visit of the holy women to the tomb on Sunday morning. Two young clerics in white gowns, who sat or stood at the shrine, represented the angels and pronounced the Easter message at the end of the play: "He is not here, He is risen as He foretold. Go, tell His disciples that He is risen. Alleluia."
These liturgical Easter plays strongly appealed to the devout in medieval centuries. As time went on, various plays were written for Christmas, Epiphany, and other feast days. They all followed the structure of the Easter play inspired by the Vio-timae Pasc Jiati. A large number of these Easter plays, and later similar Christmas and Epiphany plays, are preserved in manuscripts and early prints all over Europe and in some of the museums and private collections in America.39
Popular Observance •
Special celebrations were held in most countries during the early morning hours of Easter Sunday. According to legend all running water was blessed with great powers to protect and heal.40 In rural sections the inhabitants still perform various water rites at the dawn of the feast. In Anstria, groups of young people gather long before sunrise in meadows or on hilltops to dance traditional Easter dances and sing their ancient carols.
A universal celebration was held in the Middle Ages at the hour of sunrise. According to an old legend, the sun dances on Easter morning or makes three cheerful jumps at the moment of rising, in honor of Christ's resurrection.41 The rays of light penetrating the clouds were said to be angels dancing for joy. In Ireland and England people put a pan of water in the east window and watched the dancing sun mirrored in it.
All over Europe people would gather in open plains or on the crests of hills to watch the spectacle of sunrise-on Easter Day. The moment of daybreak was marked by the shooting of cannon and the ringing of bells. Bands and choirs used to greet the rising sun as a symbol of the Risen Christ with Easter hymns and alleluia songs. This morning salute is still performed in the Alpine regions of Austria.42
On the island of Malta, a quaint custom is practiced at sunrise on Easter Day. A group of men carries a statue of the Saviour from their church to a hilltop of the neighborhood, not in slow and solemn procession, but running uphill as fast as they can, to indicate the motion of rising.
In most places the crowds prayed as the sun appeared; often this prayer service was led by the priest, and the whole group would afterward go in procession to the parish church for Easter Mass. From this medieval custom dates our modern sunrise service, held by many congregations on Easter Sunday.
(THE SUN-RISE SERVICE FROM THE
PAGANS WHO WORSHIPPED THE SUN
AT EASTER TIME.....THE COMING OF
THE SUN BACK TO GLORY IN THE
SPRING. HOW EASY TO ADAPT IT TO
FIT CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY, THOUGH
WRONG IT IS THAT JESUS WAS
RAISED ON SUNDAY MORNING. THE
TRUTH IS HE WAS RAISED FROM
THE DEAD SOMETIME SHORTLY
AFTER SUNSET SATURDAY EVENING.
YES A FIRST DAY RESURRECTION AS
GOD BEGINS DAYS. ALL THIS IS
PROVED TO YOU IN STUDIES ON MY
WEBSITE - Keith Hunt)
New Clothes •
As the newly baptized Christians in the early centuries wore white garments of new linen, so it became a tradition among all the faithful to appear in new clothes on Easter Sunday, symbolizmg the "new life" that the Lord, through His resurrection, bestowed upon all believers. This custom was widespread during medieval times, in many places a popular superstition threatened with ill luck all those who could afford to buy new clothes for Easter Sunday but refused to do so. An ancient saying in Ireland is "For Christmas, food and drink; for Easter, new clothes." This ancient tradition of new clothes is still adhered to, although its meaning and background have long since been forgotten by many.
Easter Walk •
Another picturesque old Easter Sunday custom is the "Easter walk" through fields and open spaces after Mass. This is still held in many parts of Europe. Dressed in their finery, the men and women, especially the younger ones, march in a well-ordered parade through the town and into the open country. A decorated crucifix or, in some places, the Easter candle is borne at the head of the procession. At certain points on the route they recite prayers and sing Easter hymns, interspersed with gay chatting along the way. In some parts of Germany and Austria, groups of young farmers ride on richly decorated horses (Osterritt). After the Reformation this medieval Easter walk lost its original religious character and gradually developed into our present-day Easter parade.43
On Easter Sunday open house is held in most Christian nations. Relatives, neighbors, and friends exchange visits. Easter eggs and bunnies are the order of the day, and special Easter hams are the principal dish at dinner.44 In the rural parts of Austria, any stranger may freely enter any house on Easter Sunday; he will be welcomed by the host and may eat whatever Easter food he wishes. Among the Christians in the Near East the whole Sunday (after Mass and breakfast) is spent in visiting friends and neighbors; wine, pastry, and coffee are served, and children receive presents of eggs and sweets.
