Easter Sunday that falls today, marks the greatest event in history. It recalls the dawn Resurrection of Jesus Christ who was crucified on Good Friday. It is the greatest feast in Christendom. Jesus was put to death on a cross, as was the custom of the Romans. The death penalty in Jewish custom was stoning but since Israel was under Rome at the time of Jesus, He had to be crucified.
Crucifixion was meted out to scoundrels and thieves who were a menace to the society at that time. It was common in the ancient world especially in Egypt, Phoenicia Persia, Assyria and Greece among others. After the siege of Tyre, Alexander the Great crucified 2000 Tyrthians.
Today the sign of the cross is the symbol of Christianity. After Jesus, two of His apostles, Andrew and Peter were crucified by the Jews who did not like the spread of Christianity in Israel. But Peter was crucified head down in keeping with his own request, that he should not be killed the way his master was done to death. St Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross. Emperor Constantine who embraced the new religion of Christ, banned crucifixion as a sign of respect for the cross of Jesus. It was his mother, St. Helena, who found the real cross having got the Calvary area excavated in search of the true cross.
The main ritual on Good Friday is the adoration of the Cross by priests and then the faithful. The apparent failure of the cross on Good Friday turned out to be triumphant on the 3rd day when Jesus left His tomb. In 614 AD Chosroes II, king of Persia invaded Syria and Palestine and he had the cross carried away from where it was placed by Constantine. Later Emperor Heracllius of Constantinople invaded Persia, sued the Persians and had the true cross brought back to Jerusalem. This finding of the Holy Cross is celebrated on May 3 and another feast, the Exaltation of the Cross is marked on September 14.
So the Cross, once an instrument of torture, is now a symbol of Hope and Triumph. Besides the Holy Cross, there are two other mementoes that He had left for posterity, that of His empty tomb and the Wrapping of His Holy Body. The latter is now known as the Turin Shroud. I had the good fortune to see the Tomb during my visit to the Holy Land two years ago. The Shroud bears evidence of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
But we do not need an Empty Tomb or a Shroud to establish the Resurrection as a historical fact. The man who died on a Cross started a new community and a new religion that has now encompassed the whole world.
A Happy Easter to you.