Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Why Do We Call the Resurrection "Easter"?

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Why Do We Call the Resurrection "Easter"?

Article excerpt

In many Romance languages, the word for the Feast of the Resurrection is tied directly to Passover: Paques (French), Pascua (Spanish), and Pascha (Latin) all come directly from Pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover.

To understand why, we first have to go back to the Hebrew Bible and the story of the first Passover. Moses tells the Israelites to slaughter a passover lamb and paint its blood on their door lintels. Then, when the Lord strikes down the first-born of every Egyptian family in retribution for the enslavement of the Israelites, he "will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down" (Ex. 12:23).

Paul was the first to connect the risen Christ to Passover. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, he refers to Jesus as the paschal lamb who has been sacrificed for his people's salvation. Add to that the fact that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples during Passover and it makes sense that even today the Feast of the Resurrection is connected with the Jewish Holiday.

In English, this tie remains in our practice of lighting the Paschal candles and celebrating the Paschal mystery. But the meaning of the holiday's name itself is a little more unclear: Where in the world did the word Easter come from?

The short answer is that nobody really knows. Some historians suggest that it came from the phrase hebdomada alba, Latin for "white week," a phrase used to describe the white garments new Christians wore when they were baptized during Holy Week. In Old German, the word became esostarum and, eventually, Easter. …

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