On Easter Sunday, I heard someone wishing another person a “Happy Resurrection” instead of “Happy Easter.” That might be more “spiritually correct.” However, scholars are not exactly sure of the origin of the word “Easter.”
One theory is that the mythical figure Eostre was the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the sunrise and the spring. They named the direction of the sunrise, East, for her. The sunrise became a symbol of the Resurrection. On Easter Sunday, we even have Sunrise Services facing the East.
Another idea involves the Germans who settled in Rome during the fifth century. The color of the robes worn during the resurrection season was white, alba in Latin. Alba also meant sunrise. When they translated alba into German, ostern was used. So, take your pick.
What is more important are the implications of Christ’s Resurrection, especially regarding our bodies. When Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared with a glorified body. He made sure his disciples knew he was fully alive. He asked the apostle Thomas and others to touch him. We believe what God has effected in Jesus was a virtuous deed and the same will be done for us.
Father Richard Rohr in one of his daily meditations says this. “God’s will is incarnation. And against all our expectations of divinity, it appears that for God, matter really matters. When God gives of Godself, one of two things happens: either flesh is inspirited or spirit is enfleshed.”
Nevertheless, the Christian Church has had a hard time dealing with our bodies. We seem to be either ashamed or afraid of the body. We need to make peace with our material side and realize this is God’s gift. We cannot have a healthy view of our own bodies until we accept the fact that God has forever made human flesh the privileged place of God’s Spirit.
We are temples of the Holy Spirit. We can separate body and spirit for the sake of studying our humanity, but our bodies and our spirits must always be one. That’s the way God made us!
St. Irenaeus’ famous quotation is, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” The task of becoming fully human is a life long task. We need to be in touch with our bodies and our spirit. To become fully human is a conscious choice that every Christian should make. We do this by imitating Christ. To become fully human is the highest honor we can pay to Jesus.
The Irish poet and priest, John O’Donohue (1956-2008), says it well:
“Your mind can deceive you and put all kinds of barriers between you and your nature; but your body does not lie. Your body tells you, if you attend to it, how your life is and if you are living from your soul or from the labyrinths of your negativity. . . . The human body is the most complex, refined, and harmonious totality.
“Your body is, in essence, a crowd of different members who work in harmony to make your belonging in the world possible. . . . The soul is not simply within the body, hidden somewhere within its recesses. The truth is rather the converse. Your body is in the soul, and the soul envelops you completely.”
To be in touch with our bodies we need to stop and listen to what’s happening inside. What’s bothering us? What or who are we “fighting?” Why do we have this pain? What’s going on in my life? These are questions we have to ask ourselves in the silence of our hearts.
God has given us permission to learn wisdom and humility from our bodies and not just to repress them out of fear. The body can rightly reassert its goodness and importance. Can’t we somehow seek both body and spirit together?