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Easter Customs

Easter is the "Queen of Feasts" and, no less than Christmas, has acquired many customs that can be aids to living out the liturgical promise, "Therefore let us keep the Feast."  Some of these customs are already found on other pages of Full Homely Divinity. There is an extensive page on Easter eggs and the page on Lenten customs has information about burying and recovering the Alleluia.  Those, of course, are only a beginning.  On this page, we have collected more ways of keeping the feast--some old, some new.  And we are always looking for more, so let us know what you have found and would like to share.

Christ dancing on his tomb--stone carving at the entrance to the inner chamber of the Holy Sepulchre, JerusalemThe Easter Sepulchre

When Saint Francis set up his first Christmas crèche, which was actually a live tableau, his purpose was to give people a living lesson in one of the central mysteries of the Christian faith, and he was following in a lively tradition.  In those days, not only were many people illiterate but when they heard the Gospels read in church they heard them in a foreign tongue, Latin.  Much of what they knew of the teaching of the Church was communicated graphically, in painting and stained glass, stone and wood carving, music and drama, and, of course, liturgy.  Liturgy is a form of drama, a ceremonial re-presentation of the mystery of faith, enacted by the Church when it gathers for worship.  The Church has distilled its primary acts of worship into several essential patterns (Baptism and Eucharist, of course, butThe Angel at the Sepulchre - Erastus Dow Palmer also penance, marriage, burial, etc.). But these have also been supplemented, in different places and times, by what we might call "enrichments," such as the Christmas crèche.  Like the crèche, these enrichments have helped to bring ancient stories to life in graphic and sometimes deeply moving ways.  Many of them have been lost over the years, but we at FHD are dedicated to encouraging their recovery, whenever that might be a good and helpful thing to do.

The ceremonies of Holy Week are an example of the power of liturgical drama.  For many years, Anglicans have kept watch before the Blessed Sacrament in the hours between the Liturgies of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the hours between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Elaborate gardens and altars of repose have been erected to recall the Garden of Gethsemane and to provide a setting for meditation on the mystery of Christ's sacrifice.  In recent years, this custom has been supplemented by the revival of footwashing and the stripping and washing of the altar on Maundy Thursday, and veneration of the Cross on Good Friday--vivid liturgical acts which draw worshipers into a sense of personal participation in the story itself. This is what good drama does. This is what good liturgy does.Easter Sepulchre at Lincoln Cathedral

We do not know exactly when the idea of the Easter sepulchre first appeared, or who invented it.  We do know that it can be found as early as the 10th century--long before Francis and his Christmas crèche! By the time of the Reformation in the 16th century Easter sepulchres and the ceremonies associated with them were common all over the Continent and in Britain.  The sepulchre itself took many forms, from a simple niche in the wall of the church, to elaborate wooden structures set up on the flat tops of tombs, such as this tomb in Lincoln Cathedral.  Click on the photo for a larger view and notice the three sleeping soldiers carved on the front of the tomb.  Sometimes, the tomb that was used was permanently ornamented for its annual use as the Easter sepulchre, as this tomb was.  But others looked like normal tombs for most of the year and were only set apart with special symbols when actually needed at the end of Holy Week.  English sepulchres were almost invariably near the high altar of the church, on the north side.  The most elaborate super structures created for this purpose included some kind of chest that could be closed once it had received its sacred treasure on Good Friday.  There were statues ofWelsh Easter Sepulchre angels, brackets for candles, and the chest itself was carved with symbols of the Passion.    In some cases, where there was no built-in sepulchre, there were free-standing Easter sepulchres such as this late-15th century example from Wales.

The ceremonies associated with the Easter sepulchre began on Good Friday.  According to the Sarum Missal, following Vespers, which was said privately on Good Friday, the clergy placed a cross and a consecrated host in the sepulchre.  A description of the ceremony as it was performed in Durham in the 16th century, prior to the Reformation, tells of a picture of Christ that was placed in the sepulchre with the crucifix and had a crystal set in it to hold the Blessed Sacrament. The sepulchre was censed and closed and responsories were appointed to be sung while this all took place.  Church accounts record the cost of candles to be set before the sepulchre and also the cost of food and drink for those who watched at the sepulchre until Easter morning.  In some places we know that the minor clergy watched.  But in others, the sexton and his assistants drew this duty.  We do not know whether parishioners volunteered to help or not.

