This article discusses the Easter holiday and suggests some appropriate inspirational readings for the Lenten season preceding Easter, as well as for the day itself.
Easter is the apex of the Christian year. All the events prior to Easter — even Christmas — lead up to Easter. The Easter holiday is what renders Christianity unique among world religions. Easter’s victorious themes demand readings that emphasize the gift God gave to Christians in his son, Jesus Christ, and those themes of good triumphing over evil, life over death. Readings will also serve to remind Christians why it was necessary for Jesus to come and die, and what his resurrection means to the Christian faith.
Lent, the season preceding Easter, is usually a time for reflection, self-examination and preparation for the Easter season. Many Christians practice a Lenten devotional discipline, and it is common to hear Christians talk about what they’ve given up for Lent. This practice of giving up something is an exercise in self-denial.
Since many Christians do make extra time for reading during Lent, here are three selections to consider for spiritual enrichment and inspiration.
“The Singer” by Calvin Miller. This book is an allegory for the life of Christ, calling him the Troubadour who sings the Star Song, or a song of life, and detailing his struggles against the World-Hater, or Satan. Miller’s work is short (the first part of a trilogy), but his observations and axioms are certain to capture the reader’s attention and will help him look at the life of Christ in a new light. This is a book that invites careful reading and deep prayer and meditation on its truths.
A second choice for Lenten reading is “In This House of Brede” by Rumer Godden. In it, Godden tells about a successful, 42-year-old government worker named Philippa Talbot, who enters a cloistered Benedictine convent in England before the reforms of Vatican II. The reader will come to know and love the nuns who live at Brede Abbey, and will get a glimpse of what the cloistered life was like before the reforms, and as it rarely exists now. The book deals with lives being lived in what many would consider extreme restraints, but the reader will constantly be encouraged by the nuns’ own contentment in their chosen vocations. It also examines the issue of what it really means to give up everything to follow Christ, and the price paid for the cloistered life. It is a beautiful book and will give a reader much to ponder during the Lenten season.
A third choice for inspirational reading is “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. No, it is not strictly a children’s book, although children do love the entire “Chronicles of Narnia” series. This book, at its surface, is about four siblings, sent to the English countryside during World War II, and their adventures in the magical land of Narnia. However, it, too, is an allegory for the life of Jesus Christ, in the form of Aslan, Protector of Narnia. He comes in the form of a lion (Jesus is called “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah”) and gives his life for a traitor’s. The victorious ending is powerful, and the whole book is as absorbing for adults as for children. Certainly, it forces the reader to look at the consequences of voluntary evil.
Readings for Holy Week, the seven days preceding Easter Sunday, often center on Christ’s last week in Jerusalem. They cover the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, his cleansing of the temple, his preaching, the Last Supper, the Passion in Gethsemane, his arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial. These stories are found in all four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Tenebrae services are often held on Good Friday, and the story of the crucifixion is told, with candles being snuffed out as parts of the story are read.
On Easter Sunday, for sunrise services, the Gospel story is told of the women coming to the tomb, only to find it empty, and the first sighting of Jesus, by Mary Magdalene. Another appropriate reading for the sunrise service is Psalm 150 — a psalm of pure praise.
For the main church service on Easter, the entire resurrection story is usually read, and this is also an appropriate time to read the poem “The Lamb” by William Blake. This little bit of verse, from Blake’s “Songs of Innocence,” is a lovely poem, speaking of the Lamb of God, and the lamb in the field. It evokes beautiful images of spring and renewal.
The Lamb by William Blake
Little lamb, who made thee?
Does thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little lamb, who made thee?
Does thou know who made thee?
Little lamb, I’ll tell thee;
Little lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Little lamb, God bless thee!
Another appropriate reading for Lent or Easter Sunday is Isaiah 53. Christians believe this Old Testament prophet was foretelling the coming of Christ in this chapter, often called “The Song of the Suffering Servant.” In it, Isaiah paints a very different picture of the Messiah from the popular view of the Jews of that time. They were looking for a hero to rescue them from the yoke of foreign rulers. Isaiah talked instead about a meek and lowly man who had come to save the poor and weak from themselves. This is where the verse appears: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 KJV). The cost of Easter becomes real in this chapter.
Churches with Easter evening services often use Luke 24: 13-53 for their scripture lesson. This scripture deals with the walk to Emmaus, when the risen Jesus appears to two disciples as they are walking along the road, on Easter evening. This text is wonderful and appears only in Luke’s Gospel. If a Christian wishes to close the Easter celebrations with a private devotion, Psalm 19 is one to use. This is a psalm of praise to God for his mighty works and a plea for purity of heart.
Easter readings are legion. Any Christian bookstore has shelves devoted to the Easter message. However, the novels, scriptures and poems listed here are excellent starting places for Christians who wish to improve their minds and souls with inspiring reading before and during Eastertide.