My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Is there a difference between using the term Easter or Pascha? Does it really matter?
As we lean toward Great and Holy Week and beyond I once again bring to mind the usage of the term/word Easter. Here in America the word Easter has replaced the word Pascha when we speak about Christ's Resurrection following the glorious celebration of Pascal Liturgy (Sunday, April 16, 2017). But, what does Easter have to do with the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? No matter how hard you look, Easter is not found in any Old or New Testament Biblical test and is not part of our Ancient Orthodox Tradition. However, the word Pascha is most correct and full of meaning. It is a biblical word found in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament God passed over the homes of the faithful Israelites who had the blood of the sacrificial lambs sprinkled on their doorposts according to His Commandment (Exodus 12:21). In the New Testament, through our faith in Jesus Christ, death has passed over us because of our faith that Christ is our Paschal Lamb (I Cor. 5:7).
To be sure, Easter is not a Biblical word but comes to us from the pagan spring festival honoring the goddess of Eastra or Ostara. Yes, the pagans recognized many of the same "concepts" that other religions recognize, like rebirth, light over darkness, fertility (being fruitful), etc. Thus, Pascha, which derives from the Old Testament word Pesha, which the Ancient Israelites used that means Passover, is or should be the only proper and acceptable term for speaking about the feast of Christ's Resurrection and His subsequent victory over death. It is the only term Traditionally used in the Historic Orthodox Church as She speaks about and celebrates the Feast of feasts: our Lord's glorious Resurrection. So, yes, words matter and there is good reason to refrain from using the term Easter and to train ourselves to return to our Traditional roots and to use Pascha when speaking about Christ's Resurrection and the way in which death passes us over.
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, language is important and the phrase Happy Easter should have no part with regard to who and what we are as Orthodox Christians, especially as Greek Orthodox Christians. Thus, the Greek word Pascha is the only word we should use when talking about our feast of Passover, which is Christ's saving work - His trampling down death... Father Eusebius Stefanou of blessed memory once asked Do we want to give the Teutonic goddess Eastra credit and honor at this time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior from the dead? I am confident none of us would answer yes to that question. If you agree then it's important to condition and train ourselves to use the most appropriate word using Pascha and not Easter during this most holy time of the year. To be sure, Christ and not the pagan god Eastra passed over death so that through our faith in Him, you and I may do the same.
God's continued blessing, +Fr. Andrew