On Easter morning, the sepulchre was opened with rejoicing.  The Blessed Sacrament was taken in procession around the church, finally being placed on the high altar with great ceremony.  Likewise, the cross was removed from the sepulchre and carried in procession around the church. In some places, and particularly on the Continent, the Easter morning ceremony developed into a play involving the angel at the tomb and the women who came to anoint the body of Jesus.  In an interesting variation on this theme, neither the Blessed Sacrament nor the cross play any part in the Easter play.  Rather, it is the linens.  A 13th century French version of the Easter play was performed near the end of Matins, early in the morning. One cleric dressed in an alb goes quietly to sit at the sepulchre.  In the meantime, three others, vested in copes and carrying incense, enter the church and make a slow progression to the sepulchre.  When they arrive, the angel sings, "Quem queritis?"--Whom do you seek?  A sung dialogue follows, along the lines of the various Gospel accounts of the visit of the women to the tomb.  Finally, the angel opens the sepulchre, revealing nothing but the linens with which the Lord's body was wrapped.  Putting down their incense, the three lift up the linen and show it to the congregation, saying, "Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro."  They then carry it in procession to the high altar and spread it there.

This last bit of symbolism holds an interesting parallel to the Paschal Liturgy of the Orthodox.  Their Holy Friday Liturgy focuses on a burial shroud which is embroidered or painted with an icon of the dead Savior.  This shroud is spread in the center of the church and venerated by the faithful on Good Friday and until the end of the Vigil of Pascha.  At that point, it is lifted from the tomb and placed on the altar of the church, where it remains throughout the Paschal season, illuminating the link between the Passion and Resurrection and between the Sacrifice of Christ and the Sacrament which re-presents it.  

Burial of the Cross
A modern adaptation of the Sarum Rite

Following the Communion of Good Friday, the Cross previously used for Veneration is wrapped in a plain white cloth and reverently carried to the Easter Sepulchre by the priest. The Altar of Repose may be used for this purpose or a wall niche or aumbry, though not the aumbry in which the Blessed Sacrament is normally reserved as this should remain empty and open until the Sacrament is once again reserved on Easter.  It is appropriate for the Sepulchre to be decorated with flowers.  If there is a choir, the following may be sung as the Cross is carried to the Sepulchre. Or else, it may be said responsively by priest and people after the Cross is placed in the Sepulchre.Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas

V:  I am counted as one of them that go down into the pit; I am even as a man that hath no strength, cast off among the dead.

R:  They have laid me in the lowest pit, in a place of darkness, and in the deep.

All:  I am counted as one....

The priest may cense the Sepulchre. If the Sepulchre has a door or curtain, that is closed at this time. Then is said or sung

V:  When they buried the Lord, they sealed the tomb, rolling a stone against the entrance and setting soldiers to watch,

R:  Lest his disciples come and take him away and tell the people that he had risen from the dead.

All:  When they buried the Lord....

If it has not already been said, the service concludes with the following prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray thee to set thy passion, cross, and death between thy judgment and our souls, now, and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living, pardon and rest to the dead, to thy holy Church peace and concord, and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Easter at the Sepulchre

The death of Jesus was not an illusion: he really died and his burial literally put the seal on his death. The ceremony of the Burial of the Cross is a dramatic way of teaching about one of the core beliefs of Christians.  But for this ceremony fully to make sense as part of the "enrichment" of Christian liturgy, it is important that there be a complementary ceremony at the sepulchre to mark the Resurrection.  This may be done in two different ways, depending on the particular customs and needs of the local congregation.

At the Easter Vigil

A very simple, and effective way of incorporating the Easter Sepulchre into the Easter Vigil is to read the Gospel there. Depending on the location of the Sepulchre and the size of the congregation, it is desirable to have the congregation gather at the Sepulchre while the Great Alleluia is being sung.  If there is a Gospel procession, with torches and incense, the congregation may follow the procession to the Sepulchre.  The Sepulchre should already be open before the procession approaches it.  It may be empty, or it may contain the fair linen and corporal which are to be placed on the high altar.  Once the procession has arrived, the Deacon or Priest who is to read the Gospel may cense the Sepulchre and the people, as well as the Gospel Book. After the reading of the Gospel, the linens should be removed from the Sepulchre and carried in procession to the high altar.

