Pascha / Easter: Which is It?
St. Benedict Orthodox Church
Celebrating in the Western Rite
of the Antiochian Jurisdiction
                                                      Father James Rooney

One of the unusual aspects of becoming Orthodox was becoming acquainted with the name
“Pascha” when referring to Easter. It seems that few Orthodox, with the exception of
converts and Western Rite folk, use the word “Easter.” Why is that?

The original name of the celebration of the resurrection is “Pascha.” This name is the Greek
version of the Aramaic “Paskha,” which is the translation of the Hebrew “Pesach,” which
means “Passover.” In other words, “Pascha” means “Passover” because Christ’s death and
resurrection was viewed by the early Christians as the true Passover. In addition, anything
related to the celebration was also related to the word “Pascha” i.e., the “Paschal Candle,”
“the Paschal Vigil,” the “Paschal Season.”

The word “Easter,” however, is also a Christian word, deriving from 8th century Anglo-
Saxon  Christian usage. Caedmon Parsons, in his article “The History of the Term Easter,”
informs us that the Anglo-Saxons of England were extremely ethno-centric. When the faith
was brought to them, which included the use of Latin, they were extremely resistant to the
terminology of Latin usage being incorporated into their realm. Consequently, they insisted
on Anglo-Saxon terms being used, and the term for the Paschal celebration was one of the
Anglo-Saxon terms for “Spring,” the word “eastre.” [I might add that the Anglo-Saxons also
gave us the word “Lent”].

Anglo-Saxon Christian literature from the 8th century A.D. reveals these Christians using
this term to identify the Paschal celebration. It may be remembered, as well, that much of the
conversion of Europe during the centuries between 600-900 was accomplished by
missionaries from England and Ireland. Those venturing into Germanic areas such as
Germany, Holland and the Scandinavian countries passed on to their Germanic cousins the
use of the term “Easter,” where it became popular. Thus, western Christian usage, and this
during the time before the Schism in 1054, included both terms.  
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St. Benedict of Nursia Orthodox Church
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