Monday, April 09, 2007

Happy Easter again-A bit of tradition

One of my favorite paintings I saw in Jerusalem was at this church on the mount of olives. It is the Russian Orthodox Church: Church of Mary Magdalene.

I searched for an hour trying to find an image of the painting, but it can't be done. (The nuns were very adamant about not letting me take a picture at the time.) Anyway it is a beautiful picture of Mary standing before Augustus Caesar holding a red egg. The story behind it is as follows:
Before the egg became closely entwined with the Christian Easter, it was honored during many rite-of-Spring festivals. The Romans, Gauls, Chinese, Egyptians and Persians all cherished the egg as a symbol of the universe, of the earth’s rebirth at springtime. With the advent of Christianity the symbolism of the egg changed to represent, not nature's rebirth, but the rebirth of man.
Christians embraced the egg symbol and likened it to the tomb from which Christ rose. Saint Augustine first described Christ’s Resurrection from the dead as a chick bursting from an egg. This symbolism was enhanced in the Christian East’s celebration of Easter. At the end of the Paschal Liturgy, the faithful exchange paschal greetings and the priest and the faithful present each other with red eggs. Wooden eggs are sometimes suspended from hanging lamps and chandeliers, and often the faithful decorate wooden eggs with icons and hang them from the vigil lights in their homes.
THE FIRST EASTER EGG-According to tradition, Saint Mary Magdalene, who had patrician rank, gained an audience in Rome with the emperor after the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. She denounced Pilate for his handling of Jesus' trial and then began to talk with Caesar about Jesus' resurrection. She picked up a hen's egg from the dinner table to illustrate her point about resurrection. Caesar was unmoved and replied that there was as much chance of a human being returning to life as there was for the egg to turn red. Immediately, the egg miraculously turned red in her hand! It is because of this tradition that Orthodox Christians exchange red eggs at Easter.

I don't know about the truth of any of this*, however, it was a magnificent painting and a great story of her witness of Christ's Resurrection.

*Michael: Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information. (The Office Michael Scott Season 3, Episode 18: "The Negotiation")

1 comment:

Mrs. Dub said...

very interesting. and i'm glad you cited Wikipedia. because anything Michael Scott endorses, i wholeheartedly embrace. which is why i'm off to buy myself a "miss-terious" suit.