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Question 314

What is the meaning behind the dyed eggs for Easter and the cracking of the eggs against each other?      

 

Answer to Question 314

 

The Egg is a symbol of the Resurrection. From the egg emerges a new life, a creature whose life had been hidden within its dead shell. In a similar manner, Jesus’ dead body, after being sealed within the tomb represented by the egg shell, arose a new life. At the same time, the red colour of the Paschal egg represents the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The red colour reminds us that, we have been redeemed through the precious Blood of our Lord.

 

The custom of giving an egg to each other is quite an ancient one and apparently reaches back to the time of the Apostles. There are various versions of its origin, so one cannot say which one is or comes near to the true version, but let’s look at some of the stories. The most well known is the account with Mary Magdalene who after the Lord’s Ascension, went to Rome to preach the Gospel. Standing before Emperor Tiberias she said, “Christ is Risen!” At this the Emperor pointed to an egg on his table and stated, “Christ has no more risen than that egg is red.” After making this statement it is said the egg immediately turned blood red. 

 

 Another version again involves Mary Magdalene. It says that she was bringing cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Jesus, and the eggs in her basket miraculously turned brilliant red when she saw the risen Christ. Yet another version says that on the actual day of Christ’s Resurrection, when everyone was convinced that Jesus Christ could not possibly rise from the tomb, a certain Jew was carrying a basket of eggs to market. Along the way, he met another Jew who said to him, “So, friend, do you know what a miraculous thing has happened in our city Jerusalem? For Christ, Who died three days ago, has risen from the tomb, and already many have seen Him.” However, the Jew who was taking the fresh eggs to market said to him, “No, I do not believe that Christ has been resurrected from the tomb. That would be just as impossible as to have white eggs suddenly turn red.” As soon as he had spoken those words, the white eggs in the basket suddenly turned red. That miracle so amazed him that he rushed to adopt the Christian Faith. News of that marvellous event soon spread among the faithful Christians, and in commemoration thereof, they began to exchange red eggs with one another.

 

One thing is for sure, the red eggs of the Orthodox have nothing in common with the Bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs of western Christianity. The customs of western Christians seems to have been interwoven with European pagan customs and celebrations for springtime fertility. Rabbits and eggs were and still are widely-used pagan symbols for fertility.