HomeCommentaryHappy Easter as Maligayang Pasko!

Happy Easter as Maligayang Pasko!

I hope to see the time when we can stop saying “Maligayang Pasko” for Christmas and start saying it in its proper sense of “Happy Easter”

Somebody texted me apologizing for a late Easter greeting. I said, “Oh, you’re not late. You’re actually early. You have fifty days from Easter Sunday until Pentecost (May 28, 2023) to greet HAPPY EASTER.”

The same person asked, “How do I say ‘Happy Easter’ in Filipino?” I said, “Well, in Spanish they say, ‘Felices Pascuas.’ In French, ‘Bonne Fête de Pacques.’ In Italian, ‘Buona Pasqua.’ So in Tagalog, it should be “Maligayang Pasko!”

But since “Pasko” has been wrongly equated by Filipinos with Christmas, you’d have to say “Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay,” to be specific. In old Spanish, they used to say “Felices Pascuas de Navidad” for Christmas. And so they also had to say “Felices Pascuas de la Resurreccion” for Easter.

The Spaniards soon realized that “Pascuas de la Resurreccion” was actually a redundancy and eventually corrected it. In modern Spanish, it is now enough to say “Felices Pascuas” for Happy Easter and “Feliz Navidad” for Merry Christmas.

Actually, for the Spanish Jews, “Felices Pascuas” has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Its original meaning is “Happy Feast of Passover.”

By Passover, what they mean is the feast commemorating the escape of the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt after the angel of death “passed over” their homes upon seeing the blood of the lamb painted on their door jambs. You read about that story in the Book of Exodus chapters 12-14.

This epic story of Israel’s freedom from slavery, their crossing of the red sea, their 40-year journey through the desert, and their entry into promised land is the basic narrative on which the Israelite faith is founded. It has been celebrated since time immemorial by the Jewish people, including Jesus, his family, and his followers through an annual festival marked by the ritual sacrifice of a yearling lamb. The Lamb sacrificed for this feast became the symbol of their redemption, and this feast became known as “Pesach” in Hebrew, “Pascha” in Greek, and “Passover” in English.

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In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), the Last Supper of Jesus before his arrest and execution is made to coincide with the Passover Seder (the ritual meal). Not so, in the fourth Gospel. In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ death is timed with the slaughter of the lambs in preparation for the Passover ritual meal.

Christianity is based on a reinvention of the meaning of the Jewish Passover. It extends the concept of redemption to include, not just Israel, but all of humankind. It gives liberation from slavery a more figurative application and a more spiritual meaning in the sense of deliverance from sin through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As the Christian reinvention of the Jewish Passover, Easter becomes the passage of Jesus from death to life through his resurrection. It becomes the basis for the Christian proclamation of faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, Son of God.

It makes sense why earlier in their history the Spanish Christian greeting for Easter became “Felices Pascuas de la Resurreccion”—obviously to distinguish the Christian Easter from the Jewish Passover. And yet, at a later point they found it unnecessary to do so. It became perfectly all right to use the same greeting for both Jews and Christians.

I hope you now see what I mean when I say the Tagalog greeting “Maligayang Pasko” should be the proper greeting for Happy Easter. Modern Spaniards have restored “Pascua” to its original sense—either of the Jewish Passover or the Christian Easter. They simply say “Feliz Navidad” for Merry Christmas and “Felices Pascuas” for Happy Easter. In the Philippines we continue to commit this four century-old linguistic error of associating “Pasko” with Nativity.

I wonder if our Philippine liturgists will ever succeed in correcting this linguistic aberration. I hope to see the time when we can stop saying “Maligayang Pasko” for Christmas and start saying it in its proper sense of “Happy Easter.”

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the Philippines.

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