|APRIL 2009||BIBLE STUDY SERIES||
WHAT DO YOU PREFER? CHICKEN FOR GOOD FRIDAY? OR EGG FOR EASTER?
Christmas is not the greatest Feast of Christianity. This is evident in the New Testament books itself. Out of the 27 writings of the NT the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke are the only two books, which narrate the events related to the birth of Christ. It is true that some other books describe the meaning of the “incarnation” of the Word of God, but the Manger with Mary and Joseph, the killing of the Infants by Herod, the Choir of the Shepherds and the Star which guided the Magi etc. are absent in the major part of the Early Christian Literature. It is surprising that St. Paul avoided the topic in his Epistles, which make half of the New Testament.
On the other side, the description of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a major topic in most of the NT literature. All the four Gospels narrate the events in not less than three chapters. It is the central topic of the speeches of the Apostles given in the Acts of the Apostles as well as the discussions of the Pauline Corpus. But which is more important in the New Testament? Is it Good Friday or Easter? Is there a difference of opinion between the Gospels and the remaining part of the New Testament in this matter? To be frank, it is a good topic for a biblical and theological debate.
However, the Churches take different positions. I remember an anecdote from Daiva Krupayude Thanalil, the autobiography of Late Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan, which I read years back. While the Metropolitan was studying at UTC for BD he was in charge of the refectory during the Passion Week. As every Syrian Christian does, he asked the people of the canteen to make a Kanji with payar thoran, pappadam and kadumanga on Good Friday. But the Jamaican students shouted after the service: “Where is the Chicken? Today is the greatest day for us; the blood of our Lord has saved us from our sins. We want to celebrate it.” It was a shock for our beloved Metropolitan, because even the worst Christian from his community would not taste a chicken fry on a Good Friday. For all those who are trained in an Oriental background will prefer Easter to Good Friday as a day for celebration.
Easter is a big event in the Orthodox countries. About fifteen years ago I got an opportunity to visit Romania during the Easter season. I have observed that the service on Good Friday was in the evening and it was comparatively a small worship. But the Easter was different. I remember the people who were storming to the Orthodox Cathedral at Iash in Moldavia, in northern part of Romania. Many of them were confessing their sins on the Saturday and they remained in the Church for the Easter service, which started in the midnight.
The time when the bishop was handing over the candle light from the Altar was the most attractive moment. The song Hristos Aviant, a Romanian version of the Greek Easter song Christos Anesti, was sung throughout the Liturgy just like we sing Pessahayal Pessahadine… on Maundi Thursday. This song will be used for another fifty days till the Feast of Pentecost. The service came to an end at 4 AM and thereafter the people were not hurrying to return home. There was a big feast with all possible dishes. We, the participants of a consultation on Spirituality, could not take rest the whole day. We went to a lot of the centers of Romanian Orthodox Church in the area and every where the table was full and the people rejoiced. The usual greeting for the period between Easter and Pentecost was always Chrsitos Anesti (Christ is risen) and the response was Alitos Anesti (truly He is risen). Even common people and politicians, who do not believe in a God, will say the same. Good Morning and Good Evening will be used only after the Feast of Pentecost.
There is a special item for Easter day in that part of the world. Everywhere we saw baskets full of colored eggs. Each person was asked to take one egg and try to strike that with the one held by the others. It was a good game and we ate a number of eggs on the Easter day. Even in Germany I saw this culture. The colored egg was available in all shops from two weeks before Easter. People collect it and share it on Easter Sunday. Our beloved Korah Varghese Achen’s Kochamma, who is a German by birth, and children used to come for Easter service with a basket full of eggs. It is a wonderful experience to watch how people enjoy on Easter Sunday. The color of the egg may seep into the egg white, but nothing matters; people eat many.
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