Easter was THE important Christian festival. St. Paul said, “If Christ be not risen, then is your faith vain.” A key purpose to the Council of Nicaea was to set the date of Easter (as calendars in those days had insufficient leap years to prevent the spring equinox from sliding in March towards February). The festival of the birth of Jesus was not at all celebrated. Christians felt that Jesus (both of Matthew’s gospel and of Luke’s) was born as a man and Christ entered this body at the baptism. As full of mystery as birth and baptism may be, for early Christians the important new mystery was what happened from Golgotha to the grave to the resurrection. With the early Christians, we do not find symbols of the suffering of Christ; rather we find their focus is on the resurrection.
Later, after 325 when the Council of Nicaea took place, materialism began to set in; even Christianity succumbed. The symbolic emphasis moved to the suffering Christ on the crucifix, to the bodily suffering of Christ. The crucifix is the expression of the transition to materialism taking root in Christianity. Spiritual reality is expelled by materialism. This comes to full reality with the 8th Ecumenical Council (Fourth in Constantinople). Here, by majority vote of the bishops, 27 canons were passed. The eleventh canon states “Though the Old and New Testaments teach that a man or woman has one rational and intellectual soul [compare to Aristotle], and all the fathers and doctors of the church, who are spokesmen of God, express the same opinion, some have descended to such a depth of irreligion, through paying attention to the speculations of evil people, that they shamelessly teach as a dogma that a human being has two souls, and keep trying to prove their heresy by irrational means, using a wisdom that has been made foolishness. Therefore this holy and universal synod is hastening to uproot this wicked theory now growing like some loathsome form of weed. Carrying in its hand the winnowing fork of truth, with the intention of consigning all the chaff to inextinguishable fire, and making clean the threshing floor of Christ, in ringing tones it declares anathema the inventors and perpetrators of such impiety and all those holding similar views; it also declares and promulgates that nobody at all should hold or preserve in any way the written teaching of the authors of this impiety. If however anyone presumes to act in a way contrary to this holy and great synod, let him be anathema and an outcast from the faith and way of life of Christians.”
Photius, who is revered as a saint in the Eastern Church but despised in the West, had argued that Aristotle indicated that each person has two aspects to their soul, one aspect focuses on the senses of the physical body and is thereby liable to error while another aspect focuses on the spiritual and is thus immune to error. With this decree, however, the human was reduced; no longer body, soul, and spirit, but now only body and (one) soul. One could be excommunicated from Christ’s Church for stating anything differently. When Christianity reaches the twentieth century, few theologians use or understand the term ‘soul’ anymore. Materialism reigns supreme.
Following this Ecumenical Council, the Eucharist was altered. Only the ‘prepared’ priests could receive the wine while all received just the body, the bread. For the congregation, this meant only the body matters. The troubadours then come to this drama to sing about the search for the Holy Grail. Where has the blood of Christ gone? Spirit triumphant over death, over the physical fades away replaced by portrayals the pain-racked soul of Jesus. Who guards and sustains mankind? Replacing the Triumphant Son of Man is the Man of Sorrows.
The Knights Templars dash onto this scene two hundred years later. In their initiation ceremony, one was led to understand why they rejected the crucifix as a symbol of their Christianity. Supposedly, during the initiation process, the elect was to spit on a cross that had an image of the suffering savior.
Western culture where materialism is most deeply rooted must find a renewal of the Easter experience. The renewed Easter thought should lead one to be lifted into the Spirit. Christ then becomes ‘visible’ as a super-sensible, super-earthly Being who entered into the stream of earthly evolution.
At the tomb that is the body, do we see only the stone? When we enter the tomb (Oh Man, Know Thou Thyself — Delphi) can we see the Kingdom within? Will we find “The One you seek is not here” or will we find “The One Who is here now,” the one Who from the spirit calls you to your spirit-awakening.
“In this Easter mood we shall also be able to find the strength with which our will must be imbued if the forces of decline are to be countered by those which lead humanity upwards. We need the forces that can bring about this ascent. And the moment we truly understand the Easter thought of Resurrection, this Easter thought — bringing warmth and illumination — will kindle within us the forces needed for the future evolution of mankind. Easter must become an inner festival, a festival in which we celebrate in ourselves the victory of the Spirit over the body. But we need the Christ for Whom we can seek in our inmost being, because when we truly seek Him, He at once appears.” — Rudolf Steiner,The Festivals and Their Meaning II, Lecture 4, March 27, 1921.