(AND WHAT HAS EGGS AND BUNNIES
TO DO WITH CHRIST AT HIS
RESURRECTION TIME? DO YOU
SUPPOSE THEY ALSO HAD
SOMETHING TO DO WITH FERTILITY
RITES OF THE PAGANS? Keith Hunt)
Easter Laughter •
On Easter Sunday afternoon most people in the villages and towns of central Europe come back to church for the solemn services of Vespers and Benediction. At the sermon that preceded this afternoon service, a quaint custom was practiced in those regions during medieval times. The priests would regale their congregations with funny stories and poems, drawing moral conclusions from these jolly tales (Ostermarlein: Easter fables).45 The purpose of this unusual practice was to reward the faithful with something gay after the many sad and serious Lenten preachings, a purpose easily achieved as the churches rang with the loud and happy laughter of the audience (risus paschalis: Easter laughter).46 This tradition is found as early as the thirteenth century. From the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries the custom was widespread, and a number of collections of Easter fables appeared in print.47 The reformers violently attacked the practice as an abuse, however, and it was gradually suppressed by the Church during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Easter Bells •
It is an ancient custom in Slavic countries (Russia, the Ukraine, Poland) to ring the church bells with short intervals all day from morning to night on Easter Sunday, reminding the faithful that it is the greatest feast of the year.48
In the early days of Christianity all of Easter Week was one continuous feast. Although the number of prescribed holydays differed in various provinces, most people abstained from their usual work and attended church services every day. Many went to all three services that at the time of the Roman Empire were held daily at morning, noon, and night. Priests in France used to celebrate two Masses every day during Easter Week. Indeed, a Spanish Missal of the ninth century shows three Mass texts for each day of the Easter Octave.
Gradually, however, the Church reduced obligatory attendance to four days, then, in 1094, to three. In many parts of Europe these -three days are still observed, at least as half-holydays, which means that most of the faithful, although not obliged to attend Mass, voluntarily do so, as well as abstain from work. Since 1911, even Easter Monday is no longer a holyday of obligation, though it remains a legal holiday in most European countries, both Catholic and Protestant.49
Because those who were baptized on Holy Saturday wore new white garments, Easter Week is also called "White Week" in the Western Church and the "Week of New Garments" in the Oriental Church. During the whole week the newly baptized, in their linen dress and soft sandals, stood close to the altar at all services as a separate group within the sanctuary of the basilica. Every day the bishop would address them with special instructions after the other worshipers had left. It was the honeymoon of their new life as Christians, a week of intense happiness and spiritual joy. On the Sunday after Easter they attended Mass clothed for the last time in their white baptismal robes. At the end of the service the bishop solemnly dismissed them from the place of honor in the sanctuary, so they could mix with their families and friends in the body of the church. Later, at home, they exchanged the white garments for the ordinary dress of their station in life.50
Emmus Walk (Monday) •
Easter Monday was, in medieval times, and still is in many countries, a day of rest, relaxation, and special festivities. First among them is the "Emmaus walk," a custom inspired by the Gospel o£ the day (Luke 24:13-35). Families and groups of friends go on outings or long walks into the fields, forests, and mountains, hold picnics and spend the afternoon playing games, dancing, and singing.51 In Germany and Austria long ago, youngsters would gather in large meadows to play Easter games and Easter sports (Osterspiele), and also to perform ancient folk dances accompanied by the music of guitars and mandolins.52 The piece of land on which these Easter games took place bore the name "Easter field" (Osteranger), and many cities still have lots so called, although the custom has long since vanished. In rural regions, however, such ancient traditions have survived, and are practiced every year.
In French Canada, the Emmaus walk takes the form of a visit to the grandparents, which is faithfully adhered to by all children on Easter Monday. The Poles hold their outings and picnics in large groups; often the inhabitants of a whole town will gather in some rural "Emmaus" grove which remains the goal of their excursions for many years. The days from Holy Thursday to Easter Tuesday are observed as public holidays in Norway, and many people spend this period in skiing and other winter sports in the snowy bills. The deep tan acquired in the open air during the Easter holidays is called Paskebrun (Easter tan).
Fertility Rites (Monday and Tuesday) •
In most countries of northern Europe, Monday and Tuesday are the traditional days of "switching" and "drenching," customs based on pre-Christian fertility rites, previously mentioned. On Monday the boys are supposed to apply this ancient rite to the girls, while on Tuesday the girls retaliate. Actually, both are now performed on Easter Monday in many places. The custom is called Gsund-schlagen (stroke of health) in Austria and southern Germany, Dyngus (ransom) in Poland, LoscoTkodas (dousing) in Hungary, and Pomlazka (willow switch) among the Czechs and Slovaks. In good-natured mischief the boys will surprise the girls with buckets or bottles of water, and douse them thoroughly, often reciting some little rhyme.53
(YES MORE PRE-CHRISTIAN RITES OF
THE PAGAN FERTILITY WORSHIPPING
BROUGHT INTO CHRISTIANITY -
Whole processions are formed by youngsters dressed in out-landish costumes who go from farm to farm and sing or recite playful ditties. At the end of their performance they suddenly splash water on their host and his family, whereupon they are given eggs, pastry, and sweets. In many places the water is merely sprinkled, instead of splashed, and in cities people have refined the ancient custom by spraying perfume at each other, with friendly wishes for good health and happiness.
