The Easter message – cakes, bunnies and eggs

Today Christians unite to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The Good Friday story was a bleak one. Worshippers hear of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the denial of Christ three times by Peter before the cock crowed, and the Gospel story of how the Jews demanded the crucifixion of Christ from Pilate. The sorry discovery of Christ in Gethsemane, the denial in the Temple and the endless trials by the Jewish and Roman authorities make grisly reading. Easter Sunday replaces all this sombre news with the joy of the knowledge that Christ is risen. The Sunday story tells of the three women preparing to go to the tomb – Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Jesus and Salome, only to find the entrance stone rolled away. They hear the news that Jesus has risen.

Today Easter takes place in Britain in a largely secular country, where a majority do not believe Jesus was the Son of God, and do not think he rose from the dead. Easter has been overwhelmed instead by commercial interests celebrating the new life of spring through Easter bunnies and Easter eggs in chocolate.

It is a testament to the power of the Christian message and the enduring nature of the Christian story that so much of our secular debate 2000 years on from those events in Palestine should still be about the values of love and justice that Jesus stood for, recorded by his disciples through the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. It is a testament to the deep rooted Christian values that we still have an established Church of England, and see the growth of the Catholic and non conformist Churches alongside the official religion. Whilst a majority do not believe, a majority will sit through the occasional Church service at times of need or for the bigger events in their lives, and most will have some understanding of the Easter story.

Indeed, more will have a view on the events that befell Jesus than will understand what their Easter egg is about. There are arguments over the origins of the Easter egg. Some think it was always Christian – a blood red painted egg to celebrate the new life inside, purified by the blood of Christ. Some think the egg was allowed as part of the diet again only after the end of Lent, so Easter Sunday was the day to celebrate the change of menu. Some trace the eggs back to a pagan goddess, Eostre. In several places there are ancient ceremonies of egg rolling hard boiled varieties with or without painted shells. Faberge took the art of the egg to new heights with their amazing jewelled precious metal eggs given to lucky recipients as Easter gifts.

All agree that the egg is a symbol of new life and hope. The Easter hare, who transposed into the Easter bunny, is a symbol of fecundity and spring activity. Many celebrate with a meal of Spring lamb; some remember the Simnel cake with its characteristic chicken and egg decorations over marzipan. Simnel cakes probably date from medieval times, when they would have eleven marzipan balls around their top to represent the eleven true disciples of Jesus. It is a delightful story that Lambert Simnel, the pretender to Henry VII’s throne, devised them when he was given work in the royal kitchens as his punishment for rebellion.

A happy Easter to all my readers.

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12 Comments

  1. Cranmer
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    His Grace wishes you a happy and blessed Easter.

    Christus Resurrexit quia Deus caritas est! Alleluia!
    Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia!

  2. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    As a Roman Catholic I agree very much with what you have said . It is a tragic irony on a day when we celebrate life that Labour are preparing to pass a disgusting Frankenstein Bill while Geoff Hoon is acting very unfairly towards good Catholics like Jim Murphy & Ruth Kelly . Christians will always be persecuted – this aggressive PC liberalism is just another manifestation of what the Church has had to face . Whether it was the Romans & their lion pits , Henry VIII having the martyrs burned , Free Masons in the Third French Republic attacking Catholic orders & schools , Hitler having heros like Maximillian Koble put in death camps , Stalins show trials of Catholic leaders and now an agressive secularism aimed at forcing Roman Catholics to either abandon their faith or be an outcast . The true believer must put faith ahead of acceptance by the world & must be prepared to do that which is unpalatable for the sake of Christ – St Teresa of Avila got that right I think . The mere fact that John has done a superb job blog on this subject is testimony to the brave men & women who have died for the faith in whom God sustains the Church . The saints inspire us in life & pray for us in Heaven . The Catholic prelates are right to use Easter as an opportunity to fight this evil law and C of E Bishops are right to point out to the wealthy that giving the money away will do them more good than keeping it ( just consider the rich man & Lazurus ) . On the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi we hear the tale of the Good Samaritan & it is worth noting that the money lenders where kicked out of the temple . That certainly makes one wonder about excess consumerism at Easter time . It is illogical at Easter time have open shops on Good Friday & yet closed on Easter Sunday . Why I wonder do the shops respect our Lords Birthday ( Christmas ) & his rising to new life ( Easter Day ) – but not the day of his death ? I note that Channel 4 are at it again by claiming that St Peter never went to Rome & was not the first Pope – that would be news to those who were there at the time & who have attested to the precise opposite being the case . Easter is a blessed time to remember what is really important that credit crunches etc are passing Christ who represents life eternal is for ever the hope of those who believe in him .

