Tag Archives: Easter eggs

Possibly the Weirdest Easter Egg Scripture Linkages. Ever.

There are a fair number of early modern books of sermons that mention Easter eggs during Eastertide.

One of the funnier ones is a guy who rewords Song of Songs.

There’s a bit in Songs 7:13 that says, “Within our gates are all the fruits. I have saved the old and the new for you, my beloved.”

In Hebrew and Latin back then, there was no punctuation, or very little. So a fair number of Scripture scholars (Bede, for example) quote this verse as “All the fruits, old and new, I have saved for you, my beloved.” (“Omnia poma nova et vetera servavi vobis, dilecte mi.”) This could be taken as referring to making fruit into preserves, so sometimes the preachers talked a little about home cooking at this point.

In one of the early modern sermon books, Father turns this into: “All the” [eggs,] “old and new, I have saved for you, my beloved,” and makes it the verse reference for his whole Eastertide sermon series! I’m pretty sure this is a joke; but the logic is this.

1. Back when everybody fasted from eggs during Lent, hardboiling eggs was a way to save the “old” eggs until they could be eaten. (And the eggs were often saved in containers of brine, oil, or butter, which kept them even longer.)

2. Back then, people in love gave their loved ones elaborate Easter eggs, much as we give Valentine presents today to our sweethearts. So it was a romance thing, and fit in well with the Song of Songs.

Another fun Easter egg in these early modern sermon books is linked to the risen Christ being mistaken for a gardener. Maybe Christ was carrying flowers, to represent all the Fathers and saints whom He had plucked out of Hell when He was harrowing it! (And so on.)

Later in the year, one gathered flowers in baskets. So in Europe in places where flowers aren’t up at Easter, a basket of colored eggs is supposed to be like a basket of flowers.

Flowers represent the Church’s various kinds of saints, in an ancient analogy that we see in St. Ambrose and other authors. The martyrs are like roses, the virgins are like lilies or violets, and the angels are also like lilies. So red eggs represent Christ’s wounds and blood and the blood of the martyrs, and thus the roses. Other colors of eggs must represent other kinds of saints.

Easter egg pattern books were also a thing. You could trace, “prick,” or copy an elaborate picture onto an egg, and then color it for your beloved or your family. Some books had explanatory didactic religious texts, like the one I linked elsewhere on this blog. (Didactic pictures of kids egging someone’s house really needed an explanation.)

I think this kind of stuff is fun. Unfortunately a lot of this Easter egg stuff is in German, and I don’t read German.

 

UPDATE: Hello, Instapundit readers! A cool chick seems to have given me an Instalanche. What a nest thing to do! After brooding over it, I have added a few things to this post to make it more readable and useful to a wider audience.

If you click on the “Easter eggs” tag, you will find several other posts on this topic from previous years.

I do not guarantee the usefulness of any links to Google Books, as public domain texts all have beenย  grayed out for me since Christmas Day. I can’t even read them through other countries’ Google Books, except by direct links to pages.

 

 

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: St. Cyril of Alexandria

Another goodie from the collection at Tertullian.org! This one is adapted from the Syriac version of St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke, which he apparently gave as a series of sermons. The 1859 translator was R. Payne Smith, a sublibrarian at the Bodleian Library who also edited and published the Syriac manuscript.

So here’s St. Cyril on eggs and Lk. 11:12, in Sermon 79.

“….We sometimes draw near to our bounteous God, offering Him petitions for various objects, according to each one’s pleasure — but occasionally without discernment, or without any careful examination of what truly is to our advantage, and of what, if granted by God, would prove a blessing; and what would be to our injury, if we received it.

“Rather, by the inconsiderate impulse of our fancy, we fall into desires replete with ruin, and which thrust the souls of those that entertain them into the snare of death and the meshes of hell.

“When, therefore, we ask of God aught of this kind, we shall by no means receive it. On the contrary, we offer a petition fit only for ridicule.

“And why shall we not receive it? Is the God of all weary of bestowing gifts upon us?

“By no means.

“‘Why, then?’ someone perhaps may say, ‘Will He not give, since He is bounteous in giving?’

“Let us learn from Him. Or rather, you have already heard Him here saying, ‘What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?’ (Lk. 11:12)

‘Understand,’ He says, ‘by an image or plain example taken from what happens among you, the meaning of what I say.’

