"Bonneville Lodge No.31 Oration" Gavin K. K. Wardrope, W. Grand Orator

The Symbols of Easter

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Right Worshipful Brothers, Worshipful Brothers and Brethren all, Good Evening.

I initially had another Oration prepared for this evening but I decided not to inflict it upon you, not that it was inappropriate, just that I had another thought, which is in itself unusual.

You may think that today being April 1, or all Fools Day, would make it the easiest of topics, but no, you would be wrong that is not it.

I was watching the television last week and there was a program on regarding Easter, not surprising as Easter week was nearly upon us. But what struck me was the number of symbols involved in the Easter Celebration and the similarity to many of our own symbols.

Let me make it clear that although there are religious references going to be mentioned, they are not meant to offend or give my own religious preferences; I am a firm believer that a person's religion is between himself and his God.

Easter is thought of primarily as a religious occasion but originally it was a festival that celebrated events that were taking place in nature, it marked the arrival of the light and warmth of spring after the cold darkness of winter.

Like most festivals, Easter is a rite of passage. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. And all spring festivals have a similar message-death is merely a passage into new life. Because food is so important to life, all spring festivals that deal with rebirth or the return of the growing season use food as a symbol.

In many churches, the primary visual element of the Easter Vigil is the Paschal candle. It is a symbol of Christ himself, rising from the dead and shining the True Light. Customarily, the candle is made of beeswax, which is a symbol of purity, and over the centuries, the bee itself has become a symbol of the Resurrection. The light given off by the Paschal candle is a reference to Jesus being called "the light of the world" and saying "he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Light symbolizes the resurrection of Christ and the hope that God brought to the world through that resurrection. It also celebrates the idea that new beginnings can come from old endings.

One of the ways to understand the message of this celebration is to take a look at the simple acts of eating and drinking. We must eat and drink in order to stay alive. The food exists outside us. We must find it and bring it inside. It's a very simple way of learning that there are things outside ourselves that we must discover and bring inside in order to survive. And that is one of the central messages of the Eucharist, the communion. God becomes food. We eat the food and become one with God. Because bread and wine are used in the communion, they are the most important foods at the meal. But there are other foods on the Easter table that also have the sense of the holiday.

In most Christian households the Easter Lamb is a very important element in the meal. It recalls the Passover lamb, which was originally the animal sacrificed in the Temple of Jerusalem. The lamb is also a reference to Christ, who was the "Lamb of God" and He became the sacrifice, in order to take away the sins of the world. Lamb will often come to the Easter table in the form of a roast. It is the main course of the meal and can be very elaborate- or very simple - in its presentation.

Of course, we all know that eggs are a very important symbol of Easter. Christians saw life breaking out of an egg as the perfect symbol for Christ breaking out of his tomb and eggs became a central element in the celebration of Easter. The decorating of Easter Eggs is part of the culture of Northern and Eastern Europe and dates back for thousands of years.

Egg decorating traditions began before Christianity, in the Pagan days. They used a chicken egg to represent the life-giving powers of the sun. If you break the egg open, the shape and color of the egg yolk resembles the sun. For ancient society all over the world, they believed that the rooster was the sun bird and that the sun came out because the rooster was crowing in the morning. The most important pattern or symbol that is applied upon the decorated egg is the sun motif. It can be in the shape of a star, in the shape of a square cross or in the shape of a four petaled flower.

Of all the celebrations in the Christian calendar, none is more clearly associated with wine than Easter. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that the wine they were drinking was his blood, and the bread they were eating his body. And in so doing, he made wine an essential element in the future rituals of the church.

Rabbits reproduce at extraordinary rates and accordingly have often been one of the fertility symbols of spring. They express the ability of life to keep returning, like the moon. At Easter we see chocolate rabbits carrying eggs. The egg is a symbol of birth and because it contains a bright yellow yolk, it is also a sign of the sun. Like most holidays, Easter tries to combine opposites-life and death, darkness and light, moon and sun.

I am sure that what you have just heard is very familiar to you but this final tale regarding a rabbit I found fascinating. I had never heard it before or that there was such a thing as a rabbit in the moon, a man, yes but a rabbit never, but it is there.

The rabbit as well as being an important symbol to Christianity is equally important to the Jews, Muslims and Hindus.

There is a Hindu tale describing where the rabbit came from and how he got to be in the moon. It is said that the rabbit was traveling together with a duck, a monkey and a fox. They were walking along a road, when a Hindu god materialized from heaven to test their faith. He pretended to be a beggar, and asked them to make a sacrifice to him. The fox immediately went off and brought back a pail of milk. The monkey went up the tree and grabbed some mangoes. The duck brought the gift of a fish. And when the rabbit was confronted by the deity, he said, "All I eat is grass. I don't know what I can give you, but my flesh." The Hindu deity says, "I'm going to put this cauldron over a fire and you can jump into it. When you are cooked I'll eat your flesh." The rabbit went to the top of the rock and jumped. At that moment, the Hindu deity had such admiration and compassion for him that he caught the rabbit, cradled him in his arms and threw him up to the moon, where his image still exists, as a sign that we should all behave more like the rabbit, and give something that comes from the heart.

This, to me, would seem to be an appropriate place to finish.

Most Worshipful Grand Master once again I thank you for allowing me to say these few words and enjoy the rest of your visitation.

Fraternally, Gavin KK Wardrope PM Grand Orator April 1, 2013