by Father John P. Cush
When I was a small boy growing up above Farrell’s Bar on 16th St. in Windsor Terrace, I always saw Easter as a second-class Christmas. I never could understand the concept of the Easter Bunny. He certainly was no match for the main man, Santa Claus. Plus, let’s face it, the Easter Bunny was kind of lame. We never received toys from the Easter Bunny. All we got was colored eggs. To be honest, even though my parents and teachers at Holy Name School told me about the real meaning of Easter, about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the importance and understanding of the new life given to us from Jesus’ triumph over death never really sunk in my young cranium.
I always wondered about the colored eggs. A holiday where the best you could do is get a bunch of colored eggs really wasn’t for me. My sister used to get the Paas egg-dye kit and would do it for us on Holy Saturday. It sure was no Christmas.
As I grew older, I began to understand the importance of the Paschal Mystery of Christ and its central place in the Christian faith. An important aspect of that understanding came from being able to help prepare and to serve the Sacred Triduum at Cathedral Prep Seminary where I was a high school student. As a seminarian and as a priest, the highlight of my entire liturgical year was the Easter Vigil. I think back to the three times in my priesthood when I was blessed to be the principal celebrant of the great Nightwatch of the Lord’s Resurrection: once at St. Helen’s in Howard Beach, once at the Carmelite Monastery in Brooklyn and once at Cathedral Prep. But even after all these years, I never understood the significance of coloring those Easter eggs!
A few years ago, a parishioner of mine when I was assigned to St. Helen’s forwarded to me an interesting story tying the resurrection of the Lord into the coloring of Easter eggs. I’ll try to relay that great story because I believe it can tell us a great deal about the real meaning of Easter.
Like all good stories, it can begin with the phrase: “once upon a time.” So here’s my version of the story (I’d love to hear yours): Once upon a time, there was a man named Simon of Cyrene. He was a good and just man. He was visiting Jerusalem and was getting ready to celebrate the Passover of the Lord.
Well, Simon went to the market in the city to get provisions for the great feast. He picked up all the necessities for Passover including eggs. The eggs he bought were big, fresh brown eggs that could feed a whole family.
Looked Like Innocence Itself
As Simon went about his business, he noticed a big ruckus. There was a large cohort of Roman centurions, followed by a group of Jewish people, made up of Pharisees, Saduccees and curious people. In the middle of the crowd, another Jew, a gentle man, one who looked like innocence itself. This man with kind eyes was bloodied, his flesh covered in deep gashes and wounds. This man, whom Simon learned was named Jesus, was from Nazareth, and He was going to be crucified. He was a political insurrectionist, someone whom a large number of people thought might be the Messiah, the King of the Jews.
He could barely move and still was forced to bear the weight of His instrument of execution. Simon was mesmerized by the sight but wanted to look the other way, to get away from the whole ugly spectacle. As Simon was trying to leave, he felt a strong hand on his shoulder. It was a Roman centurion, and he told Simon that he was recruited to help this Jesus, a convicted criminal, carry the cross.
Simon had to help this man carry the cross. He felt the eyes of all the crowd looking at him, walking alongside the criminal. But he looked into those gentle eyes of Jesus and knew that there was something special about this man. He knew He was innocent and, as they struggled along under the weight of the wood, Jesus told him His story and the Good News that He came to bring.
As they came to the horrible hill, Golgotha, Simon was pushed away from Jesus, but he didn’t want to go. He wanted to stay by the side of the man he realized was the Messiah. Simon grew despondent, but Jesus looked at him and told him not to worry, that it would all work out. In three days, he should go back to the place that they met, and Jesus would leave him a sign.
A Rainbow of Colors
Simon left sad and broken and went home. Three days later, on Sunday morning, he realized that he left his bags in the city center. He ran to the place where he was recruited into service, and he saw his food untouched. In the bag were his eggs, no longer brown and rough but beautifully arranged with all the colors of the rainbow, the sign of the Covenant that God had made with Noah all those years ago. Simon knew that his new friend, Jesus, was all right and that everything was going to work out. Later that day, he heard stories from friends that Jesus’ tomb was empty and that others were saying they saw Him walking on the road to Emmaus.
So, I guess the coloring of Easter eggs is something spiritual after all: a sign of new life, the new Covenant sealed in the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Easter may not have the same perks of Santa and all the presents, but it still has some pretty cool stuff after all! Let me know your version of the story of the Easter eggs!
Readings for The Mass of Easter Sunday: The Resurrection of the Lord
Acts 10: 34a, 37-43
Psalm 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3: 1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5: 6b-8
John 20: 1-9 or Luke 24: 1-12 or Luke 24: 13-35
Father John P. Cush, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, is a doctoral student in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.