“‘You are the father of children; you have in you the sharp spur of natural affection towards them; in every way you wish to benefit them. When, therefore,’ He says, ‘one asks of you bread, without delay and with pleasure you give it, as knowing well that he seeks of you wholesome food. But when, from want of understanding, a little child that knows not yet how to distinguish what it sees, nor moreover what is the service and use of the various objects that fall in our way, asks for stones to eat, do you,’ He says, ‘give them? Or rather, do you not make him desist from any such desire as would be to his injury?’

“And the same reasoning holds good of the serpent and fish, and the egg and scorpion. If he ask for a fish, you will grant it. But if he see a serpent, and wish to seize it, you will hold back the child’s hand. If he want an egg, you will offer it at once; and encourage his desire after things of this sort, that the infant may advance to riper age. But if he see a scorpion creeping about, and run after it, imagining it to be something pretty, and being ignorant of the harm it can do, you will, I suppose, of course stop him, and not let him be injured by the noxious animal.

“When therefore He says, ‘You who are evil’ — by which He means, ‘you whose mind is capable of being influenced by evil, and not uniformly inclined to good like the God of all’ — ‘You know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more shall your heavenly Father give a good spirit to them that ask Him?’ And by ‘a good spirit,’ He means spiritual grace. For this in every way is good, and if a man receive it, he will become most blessed, and worthy of admiration.

“Most ready, therefore, is our heavenly Father, to bestow gifts upon us; so that whosoever is denied what he asks, is himself the cause of it. For he asks, as I said, what God will not give…

“Examine, therefore, your prayer. For if you ask aught, by receiving which, you will become a lover of God — God, as I said, will grant it. But if it be anything unreasonable, or that is able to do you an injury, He will withhold His hand.

“He will not bestow the wished-for object, in order that He may neither give you anything of an injurious nature — for this is completely alien from Him — nor let you harm yourself by receiving it.”

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: Aelfric of Eynsham

In Aelfric of Eynsham’s homily, “On the Greater Litany” (“In Letania Maiore”), he also draws from St. Augustine’s egg material when quoting Lk. 11:12.

“God is our Father through his mildheartedness [ie, mercy]. And the fish betokens faith, and the egg, holy hope; and the loaf, true love.

“God gives these three things to His chosen, for no man can have God’s kingdom unless he has these three things. He must believe rightly, and have hope in God, and have true love for God and men, if he would come to God’s kingdom.

“…The egg betokens hope. For the birds do not propagate like other animals, but first give birth to an egg; and then, with hope, the mother raises that egg to be a bird. In like manner, our hope does not yet come to what it hopes for, but is like an egg. When it gets what it has been promised, it will be a bird.”

This translation is adapted from The Homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Church, Vol. 1: The Sermones Catholici, or Homilies of Aelfric, by Benjamin Thorpe.

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: Even More St. Augustine

In Sermon 105, c. 4-10, St. Augustine elaborates further on the symbolic meaning of the “three opposing” choices of gift in this passage, and he gives the egg a little more credit. Here’s the egg parts from chapters 5-10:

“What’s left is hope — which, it seems to me, is compared to an egg. For hope is for a thing that has not yet arrived; and an egg is something, but it’s not a hen yet.

“And so quadrupeds give birth to children, but birds to a hope of children.

“Therefore, it is for this that hope cheers us on: that we may despise present things and hope for what is to come, forgetting what is behind us, when we are reaching forward along with the Apostle [Paul]. For he says it this way: ‘But one thing I do: I forget what is behind in stretching forward to what is ahead, leaning toward the finish line, to win the palm leaves of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus.’

“Nothing is such an enemy of hope as considering what is behind us — that is, to put hope in those things which cross our path and slip past us….

“Be afraid of the example of Lot’s wife. For she looked behind her, and she stayed where she looked. She was turned into salt; she was pickled in brine as an example for the prudent.

“The Apostle Paul has spoken about this hope, like this: ‘For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For why does a man hope for what he sees? But if we hope for that which we do not see, we wait for it with patience.’

“‘For why does a man hope for what he sees?’

“There is an egg. It is an egg, and it is not a hen yet.