An Easter Play

Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb - Fra AngelicoAn alternative way of using the Easter Sepulchre is to revive the medieval Easter play. This can be done at the beginning of a celebration of the Eucharist on Easter morning. The cast may be large or small.  It may be done by as few as two people, though ideally there would be a minimum of four.  If possible, the part of the angel(s) (there may be more than one) should be played by a deacon(s) who would already be vested in a white or gold dalmatic. There may be one or more visitors to the tomb, or the whole congregation may read the visitors' part.  The stage directions should be freely adapted to suit local needs. The lights may be dimmed for the beginning of the play.

When the play begins, the angel(s) is (are) already sitting quietly at the Easter Sepulchre.  The Sepulchre should be open before the service begins.  It may be empty, or it may contain the fair linen and corporal which are to be placed on the high altar.  Visitors (carrying incense, if desired) enter from the west end of the church and walk slowly and silently (as if afraid) towards the Easter Sepulchre.  When they arrive at the Sepulchre, this dialogue takes place:

Angel(s):  Whom do you seek?

Visitors:  Jesus of Nazareth.

Angel(s):  Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Visitors:  We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.

Angel(s):  He is not here; he has risen, as he promised.

Visitors:  If you have taken the body, tell us where it is.

Angel(s):  He is not here.  Come, see the place where he lay.

Visitors:  He is not here.  He has risen, as he promised.

Angel(s):  Go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead.

Visitors:  Christ is risen from the dead:

Angel(s):  Trampling down death by death,

Visitors:  And giving life to those in the tomb.

Angel(s):  Alleluia. Christ is risen.

All:  The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

At the conclusion of this dialogue, a triumphant Easter hymn is introduced on the organ.  A procession forms, including the Visitors who give their incense to acolytes and take up the linens from the Sepulchre to carry them in procession to the high altar.

Some links to other sites about Easter Sepulchres:
              
The Ecclesiological Society:  The Easter Sepulchre Ceremony in England
               The Easter Sepulchre at Saint Andrew's, Northwold
               Some Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire Easter Sepulchres
               Churches in Sussex:  Easter Sepulchres

Easter Garden at St. Paul's Church, Salem, NY

Easter Gardens

Easter Garden at St. Nicholas, Kenilworth, Diocese of Coventry, EnglandJust as St. Francis' live Christmas tableau developed into the Christmas crèche, a model stable with small figurines, rather than live actors, the medieval Easter play and Easter sepulchre have also developed into a more stylized form, the Easter garden. Easter gardens may be found in churches, gardens, and homes, and may be small and quite simple or large and very elaborate. They may be a focal point in either church or home.  Sometimes they have figures to represent the people in the story, but more often they are simply gardens. An Easter garden has three essential features:  a mound with at least one cross to represent Calvary; a stone or stone structure to suggest the empty tomb; and lots of live greenery and flowers. Easter Garden at St. Agnes, Longsight, Diocese of Manchester, England

The simplest Easter gardens are made in a shallow pot or dish.  This is an ideal project for children to make and to keep in a prominent place at home throughout the fifty days of Easter.  On the right is a dish garden made by the children of St. Agnes, Longsight, in the Diocese of Manchester, England.  Click on the photo for a larger view.  Just 4 Kids Magazine has detailed instructions for a children's Easter garden similar to this dish garden.

An Easter garden may be very simple or quite elaborate. Some gardens include figures of the risen Lord, the soldiers who guarded the tomb, the women who came to visit the tomb, etc.  The Easter garden at the left is in the Parish of the Sacred Heart and St. John the Evangelist, Bushey, in the Diocese of Westminster, England.  Click on the photo for a larger view.  Larger churches sometimes have nearly life-sized gardens with walk-in tombs, set up either within the churchEaster Garden in All Saints' Cathedral, Derby, England building or in an open space outside.  The garden and sepulchre at the right is in Derby Cathedral.  Again, you may click on the photo for a larger view. 

