According to local religious experts, Easter actually has nothing to do with a certain floppy-eared, chocolate-delivering rabbit.
That might be tough to believe for anyone who’s walked down a supermarket candy aisle recently, but Father Alex Kirsten, director of the Martyrs’ Shrine, swears it’s true.
“The bunny has no meaning,” he said. “It’s what commercialism is trying to do to Easter, like what (it) did to Christmas with Santa Claus. It’s an attempt to cash in on a religious holiday.”
In fact, Kirsten said, one could argue the Easter Bunny angle is more pagan than Christian, given its emphasis on welcoming spring and receiving delicious gifts.
Rev. Catherine Barley, minister at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Midland, agrees the bunny detracts from the true meaning of Easter, but is more open to sharing the holiday.
“When our kids were little, we coloured Easter eggs and had the little tiny bunnies,” she said with a laugh. “What I wouldn’t want is for people to grow up thinking Easter is about Easter bunnies.
“The symbol of the egg, on the other hand, that’s a very ancient symbol, and that’s about new life…. Living as Christians, when we make that commitment, we’re coming into a new life, as well.”
For Kirsten, the holiday is packed with meaning and importance.
“Others would argue Christmas is as important,” he said, “but even the Christmas event ultimately points to the Easter event.
“It’s the event that reveals Jesus not only as man, but as god.”
He explained the entire liturgical calendar builds toward Easter, with Holy Thursday today commemorating the last supper, which established the Christian celebration of the eucharist.
Good Friday, meanwhile, marks the day Jesus was taken prisoner by the Jewish authorities.
“That entire day remembers his capture, ultimately his condemnation by the Jewish authorities, the suffering he went through, the carrying of his cross leading up to Calvary, where he is finally put to death.”
Most Christian churches hold late-afternoon masses on Good Friday to remember that specific event.
Holy Saturday is a quiet time for Christians to remember Jesus lying in his tomb awaiting resurrection. That, of course, brings the faithful to Easter Sunday. Many churches hold 12 a.m. or sunrise services to mark the arrival of the resurrection day.
Kirsten emphasized Easter is about more than just a day or a weekend.
“Don’t forget, for the average Christian, they’ve been preparing now for six weeks,” he said, referring to Lent, a period when devout individuals give up some habit or indulgence. “It’s a way of reminding themselves that they’re getting themselves ready for this event.”
Barley said it’s that historic event that makes Easter so tremendously meaningful for Christians.
“We all go through … something like a Good Friday experience, where the rug’s pulled out from underneath our feet and we’re going through what seems to be like the death of everything we’ve known to be true,” she explained. “What we see in the resurrection is that Jesus has gone through the absolute worst that can befall a human being … and emerged transformed.”
Kirsten said Christians approach the holiday from two viewpoints: solemn and joyful.
“We know that Jesus is going to go to his death,” he said, “(but) once you hit the resurrection, it’s joy because, in some sense, what is being conquered is not only sin, but death.
“(Jesus) is offering us not only forgiveness of our sins, but also eternal life.”
Barley agreed, echoing Kirsten’s sentiments by describing Easter as a time to celebrate new life.
“It’s about Jesus Christ as the person who reveals God to humankind, the person who gives himself in complete love,” she said.
Barley said Christ’s example is still valuable today, especially in difficult times.
“Our deepest longing is to belong … and to be loved. It’s to find meaning in our daily life, and we find that in loving service to others,” she said. “The values of the world are not ultimately satisfying, and I think people really are looking for what is true and meaningful.”
In addition to church services this weekend, the Huronia and District Ministerial Association is organizing a Walk of the Cross at noon on Good Friday. Participants will walk through town, stopping at various locations for reflection and prayer, before ending at Little Lake Park.
The group will also host a sunrise service on Easter Sunday. It will take place at 7:30 a.m. at the flagpole in Little Lake Park.