“And there is a turtleshell. The turtle is not seen, because it is covered by the shell. With patience, it can be awaited. Let it warm up, and it will come back to life.

“Work toward this finish line: to lean forward, to forget the past. For the things which are seen are temporal things.”

“‘Not looking back,” he says, ‘at what is seen, but considering what is not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal things, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ (2 Cor. 4:18)

“Therefore, reach out your hope to those things which are not seen. Wait for them! Hold on! Don’t look back!

“Fear the scorpion coming for your egg! See how it strikes with its tail, which it holds behind it.

“Therefore, don’t let the scorpion kill your egg! Don’t let this world kill your hope, I tell you, with the poison that’s behind it, which goes against you!

“How much the world says to you! How much ruckus it makes behind your back! It’s all so you will look back — that is, put your hope in things of the present. But not really of the present — they can’t be said to be things of the present, because they don’t stay that long.

“And it’s so that you will move your hope away from what Christ promised and has not yet given you, but which He will give because He is faithful. It’s so that you will turn your soul away, and wish to quit, still in this dying world.

“…If I have hope, if I hold onto hope, my egg will not be struck by the scorpion.”

“…All those who blaspheme against our Christ because of these adversities — they are the tail of the scorpion.

“Let us put our egg under the wings of this Gospel hen who clucks, ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem,’ to those false and wandering ones. ‘How often would I have gathered together your children, as the hen gathers her chicks? But you would not.’

“It is not said to us: ‘How often would I’ and ‘You would not.’

“For this Hen is the Divine Wisdom. But He assumes flesh so that He may fit with His chicks.

“Look at the other hen – the one of molting plumage shaking her wings, with a voice broken and quavering and weary, and sluggish to gather her little ones.

“Therefore, let us put our egg — that is, our hope — under the wings of this Hen over here.

“Perhaps you notice how a hen can peck up a scorpion. So therefore, would that this Hen would also peck up and devour these blasphemers, creeping out of their caves and crawling across the earth, and stinging us with evil! Let the Hen drag them into her Body and turn them into eggs!

“…Let them stop blaspheming. Let them learn to adore. Let the stinging scorpions be eaten by the Hen, and be converted by being drawn into the Body! Let them be trained on earth, and crowned in Heaven.”

This is actually topical, as one of the old games with Easter eggs was to knock your egg against that of a neighbor at table, and see which egg was the strongest.

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: More St. Augustine

In Sermon 61, St. Augustine references Luke 11:12 and other passages to show that, even when we are wicked, the Father still loves us and is good to us.

Sermon 61, 1-2:

“A wonderful thing, brothers! We may be evil, but we have a good Father.

“…Therefore, brothers, since we evil ones have a good father, let us not remain evil forever.

“Nobody evil does good. If nobody evil does good, how can an evil person do good to himself?

“The One Who is always good makes good out of evil… We know He gives His children good things ‘according to the time’ (Rom. 9:9): good temporal things, good bodily things, good carnal things, even when we may be evil.

“And what are these good things, if you doubt them?

“Fish. Eggs. Bread. Fruit. Grain. This light, this air. These things which we observe — they are good.

“Men are celebrated for such riches, and they do not recognize other men as their equals in such things — in things, I say, for which men are celebrated — loving flashy clothing, rather than considering the same skin that’s underneath.

“These riches are good things, all the same. But all these good things which I have mentioned, they can be owned by either good people or evil.”

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: Tertullian

Tertullian also references Luke 11:12 in his book Against Marcion, lib. IV, c. 26. (Adapted by me from Peter Holmes’ 1870 translation.)

“Even if he has offended, man is more friends with the Creator than with Marcion’s [demiurge] god. Therefore he knocks at the door of Him to whom he has the right to come — the One Whose gate he could find, Whom he knew owned bread, Who will be home in bed with the children Whom He had willed to be born. Even if the knock comes late, Time belongs to the Creator.

“…So recognize Him Whom you call the Creator as Father, too. It is He Who knows what His children need. For when they asked for bread, He gave them manna from heaven… not a snake instead of a fish, or a scorpion instead of an egg.

“…Marcion’s god, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a scorpion to give away, so he couldn’t deny what he didn’t own. Only God could do it — He who holds, but does not give out, the scorpion.”