The more elaborate gardens often reflect particular conceptions of the places where our Lord was crucified and buried.  For example, the first photo above has the crosses on a hill covered with greenery, recalling the familiar hymn, "There is a green hill far away," though the traditional site of Golgotha is a rough outcropping of solid rock.  Derby's sepulchre appears to have been influenced by a place outside of Jerusalem known as the Garden Tomb, where the entrance to the tomb is large enough for an adult to enter standing up straight, though the Gospel of John tells us that Peter had to bend down to look into the tomb.  These differing perceptions and their incorporation into an Easter garden are helpful reminders that what we are doing is not creating an exact replica of some moment in history.  Rather, we are creating focal points that aid us in remembrance.  Just as the Eucharist is not a recreation of the Last Supper, but a remembrance (Greek: anamnesis) which allows us to participate in the mystery of the Bread which came down from heaven, so an Easter garden should be a symbol that points to the meaning of events, rather than a precise model of the place where they happened.  Thus, a single stone or a mound of modeling clay can suggest the tomb, and flowers never seen in Palestine can represent the garden.

If an Easter garden is set up in a church, it is appropriate to visit it and bless it in the same way that the Christmas crèche is visited and blessed.  If there is a procession at the beginning of the principal Eucharist on Easter Day, the procession should stop at the garden.  Prayers may be said and the garden may be blessed with holy water and incense. 

Station at an Easter Garden

V.  This is the day the Lord hath made.

R.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

V.  Let us pray.

Almighty and everliving God, whose Son Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in a garden and called her to be the first witness of his Resurrection:  we beseech thee to bless this humble garden wherein we have a remembrance of the mighty acts by which we have been saved; grant that all those who see it may ponder and adore the glory of the Cross and the mystery of his Resurrection and may sing with joy the victory hymn; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

R:  Amen. 

All:  Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb.

 

Flowering the Cross

Flowering of the Cross
Flowering of the cross at All Saints' Church, Winter Park, Florida.                                     

Faithful cross, above all other,
     one and only noble tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
     none in fruit thy peer may be.

     Venantius Honorius Fortunatus,
6th century

In spite of its function as a brutal form of execution, the cross stands at the center of our faith as a symbol of life.  Saint Paul speaks of the shame of the cross, while Saint John portrays the cross as the principal sign of the glory of Christ, but both recognize that the cross is the source of life.  There can be no Easter without Good Friday, no Resurrection without the Crucifixion.  Indeed, the cross, rather than the empty tomb, has held the place of honor as the primary symbol of the Christian faith.  Christian art certainly has many examples of the cross as an instrument of suffering and death, but some of the earliest depictions of the cross emphasize its life-giving qualities. The flowering cross is found in Christian art as early as the sixth century and is based on a legend that says that the cross itself burst into bloom at the moment that Jesus died.  The legend of the True Cross describes how the wood of the cross came from a tree that sprang from a seed taken from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. 

A modern expression of this idea may be found in the custom of flowering the cross. On Easter morning, flowers are used to decorate a cross. The cross can be of any size and needs to have wire or mesh netting wrapped loosely around it so the stems of the flowers canThe Tree of Life - Brian Wildsmith be inserted. In cooler climates, the cross may be set up inside the church, and it may be necessary to obtain flowers from a florist. But, ideally, the cross should be set up outside as a witness to those who pass by. If gardens are in bloom, bringing cut flowers from home can be a wonderful offering in honor of the risen Lord, and can also provide an opportunity for families to talk about the meaning of the cross and the resurrection. 

Brian Wildsmith has written and illustrated a version of The True Cross for children. While the story begins with biblical events, it goes well beyond them. Nevertheless, like any good legend it offers genuine insight into the mystery of faith.

 

An Easter Candle

Blessing the Paschal Candle, Exultet Roll, Montecassino, c. 1072

The lighting of the new fire and blessing of the Paschal Candle are the first ceremonies of the Easter Vigil. The fire is the symbol of the light of the new creation which the Resurrection inaugurates. The candle is a symbol of the presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of the Church. It is decorated with symbols reminding us that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the crucified Lord who has risen from the dead to conquer sin and death for all time. Ideally, it burns continually throughout the season of Easter, though in practice it is usually lit only during services or, in some churches, during the hours the church building is open. In Orthodox churches, the lighting of the new fire is an event of importance not only in church but in the homes of the faithful. At the conclusion of the Paschal Liturgy, it is the custom to take the new fire home to light the lamps before the family icons. The miraculous kindling of the new fire in the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a very dramatic annual event and it has been the custom to take the fire from the Holy Sepulchre all the way to Athens and Alexandria to light the lamps for the Paschal services in churches there.

