Easter Sunday celebration in predominantly Christian Philippines this year—at a time of the coronavirus pandemic which has infected and killed thousands worldwide – is disparately done in towns where the Cross has symbolized religious faith since the 16th century.
In the different towns and cities, from as far north as Cabagan in Isabela, Paoay and Pinili in Ilocos Norte, Agoo in La Union, Dagupan in Pangasinan, Moncada in Tarlac and Cainta in Rizal to Camalig in Albay and Minglanilla in Cebu, the Easter Sunday Masses have been done online or via livestreaming.
Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death, the final day of Lent which has become a major part of the Christian Filipinos’ tradition and culture.
This is preceded by Black Saturday – where the faithful do a vigil at home, given the enforced social distancing caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the instructions from the Vatican – which commemorates Jesus lying in the tomb until his resurrection on Easter Sunday, according to the Christian bible.
Easter arrived this year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of the world’s population quarantined to their homes, with those in essential services like the health workers and media exempted from the forced lockdown.
What is Easter?
According to theologians, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion, a fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah who would be persecuted, die for the people’s sins, and rise on the third day. (Isaiah 53).
According to experts, remembering the resurrection of Jesus is a way “to renew daily hope that we have victory over sin.”
The priest at the Cabagan Square Park, in his homily on Sunday morning, said the resurrection of Jesus “from the dead heals us from our brokenness, from our crushed lives…with many searching for serenity and security.”
He added: “By allowing himself to be broken, he allows himself to be shared to (sic) everyone, makes himself available to all.”
And with the COVID-19 pandemic, the priest hoped the faithful would learn to listen, would learn to obey, learn the lesson of selflessness, “that everyone who receives Him must be ready to go beyond himself/herself that others may live.”
Then referring to the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, he said “Let us accompany Jesus to the newness of life.”
Easter follows a period of fasting called Lent, in which many churches set aside time for repentance and remembrance. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion in what is called The Holy Week or “Passion Week.”
The 40-day period was established by Pope Gregory 1 using the 40-day pattern of Israel, Moses, Elijah and Jesus’ time in the wilderness.
Easter is a very significant date within Christianity and is the foundation of the Christian faith. Jesus, the Son of God, fulfilled prophecy and through his death, has given the gift of eternal life in heaven to those who believe in his death and resurrection.
Holy Day of Obligation
Easter Sunday marks the end of the Holy Week, the end of Lent, the last day of the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday), and is the beginning of the Easter season of the liturgical year.
Religion scholars say Jesus’ resurrection marks the triumph of good over evil, sin and death, the singular event which proves that those who trust in God and accept Christ will be raised from the dead.
Since Easter represents the fulfillment of God’s promises to mankind, it is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar.
In the Gospels, the precise details of the Easter narrative vary slightly, but none of these variances are critical to the main story.
Theologians argue that the variances are simply matters of style and not substance, saying the variances, the key aspects of the Easter story all match.
Following Easter Sunday, the season of Easter begins and lasts for seven weeks, ending with Pentecost.
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter.
It is the center of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year. The order of Sundays from Septuagesima to the last Sunday after Pentecost, the feast of the Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and all other movable feasts, from that of the Prayer of Jesus in the Garden (Tuesday after Septuagesima) to the feast of the Sacred Heart (Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi ), depend upon the Easter date.
Commemorating the slaying of the true Lamb of God and the Resurrection of Christ, the corner-stone upon which faith is built, it is also the oldest feast of the Christian Church, as old as Christianity, the connecting link between the Old and New Testaments.