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: The Venerable Bede

I think I will look around and find some egg quotes in the Fathers. Here is one.

From St. Bede’s commentary on Luke (Lk. 11:12):

“‘Aut si petierit ovum, numquid porriget illi scorpionem?’

“In ovo, indicatur spes. Ovum enim nondum est foetus perfectus, sed fovendo speratur.”

“‘And if [a man’s son] should ask for an egg, will [his father] hand him a scorpion?'”

“Hope is shown in an egg. For an egg is not yet a complete offspring, but it is hoped for and kept warm.”

Bede seems to have gotten this from St. Augustine’s Letter 130 to St. Proba, “a religious handmaiden of God.” She was a nun who wrote letters full of questions, to folks like St. Jerome and St. Augustine. This letter was one of the many answer- slash- treatises she got from these guys.

“‘Aut si ovum petit, numquid porrigit ei scorpium?’ …

“Spes in ovo, quia vita pulli nondum est, sed futura est, nec iam videtur, sed adhuc speratur. Spes enim quae videtur, non est spes.”

“‘But if he asks for an egg, will he hand him a scorpion?’…

“Hope [is signified] in the egg, because the life of a hen is not yet there, but it is coming; nor can it now be seen, but it is still hoped for. For ‘hope which can be seen is not hope.’ (Rom. 8:24)

Augustine and Bede both compare the fish, egg, and bread to faith, hope, and charity; whereas the snake, scorpion, and stone represent the devil making unbelievers in God, worldliness making unbelievers in eternal life, and the hardheartedness making people who have no charity.

You’ll also notice that St. Augustine is using a cool (but more inaccurate) Old Latin translation of the Bible, because the Vulgate hadn’t been finished yet. And both versions of the Bible use “numquid,” a question word indicating that the answer is “No.”

St. Augustine is going by the state of the art, when it comes to Greco-Roman natural philosophy. But St. Bede seems to indicate more clearly that an egg is alive — just not ready to go.

I suspect that monastic life in England included more contact with chicken coops than the life of a minor North African Roman aristocrat, or a bishop in Hippo.

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The Other German Animals That Brought Eggs

I’ve been reading Georg Franck of Franckenau’s essay from the 1600’s, “De Ova Paschalia” (On Easter Eggs). In it, he says that the Easter Hare actually stole eggs from the hens, then magically dyed them and hid them as mischief. The kids were then charged with finding and bringing them back.

This article makes an interesting point, linking the Easter Hare or Easter Bunny to an old motif found around the world, but in Germany used as related to the Trinity. It’s a motif where three rabbits were drawn in a circle so that all three rabbits had two ears each, but there were only three ears drawn in all. This is called the “Dreihasenbildes” or Three Hares motif. Apparently it was very common to draw the Dreihasenbildes on Easter eggs, often with each hare in a different primary color.

Medieval Jews have a similar motif in their synagogues, but there it represents the people of God as weak but protected by God, based on earlier translations of Prov. 30:26 (“The bunnies are a weak people who make their bed in the rock”) and Ps. 103:18/104:18 (“The high hills are a refuge for the harts, the rock for the bunnies.”) Christians interpreted these verses similarly, but regarded Jesus as the Rock.

The same article says that there was also a group of more benign animals who delivered eggs: the Easter hen (in the Tyrol), the Easter rooster (Upper Bavaria, Thuringia, Schleswig-Holstein, and Austria), the Easter fox (Hannover), the Easter stork or Easterbird (near the Netherlands), the cuckoo (in parts of Switzerland), and the Easter lamb (some parts of Upper Bavaria).

But in Vosges and Carinthia, the church bells fly around bringing Easter eggs! From Rome!

“When the bells fall silent on Holy Thursday, the bells fly to Rome to fetch the eggs. When they return on Holy Saturday, as they fly over they throw eggs into the grass, where the children have to look for them.”

This article talks a lot about various German customs like egg-tapping, and about the eggs that the hens laid on Holy Thursday being seen as particularly blessed.

St. Ephrem of Syria sang in one of his rhythms about the return to life of many of the saints in Jerusalem on the Day of the Lord’s Resurrection, “… the tombs were broken open like an egg, and the entombed bodies rose and came to life….”