The Easter candle is an amalgamation of eastern and western customs.  It is a large white candle which may be used as the centerpiece at the family table or in some other prominent place in the home, perhaps the place where the family gathers for daily prayer.  It may be plain, or it may be decorated either like the Paschal Candle in church or with other Christian symbols. If it is decorated like the Paschal Candle, you will need five symbolic nails inserted in the candle in the form of a cross. The cloves serve another purpose, reminding us of the spices the women brought to the tomb on Easter morning. With paint or a magic marker, or with a knife, put an Alpha (A) above the cross, and an Omega (Ω) at the bottom. Also, write the numbers of the secular year (2006) on the candle. Other appropriate symbolsWooden Egg with Lamb of God - Russian might include a lamb, for Christ is the victorious Lamb of God, a fish, recalling the ancient symbol of Christ (the Greek word for fish, ΙΧΘΥΣ, stands for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior"), a phoenix rising out of the fire as Christ rose from the dead, or a pelican feeding her young with her blood as Christ feeds us with his Body and Blood. While it may not be possible to keep it burning continually through the season of Easter, it would be desirable to light the candle for the first time with the new fire from the Easter Vigil. For safety's sake, the fire should be transported from church to home in an enclosed lantern!

 

Blessing of Homes at Easter

It is an ancient custom for the parish priest to bless the homes of the faithful at Easter. As this was traditionally done at every home in the parish, it is a simple blessing, not the full blessing of a new home. It may take place any time during the Great Fifty Days of Easter and it is an excellent opportunity for parishioners to come together in one another's homes to celebrate the feast.

In one of our parishes, it was the custom to have people sign up for appointments to have their houses blessed. The clergy promised to set aside two hours for the visit and the parishioners were encouraged to plan this time in a way that they thought would be most appropriate for them. It could be simply a family gathering for a meal, or for a time to study and pray together, or for some other activity in which everyone had an opportunity to interact with the priest. It could be a gathering of friends for a party, or a meal, or possibly an opportunity for unchurched neighbors to learn about the parish and the faith.

The gathering always began with the blessing of the home. One example of Easter house blessings may be found in The Book of Occasional Services of the Episcopal Church in the US.  The service begins with a greeting:  "Peace be to this house, and to all who dwell in it."  It continues with Psalm 114 or an Easter canticle, followed by one of the collects of the Easter season.  The priest then offers prayers for the home and its occupants and gives a blessing appropriate to the season. The priest may sprinkle the house and the people with some of the baptismal water that was blessed at the Easter Vigil. The service concludes with the exchange of the Peace, the greeting which the Risen Lord gave to his disciples in the Upper Room on the first Easter.

 

Easter Food

Easter is a Feast and feasts mean food. Feasting does not mean licensed gluttony, but it does mean enjoying the goodness of creation. The Lenten fast is an occasion to simplify, to satisfy our needs but not to use more than we really need. The Paschal feast is a celebration of the richness of creation, a time to appreciate the variety of things that God has provided both for our nourishment and for our enjoyment. However, having corrected our priorities during the Lenten fast, we should not use Easter as an excuse to revert to bad habits. When feasting, we should still use only what we need. The feast is in the variety, not the quantity of food that we eat, and the season of new creation is the right time to discover and rejoice in the variety that God sets before us.

Food is for nourishment, but food is also symbolic. Just as Easter is about new life in the spiritual order, spring sets new life before us in the created order and the spiritual celebration takes advantage, symbolically, of the material celebration. Eggs are a symbol of new life bursting from the tomb. Cows freshen with abundant milk because they have given birth. Yearling lambs are seasoned and ready for slaughter just as the ewes are giving birth once again. And in springtime the fields are bursting with life and color as buried seeds release the life hidden within dead husks. All of these events and their symbolism are incorporated into the foods that are typical of the Paschal Feast.

Eating is a social activity, and a major meal can have a ceremonial aspect to it. The Easter Vigil and first Mass of Easter are the Christian Seder and no other meal may take its place. But the early Christians completed the sacramental feast of the Eucharist with a full meal known as the agapé, or love feast. Most modern Christians have this meal in their homes, rather than in the church hall, but it is a special occasion, often including guests, and it should be celebrated with festive and reverent ceremony. We offer here an "order of service" with some key elements that should be a part of a family Easter feast.