  3. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    As a Roman Catholic I agree very much with what you have said . It is a tragic irony on a day when we celebrate life that Labour are preparing to pass a disgusting Frankenstein Bill while Geoff Hoon is acting very unfairly towards good Catholics like Jim Murphy & Ruth Kelly . Christians will always be persecuted – this aggressive PC liberalism is just another manifestation of what the Church has had to face . Whether it was the Romans & their lion pits , Henry VIII having the martyrs burned , Free Masons in the Third French Republic attacking Catholic orders & schools , Hitler having heros like Maximillian Koble put in death camps , Stalins show trials of Catholic leaders and now an agressive secularism aimed at forcing Roman Catholics to either abandon their faith or be an outcast . The true believer must put faith ahead of acceptance by the world & must be prepared to do that which is unpalatable for the sake of Christ – St Teresa of Avila got that right I think . The mere fact that John has done a superb job blog on this subject is testimony to the brave men & women who have died for the faith in whom God sustains the Church . The saints inspire us in life & pray for us in Heaven . The Catholic prelates are right to use Easter as an opportunity to fight this evil law and C of E Bishops are right to point out to the wealthy that giving the money away will do them more good than keeping it ( just consider the rich man & Lazurus ) . On the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi we hear the tale of the Good Samaritan & it is worth noting that the money lenders where kicked out of the temple . That certainly makes one wonder about excess consumerism at Easter time . It is illogical at Easter time have open shops on Good Friday & yet closed on Easter Sunday . Why I wonder do the shops respect our Lords Birthday ( Christmas ) & his rising to new life ( Easter Day ) – but not the day of his death ? I note that Channel 4 are at it again by claiming that St Peter never went to Rome & was not the first Pope – that would be news to those who were there at the time & who have attested to the precise opposite being the case . Easter is a blessed time to remember what is really important that credit crunches etc are passing Christ who represents life eternal is for ever the hope of those who believe in him .

  4. Veritatem
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    A happy Easter to you & your readers too. Thank you for a lovely post.

  5. mikestallard
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Well, last night I watched the passion on TV and also the resurrection. It was truthful and magnificent. We has a (Catholic) Church so full that the Poles were standing at the front of the Church right up to the altar rails because the back of the Church was like a "First" Train. I think things are bouncing back now.
    So allow me to wish you a very happy Easter.

  6. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for publishing my response John !

  7. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for publishing my response John !

  8. Adrian Windisch
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Its a mistake to say 'the blood lust of the Jews demanded the crucifixion of Christ from Pilate'. Its far more likely that the story was spun to blame the Jews rather than the Romans, who after all crucified thousands of Jews (including Christ). This made it more acceptable to a Roman audience.

    This myth has been used as an excuse for persecuting the Jews for centuries since then, well done for continuing the tradition, though even the Catholics dont say this anymore. See http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p122a4p2.htm

    Reply: There is no excuse for persecuting anyone, and I strongly support Jewish rights.

  9. Adrian Windisch
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    I'm glad to hear it, might be an idea not to repeat such stuff. I saw the passion of the christ on TV, repeating the same, and the BBC did a 4 part version, with the same story.

    According to the Vatican 'The historical complexity of Jesus' trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole'

  10. Simon_C
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Pfft.
    Easter was a pagan spring festival which the early christians took over for their own uses in the same way christmas was an mid-winter festival.

  11. Robert Lobell
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    And now for the original reason for my finding your site. I was looking for references to Lambert Simnel and in your easter message you mentioned one of the possible origins of simnel cake. One small correction, Lambert Simnel was a possible pretender to the throne of Henry VII not Henry VIII.

    Reply: yes, you are right – poor typing kept the key depressed for too long. I have now corrected, and thanks for spotting it.

  12. Robert Lobell
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Just a postscript on my comment. I found this after visiting the Reggie Perrin scripts website:
    "Hail the Bloodless Revolution! Wat Tyler – forget him. Lambert Simnel – a piece of cake!"

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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