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This Is Why We Don’t Let Jesuit Theologians Draw on Easter Eggs

Back in the 1600’s, Fr. Georg Stengel, S.J., joined the crowd of intellectuals who were designing “emblem books.” He decided to do an emblem book of Easter egg designs, which the unartistic could contemplate and the artistic could copy and use. It’s called Ova Paschalia sacro emblemate.

And this is one of the 100 Easter egg pictures he designed:

StengelEgg3AllSeeingEye

“Emblem 3: Divine Wisdom investigating. His Eye sees all things; God is witness to all.”

Most of his pictures are pretty complicated, but most of them aren’t nearly this… er… striking.

We also have a depiction of two good-for-nothings egging somebody’s house:

StengelEgg10KnowNothingEggThrowers

“Emblem 10: The propensity of humans for sinning is declared through egg-throwing. Those who do not know an art often err by throwing it down.”

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How to Use Up Hardboiled Eggs.

Obviously, I should have found these Indian recipes at Easter.

Egg chaat seems to have a lot of variants, but it pretty much seems to mean “halved or quartered hardboiled eggs, plus yummy stuff”.

Egg chaat at the wonderfully informative site indobase.com.

Egg chaat as a street food in Belgium.

Another similar egg chaat.

Egg Manchurian, which is hardboiled eggs with a hot sauce on top.

Another similar dish, with coconut, curry, and garlic.

Hardboiled eggs with a hot sauce for spaghetti.

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Sweet Easter Bread with a Colored Egg Braided In!

Oh my gosh! What a cool thing to do with braided bread!

If you read the post, you’ll find recipes for two different kinds of sweet Greek bread, a sweet Italian bread, and a sweet Austrian bread as well. They include all sorts of good things — anise, raisins, almonds — depending on where they’re from. And they also include a cleaned, dyed, unboiled egg inserted in the top to cook hard right along with the baking bread. They’re all intended to be the first food you eat to break your fast after going to church on Easter (or the Easter Vigil). Pretty neat!

This page includes a Wisconsin Italian recipe that cooks a hard-boiled Easter egg into a cookie-handled basket.

This less traditional shape creates a whole nestful of Easter eggs as a “bread ring”. In this recipe, the eggs don’t actually cook hard, so beware!

Pillsbury has a recipe, too. They advise starting with hard-boiled eggs.

PS: There’s a really thorough site for Irish soda bread here, called the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. Since my mom can’t eat yeast, this is probably more what I was looking for. ๐Ÿ˜‰ They’re a bit hard on those who make tasty Irish treats of a fruited cake nature, and insist that it’s still soda bread, per se. (I’ve been rather puzzled by this myself, but I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to say what it actually was. They say these are generally “Railway Cake” or “Spotted Dog”.)

My mother isn’t fond of soda bread, per se. (And since I seem to be using too much soda and salt, maybe that’s why. Apparently Irish and American tablespoons and teaspoons aren’t quite the same.) So I imagine we’ll be eating some form of Irish Dalmatian instead. Perhaps with hardboiled eggs included. ๐Ÿ™‚

PPS: Here’s a New Zealand WWII economy cookbook. Boy, that’s a whole different world. Might be useful for folks with allergies, as it was designed to get around using rationed ingredients.

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Easter Eggs, Trees, and Bavarian Welldressing

I’ve always associated the custom of decorating wells, or holy wells, with the Celtic countries. I also had no idea that it was associated with anything practical. This wonderful article on Franconian “Easter wells” has proved me wrong on both counts.

Apparently, one of the spring chores was to go to the well and clean out the algae and gunk with long rakes. After that was done, you cleaned up the gunk that was on the rakes and well (and probably took it out to the field or garden for extra fertilizer). Then, after the well was clean, you decorated it — often in a spirit of gentle competition with the neighboring farms and villages.

In Franconia, apparently the time for well-cleaning and well-dressing was Easter. The oldest way to do it, accordingly to the article, was to tie Easter eggs to an egg tree near the well. (If you scroll down through all the pictures, there’s an example of such an Easter well egg tree.) Nowadays, it’s not done as often, but the people who still decorate wells for Easter seem to throw out all the stops. Pretty!

And now, I finally know why we were always making egg trees out of pussywillows and dead branches! It was our country’s German side coming out!

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