Eggs

Eggs are the most familiar symbol of Easter and should be evident throughout the feast. Begin the feast with egg activities and egg appetizers. You will find lots of ideas on our Easter Eggs page. You can exchange eggs as gifts. Especially if children are involved there should be an Easter egg hunt in the garden or the house. You can crack eggs (preferably hard boiled eggs!) and eat eggs. And be sure to retrieve your Alleluia egg from its hiding place. If eggs were not blessed at your parish, or if you have more eggs at home, use this blessing before you eat eggs.

The Blessing of Eggs
from The Book of Occasional Services

O Lord our God, in celebration of the Paschal feast we have prepared these eggs from your creation:  Grant that they may be to us a sign of the new life and immortality promised to those who follow your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

        

You might want to sing a hymn. Although it does not mention eggs, John of Damascus' great Easter hymn reminds us of the tomb that was burst open, just as we break open our eggs.

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters.

’Tis the spring of souls today; Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
From His light, to Whom we give laud and praise undying.


Bread and Wine

As bread and wine are the essential elements at the Eucharistic feast, they are also the symbols of the nourishment and joy that characterize any festive meal. Wine which, as the psalmist says, "gladdens the heart", also reminds us of the blood which Christ shed for us and of the new wine of his Spirit which fills our hearts. The blessing of the first glass of wine marks the formal beginning of the Easter dinner.

The Blessing of Wine
from The Book of Occasional Services

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, creator of the fruit of the vine: Grant that we who share this wine, which gladdens our hearts, may share for ever the new life of the true Vine, you Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Kulich and PaskhaAlthough the ancient Israelites ate unleavened bread at Passover and Saint Paul exhorts us to celebrate the new Paschal feast with the "unleavened bread of sincerity and truth", Christians have generally understood this metaphorically when it comes to the actual bread eaten on Easter. Sweet, leavened breads, made with fresh dairy products and often filled with nuts and fruits are the order of the day when it comes to bread.  Hot cross buns are just as appropriate on Easter as on Good Friday. The Greeks incorporate colored eggs as decorations in their tsoureki--click here for a photo and a recipe.  Russian kulich and similar breads were traditionally baked in milking pails, creating tall, mushroom-shaped loaves.

The Blessing of Easter Bread
from The Book of Occasional Services

Blessed are you, O Lord our God; you bring forth bread from the earth and make the risen Lord to be for us the Bread of life:  Grant that we who daily seek the bread which sustains our bodies may also hunger for the food of everlasting life, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.


Lamb

When Saint Paul writes, "Christ our Paschal Lamb has been sacrificed for us," he links the two great biblical accounts of redemption as one.  The blood of the lamb which shielded the first-born of Israel in Egypt from death prefigures the blood of the Lamb who conquers death once for all. Lamb was the main dish of the ancient Jewish Passover Seder and has been the meat of choice for Easter dinner in many Christian cultures.  The presentation of the Easter lamb should be marked with special festivity--a hymn, if possible, and certainly a special blessing.

At the Lamb’s high feast we sing,
Praise to our victorious King,
Who hath washed us in the tide
Flowing from his piercèd side;
Praise we Him, Whose love divine
Gives His sacred blood for wine,
Gives His body for the feast,
Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest.

Where the Paschal blood is poured,
Death’s dark angel sheathes his sword;
Israel’s hosts triumphant go
Through the wave that drowns the foe.
Praise we Christ, Whose blood was shed,
Paschal Victim, paschal Bread;
With sincerity and love
Eat we Manna from above.

 

The Blessing of Lamb
from The Book of Occasional Services

Stir up our memory, O Lord, as we eat this Easter lamb that, remembering Israel of old, who in obedience to your command ate the Paschal lamb and was delivered from the bondage of slavery, we, your new Israel, may rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the true Lamb who has delivered us from the bondage of sin and death, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.


Lamb Cake - Catholic CultureA lamb often appears at dinner in other forms, as well, such as fresh butter molded in the shape of a lamb or a "lamb cake", a cake baked in a lamb-shaped pan and decorated with white frosting.
 

 

 

Easter dinner should not be hurried.  But when it is finished, it should have a formal conclusion, marked by prayer.

A Final Prayer
from The Book of Occasional Services

Blessed are  you, O Lord our God; you have given us the risen Savior to be the Shepherd of your people: Lead us, by him, to springs of living waters, and feed us with the food that endures to eternal life; where with you, O Father, and with the Holy Spirit, he lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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