April 10, 2009

Which is More Important - Christmas or Easter?

About L&L | When is the Next Meeting?

By Sid Cundiff:

The topic for the March Liturgy and Lager meeting was Why has Easter been given a 2nd place to Christmas in popular culture and Christian practice. After reading the Marcan Resurrection account, we examined several paintings. One of the problems is an aesthetic one: that Christmas and Good Friday have been often portrayed in art, yet the Resurrection is hard to visualize. We looked at two visualizations of the Resurrection, on of Piero della Francesa and Michaelangelo.

We then read selections from the Church’s liturgical documents that establish the Easter Triduum as first in importance, and both Christmas and Pentecost 2nd; and the document that says the Easter Vigil is the central event of the Triduum.

Then we noted that that in all countries with a majority Catholic population, except maybe Ireland, and a majority Orthodox population, Easter has no superior in importance. It's only in Protestant Europe, the British Dominions, and America than Christmas is deemed more important. Why is this so?

We noted some historical facts: Christmas was one of the last solemnities to be established (AD 5th Century). Christmas isn’t celebrated among Arminians, Jehovah Witness, and the Puritans. We noted also some seasonal differences: In southern Europe, it rains in the winter, and is usually clear in the Spring, thus perhaps suggesting why Easter has such a prominence in southern Europe.

We considered then several theological issues:
  • The false theology of the Resurrection as a epilogue, which we just touched upon. The Resurrection is in fact part of the redemption.
  • Is the Incarnation the most important dogma? The Eastern Church is correct to stress the Incarnation as redemptive, yet the Eastern Church still makes Easter more important. The Western Church has stressed Good Friday.
  • The false theology of ignoring the Old Testament and the Exodus/Passover. In fact, on Holy Thursday we recall the establishment of the new cultus, on Good Friday the Passover lamb is slain; yet it is at the Easter vigil when and where we flee Egypt, cross the Red Sea, and then, in time, cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. Not to know the Old Testament is not to know the New.
  • Several saints got sucked up into Christmas: Nicholas and Lucy: but what about Mary (25 March – the real nativity of Our Lord) and Joseph (19 March)? Can they be incorporated into Easter?
  • The false theology of regarding Mary as just a Christmas figure. She is present at the Cross; she is Our Lady of Sorrows. Also even in the Christmas cycle, we have the circumcision, the presentation in temple, and “a sword pierce your heart”; she is also present at Pentecost; the Assumption as a fruit of the Resurrection, and the Resurrection and the Ascension as the beginning of the Parousia.
  • The false de-emphasis on the Eucharist among Protestants: Memorialism and Quarterly Communion – resulting in the de-emphasis in turn of Easter.
  • The false theology of ignoring Holy Saturday: The Son in fact goes as far from the Father as possible – into Hell, and yet He still lives for the; the Harrowing of Hell
We only began to consider the problems in moral theology that comes from putting Christmas before Easter.
  • Antisemitic misuse of Good Friday (and Liberal & Calvinist: “humans are God killers”)
  • Excessive tender piety at Christmas, and the effeminate view of Our Lord coming from the 19th Century and David Strauss.
  • Easter can’t be secularized (but can be ignored as “Spring Break” at Daytona beach and wet t-shirt contests)
  • Theology “Christmas is for children."
  • “We can’t party on Good Friday"; but Easter Sunday? We noted the prejudice: entertainment vs joy. Entertainment, pleasure, and fun ought to be the consequence of real joy; otherwise, these activities are just a whistling past the cemetery.
  • The problem with penal substitutional atonement violates our sense of justice . Leads to a de-emphasis of Good Friday.