I think we are quite familiar with children’s Easter baskets, but did you know they owe their origin to the custom of bringing baskets of food to church for blessing on Holy Saturday? The children’s baskets of candy and eggs can be included in the blessing service.
The foods traditionally blessed for Easter, the feast of the Lord’s Passover from death to life, are the foods which God prescribed for the ancient Passover meal: lamb, bread, wine, and bitter herbs.
The lamb, either meat or a symbolic lamb in the form of cake or butter, is the ancient Passover food by whose blood the Israelites were saved. Jesus is our Paschal (Passover) Lamb by whose blood we are saved.
Ham celebrates the freedom of the New Law which came into effect through Jesus’ Resurrection, in distinction to the Old Law which forbade certain meats. Sausage is the ethnic addition to enhance the celebration; its links remind us of the chains of death which were broken when Jesus rose from the dead.
Bread reminds us of Jesus, the risen Lord, who in the Eucharist is the food of our earthly journey and the true bread of everlasting life.
Eggs are a sign of hope and resurrection. Jesus comes forth from the tomb as the chick breaks the shell at birth. Because of the special meaning, it is fitting that the eggs to be blessed are decorated.
Horseradish represents the bitter herbs prescribed in the original Passover meal as reminder of the bitterness and harshness of life in Egypt. It reminds us of the the bitterness of Jesus’ Passion by which He entered into glory.
Wine is the drink of the Passover meal and the Last Supper. Its sparkle reminds us of the glory of Easter. Wine gladdens our hearts and helps us enter into the joy of Christ’s Resurrection.
Everything for the Easter meal may be blessed. The custom is to reserve the eating of blessed food until after one participates in Easter Mass.
The Blessing of the Easter Food here at St. Aidan’s will be on Holy Saturday, April 20th at 11 A.M. in the church.
David J. Conrad