By Sam Eyoboka
Easter is one of the holiest religious Christian festivals celebrated by Christians worldwide mark reverence the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world and rose up for the justification of man before God.
Easter is the most important Christian festival as it celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, three days after he was executed by crucifixion.
Most Pentecostal churches observe Easter by holding special programmes such as village evangelism, outdoor crusades, visiting the homeless and the orphanage, and enjoying special meals among the family.
The Deeper Christian Life Ministry is today rounding up its Special Easter retreat with a theme; ‘Conquering with the Crucified King’, at the Deeper Life Conference Centre on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway with General Superintendent, Pastor William Kumuyi ministering.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, is using the Easter period for evangelism which is known as the annual Easter Let’s-Go-a-Fishing in different areas of the church’s operation which also began on Thursday and ends today.
Orthodox churches, on the other hand, observe Easter with the Lenten fasting and penance, carnivals, parades, plays, and overnight parties. Some orthodox churches also avoid eating meat during this period – starting from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.
In Nigeria, Easter is celebrated by both Pentecostal and Ortho-dox churches, and also by non-Christians. Some celebrate it by fasting during the pre-ceding Lenten period, and giving to the poor, and others by holding special church programmes and outdoor events. But aside these, Easter is largely a period of wild jubilations when people eat chicken and rice and other local delicacies.
The Easter date is set around the time of the March Equinox. The March equinox coincides with Easter Sunday and holidays that are related to it. These holidays do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar, or the Julian calendar, which is still used by many Orthodox Christian churches.
The dates of many Christian holidays depend on the Easter date. Some of these holidays include: Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascen-sion Day, Pentecost/Whitsunday.
According to the Bible, Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first full moon following the vernal equinox. This soon led to Christians celebrating Easter on different dates. At the end of the second century, some churches celebrated Easter on the day of the Passover, while others celebrated it on the following Sunday.
In the Gregorian calendar, Easter falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 from 1753 to 2400. In the Julian calendar, used by some eastern or Orthodox churches, Easter also falls on a Sunday from March 22 to April 25, which in the Gregor-ian calendar are from April 3 to May 10 from 1753 to 2400.
In 2007 Easter fell on the same date (April 8) in both calendars when the Julian date was con-verted to the Gregorian date. This happens in some years, such as 2004, 2010 and 2011.
Proposed Easter Date Reforms
There have been a number of suggested reforms for the Easter date. For example, in 1997 the World Council of Churches proposed a reform of the Easter calculation to replace an equation-based method of calculating Easter with direct astronomical observation.
This would have solved the Easter date difference between churches that observe the Gregorian calendar and those that observe the Julian calendar. The reform was proposed to be implemented in 2001, but it is not yet adopted.
Another example of a proposed reform occurred in the United Kingdom, where the Easter Act 1928 was established to allow the Easter date to be fixed as the first Sunday after the second Saturd-ay in April. However, this law was not implemented, although it remains on the UK Statute Law Database.
(*) The resolution’s exact wording is unknown, so the council’s precise contribution to the process of determining the date of Easter is disputed. However, according to some historians, contemporary sources (e.g. by Epiphanius of Salamis and Socrates of Constantinople) suggest that the council decided on a Easter date after the spring equinox.
Last year Easter Sunday fell on March 27, this year it is on April 16 while the date is expected to shift to April 1, 2018 and April 21, 2019.
Arguably, over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population last celebrated the all-important Christian festival in a very austere fashion because of a biting fuel scarcity that made prices of all commodities includ-ing transportation to the Eastern parts of country, stretched beyond the reach of millions of Christians.
Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern states was forced to call on the Federal Government to intensify its efforts in fixing the problem of fuel scarcity, which hampered movement of goods and persons during that year’s Lentern period leading on to Easter, stressing that the untold hardship Niger-ians were experiencing as an oil producing nation was un-acceptable.
The association’s Public Relat-ions Officer, Rev. John Hayab, who spoke on the significance of Easter celebration, argued that the government should reflect on the fact that Jesus Christ died to eliminate the sufferings of mankind and do the needful to eliminate the hardship being faced by Nigerians.
He said, “What we are saying is that government is meant for the people and as such government should double its efforts to reduce the pains inflicted on the average Nigerians by the fuel scarcity in the country. The way and manner Nigerians queue, (some even sleep at filing stations) in the face of this hardship is unacceptable to the leadership Northern CAN. Northern CAN wants the government to earnestly do something urgent to avert this ugly situation before it gets out of hands.”
Celebrating God In A Difficult Economy
Everywhere one turns the one finds men, women, boys, girls irrespective of tribe or creed lamenting the prevailing economic hardship and the attendant high prices of food items in the country. Staple foods such as rice, beans, pepper, tomatoes, onions, vegetable oils, Palm oil are now out of the reach of average Nigerians.
A recent market survey con-ducted in some markets in Lagos reveal that prices of some foodstuffs are now higher than what they were in the previous year even during a period of fuel scarcity that adversely affected the distribution of goods and services. Random investigations in the last week show that a 50 kilogram bag of rice—a popular staple—now sells for N16,000 as against its price of N11,000 last Easter. A bag of beans is now N39,000 as against N21,500 in 2015.
The Director of Social Com-munications at the Catholic Echdioses of Lagos, Rev. Msgr Gabriel Osu likened this year’s celebration of Easter to what he called ‘Celebrating God in a difficult economy, pointing out that Easter is generally regarded as the most important feast in Christendom because it commemorates the supreme sacrifice paid by Christ to redeem humanity from the shackles of sin and to give them access to eternal life.
Without the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ from the dead, Osu argued, the whole of humanity would have been doomed for the whole of eternity. “That is why we sing Hosanna in gratitude on Easter Sunday.
“Unlike Christmas which goes with much funfair and commerc-ial activities, Easter is more solemn in nature. Having faith-ful dedicated themselves to a 40-day period of fasting, repentance and abstinence, it is only natural that activities of the preceding days still carry with it some elements of solemnity and peni-tence.
“This is not to say there are no merriments. On the contrary, Easter is a day of rejoicing. We put away our ‘sack’ clothes, anoint our faces with oil and suspend our fasting as a show of gratitude to the saving works of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the social communicator stated.
According to the Catholic cleric, while it is true that the economy is still in a dicey state, it is not expected, however, to dampen the spirituality associated with Easter. Like the theme of this year’s Lenten pilgrimage for the Archdiocese of Lagos stated, ‘Man does not live by bread alone.’
“As Christians, we are not expected to take care of our body only. We must give prime priority of our soul which is the real essence of who we are. While it is good to eat and nourish the body with good food, etc, we must equally nourish our souls by constantly reading the word of God, talking to God in prayer and meditation and also striving to live righteously.
“What these translate to is that on Easter day, our priority should not just be on what to eat and the fun places we can visit. Rather, we must give God priority by going to Church to worship Him in the company of other believers. And for those of you who may be wondering what to eat or wear this Easter, first worship God in spirit and in truth and I am very sure He will provide for your needs in ways that would astound you.
“Spiritual blessing are more important and enduring than material gains. Moreover, remember that God will not come down from heaven to help us. Rather, He will use an earthly vessel. We are therefore called to get ourselves ready at all times to be used by God to minister to the needs of others, especially during this Easter.
“No condition, they say, is permanent. This too shall pass away. There is eternal reward for those who judiciously serve God in spirit and in truth,” Monsignor Osu counselled.