Easter Sunday, being the day celebrated by the Christian church in commemoration of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, is appropriately kept as a feast day by Rose Croix Freemasons. The Western churches, or those not identified with the Jewish race, generally keep Easter as the first day of Holy Week following the Friday of the crucifixion, while the Eastern churches as a rule keep Easter as the fourteenth day of April, immediately following the general fast. With the Jews, the Christian thought of Easter bears significant resemblance to the Paschal Lamb. Easter signifies to the entire Western Christian world the resurrection of the Christ, the name being derived from the Latin pascha which, in turn, came from the Chaldee or Aramaean form for the Hebrew word meaning Pass-over (see Exodus, xii, 27).
According to Bede the name is derived from Eostre or Ostara, the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. Eostur monath or our month of April was also dedicated to this goddess. The German name for Easter is astern, named after this self-same goddess of Spring, the Teutonic Ostera. The New Testament makes no mention of an observance of Easter. The first Christians did not have special days held more sanctified than the rest. As has been written (Ecclesiastical History, Socrates v, 22), "The apostles had no thought of appointing festival days, but of promoting a life of blamelessness and piety."
For centuries the controversy as to just exactly what day was to be held as Easter went on between the various sects. Easter day is, briefly, the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. This varies in different longitudes and this difficulty presented many problems to the clergy and the astronomers. About the year 325 it was decided by the Council of Nicaea, called by Constantine, that the correct date of Easter was to be reckoned at Alexandria and announced each year to the churches under the jurisdiction of that See by the Bishop him self.
This was to be communicated to the Roman See.
A bitter controversy ensued. Many refused to accept this solution of the difficulty, insisting upon the observance of the fourteenth day. Attempts were made to compute by means of cycles of years the correct time. At first an eight years cycle was adopted, then the eighty-four year cycle of the Jews, and after much reckoning a cycle of nineteen years was accepted.
Offing to the lack of anything definite Saint Augustine tells us that in the year 387 Easter was kept on March 21 by the churches of Gaul, on April 18 in Italy and on April 25 in Egypt. The ancient Celtic and British Churches adhered stubbornly to the finding of the Council of Constantine and received their instructions from the Holy See at Rome. Saint Augustine of Canterbury led the opposing group and this difference of opinion had the effect in England of a Church holding Easter on one day of certain years and the other Church holding Easter on an entirely different Sunday. Bede tells us that between the y ears 645 and 651 Queen Eanfleda fasted and kept Palm Sunday while her husband, Oswy, then King of Northumbria, followed the rule of the British Church and celebrated the Easter festival.
In 669 this difference of opinion was ended in England, due probably to the efforts of Archbishop Theodore In 1752 the Gregorian reformation of the calendar was adopted by Great Britain and Ireland. Easter at present is the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after the 21st of March, and if the full moon happens on a Sunday, Faster day is the Sunday after. By full moon is meant, the fourteenth day of the moon.
The ceremonies of the Easter Sepulcher are discussed in Scenic Representations, which see.
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