The "switching" is done with gentleness. Carrying their rods of pussy willow or leaved branches, the boys go in little groups from house to house, apply the switch to all women (but never to children), and receive small presents in reward. Groups of girls carry a little tree or branch, decorated with flowers and ribbons. They make the rounds like the boys, and at every home they sing traditional songs announcing the summer and expressing good wishes for health and harvest.54 On Quinquagesima Sunday in Norway young folks visit relatives and friends and "spank" them with the Fastelavns-ris (carnival rod), which is made of brightly colored paper strips fastened to a painted stick or handle.
A similar custom of considerable antiquity was that of "heaving," practiced in some sections of England on Easter Monday and Tuesday up through the nineteenth century. Some small villages may still do it. On Easter Monday a group of men go to each house, carrying a chair aloft, and amid much excitement and joking insist that any lady present get into the chair and be lifted up three times, demanding a forfeit in the form of a kiss. On the next day it is the girls' turn to do the same thing to the men.
(HUMMMM.....WHERE'S ALL THAT
IN THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST OR
THE NEW TESTAMENT? Keith Hunt)
Holy Souls (Thursday) •
Among Slavic nations the Thursday of Easter Week is devoted in a special way to the "Easter memory" of the departed ones. The faithful go to Mass, which on this particular day is offered for the dead of the parish. Pictures of deceased relatives and friends are decorated with flowers both at home and in the cemetery (many tombstones carry images of the deceased, usually a framed photograph). No farmer would work on this day, for the memory of the holy souls demands respectful rest and quiet. According to popular superstition any man who works his farm on Easter Thursday will meet with ill luck and dire punishment.55
(AGAIN....WHERE'S ALL THIS IN THE
NEW TESTAMENT? Keith Hunt)
Easter Pilgrimage (Fkdday) •
Friday of Easter Week is a favorite day for devout pilgrimages (Osterwallfahrt) in many parts of Europe. Praying and singing hymns, the faithful walk many hours through fields and forests, preceded by a cross and many church banners. The goal of the pilgrimage is usually a shrine or church in some neighboring village. There they attend Mass and perform their devotions. At one of these processions, in the Austrian Tyrol, people walk ten hours each way. In some sections of Germany and Austria the farmers make their pilgrimage on horseback, accompanied by a band playing Easter hymns.56
Low Sunday •
The Sunday after Easter was called the "Octave of the Pasch" from the earliest centuries.57 Later (in the seventh century) it acquired the name "Sunday in White" (Dominica in Albis) because it was the last day on which the white garments were worn by the newly baptized Christians. After attending Mass they changed from their baptismal robes to ordinary dress.58 The popular name for this Sunday in most European countries is "The White Sunday." The English term "Low Sunday" is derived from the ancient practice of counting the octave day as belonging to the feast, so that Easter actually would last eight days including two Sundays. The primary (high) one is Easter Sunday, and the secondary (low) one the Sunday after Easter.
In the Byzantine Church, Low Sunday bears the title of "second highest" Sunday of the year (deuteroprote), or "Sunday following the Pasch" (Antipascha). From the Gospel, which tells how the Apostle Thomas touched the wounds of Christ, it is also called Sunday of the Apostle Thomas.59
Low Sunday was for centuries, and still is in most parts of Europe, the day when children receive their first Communion. Dressed in white, they enter the church in solemn procession, holding Hghted candles. They renew their baptismal vows and assist at Mass, which usually is conducted with great solemnity. In some places a most appealing custom is observed. Each child receives first Communion with father and mother kneeling beside him, also receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
To be continued
WEEELLL.......IF ALL THIS DOES
NOT BLOW YOU AWAY. WE SEE
AGAIN A FORM OF RELIGION
MADE UP, ADOPTED, ADAPTED,
TO THE IDEAS OF MEN. BUT
MORE CUNNING AND DECEPTIVE
IS THAT ON AN OUTWARD FORM
IT LOOKS VERY RIGHTEOUS, VERY
MUCH FULL OF PIETY, HOLINESS.
SATAN OFTEN COMES AS AN
ANGEL OF LIGHT, LOOKING PURE.
THE DEVIL ALSO OFTEN COMES
JUST BEING CLOSE TO GOD'S
TRUTH, A CLOSE COPY. DID YOU
NOTICE AN "OCTIVE" DAY - AN
EIGHT DAY TO THE EASTER
WEEK - 8 IN TOTAL. GOD'S TRUE
PASSOVER FEAST AND 7 DAYS OF
THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED
BREAD IS A TOTAL OF 8 DAYS.
THEN YOU SHOULD BE NOTICING
THE COMPLICATED, FULL OF THIS
AND THAT IN CATHOLIC FEASTS.
BUT AS PAUL SAID, "THE SIM-
PLICITY THAT IS IN CHRIST
GOD'S FESTIVALS ARE TODAY
PRETTY SIMPLE TO FOLLOW.