THE SYMBOLS OF EASTER
When you think of Easter what comes to mind? Probably images of bunnies, decorative eggs, lilies and other images of Spring. These symbols aren't modern day creations, they stem from Old World customs established before the Christian celebration of Easter.
During the egg's span of history it has been dyed, painted, adorned and embellished in the celebration of continuing life. It was considered nature's perfect gift and continues to bring the beauty of perfection year after year. During Medieval times, the egg was exchanged to celebrate the seasonal rebirth Spring bestows. With the advent of Christianity, the significance of the egg changed from the representation of nature's rebirth to the rebirth of man. Christians embrace the egg symbol and liken it to the tomb from which Christ rose.
Often called the "white robed apostles of hope", lilies have been recognized throughout art and literature as an image of beauty, resurrection and hope. It is believed that beautiful lilies sprouted from the drops of Christ's sweat in his final hours. The pure white lily is also associated with the Virgin Mary. As legend is told, visitors paid tribute to Virgin Mary's tomb to find it empty, except for bunches of majestic white lilies. Early artists made the lily the emblem of the Resurrection of the Virgin, with the white petals signifying her spotless body and golden anthers her soul glowing with heavenly light. To this day, Christians honor the lily's significance by surrounding their altars and crosses with its beauty.
Long seen as a German fertility symbol, the bunny didn't appear in America until the 1700's. The transfer from the fertility symbol to the Easter bunny occurred naturally over the course of history. Since Easter coincides with rebirth seen during Spring, it's only natural for the two to emerge as one.
Legends say that at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, dogwood trees where comparable in size to the oak tree. Not only did the Dogwood offer beauty, it offered strength and size. Since it was the ideal tree for construction, it was chosen as the timber for the crucifixion cross. Being the "chosen" tree left the dogwood distressed and very sad at the thought of being a part of the horrible crucifixion.
Sensing the dogwood's sorrow, Jesus promised to never again allow the dogwood tree to grow large enough to be used as a cross. Proclaiming it will be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms will be in the form of a cross-two long and two short petals. In the center of each petal there will be nail prints brown with rust and stained with red. The center of the flower will house a crown of thorns. For all who see the dogwood will be reminded of the crucifixion.
The chrysalis and butterfly are symbolic of the empty grave clothes of our risen Lord. When news of the Lord's empty grave spread, Peter and John rushed to the tomb to discover nothing but strips of linen. "He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head." (John 20:6-7, NIV) Just as the caterpillar emerges as a beautiful butterfly, leaving the remains of it's empty chrysalis, the same holds true for the rising of Jesus.