The Easter Eggs

By Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma

Many animals lay eggs from which they beget their offsprings. Such animals are chicken, crocodile, lizard, alligator, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, fish, etc. A little child of four years told me few hours ago that her mother lays eggs because she spends a long time every day in the bedroom.

I asked her if she has seen any of the eggs her mother laid. She whispered to me that her mother does not allow her and her siblings to enter the bedroom. I couldn’t control my laughter. If women lay egg, it will be as big as a football. Suppose one eats a human egg, is he or she guilty of cannibalism or abortion? The wise God knows why he exempted women from laying eggs.

My point of reference here is chicken eggs. The male chicken is called cock while the female is hen. When both meet sexually, the hen starts to lay eggs after some time.

After laying the eggs, she incubates them by carefully sitting over them most of the time, except when she goes out to find food, thereby warming the eggs. At the appointed time, the eggs hatch and the offspring emerge. God is wonderful.

An age-long puzzle remains unsolved. Some call it riddle. Others regard it as a mystery. Surely you know what I am talking about. Here is the puzzle, riddle or mystery: The egg and the hen, which existed first? Some say it is the egg. Others maintain that it is the hen.

Then the ultimate question follows. If it is the egg, how did it emerge? On the other hand, if it is the hen, how did it come into existence? Only God has the answer. Following the account of creation in the Book of Genesis chapter one, it is certain that God created the hen who laid the egg. Have you any answer apart from this?

The egg is the embryo of a potential chicken. The newly hatched young ones are called chicks. When they grow to maturity, they become chickens. Not all eggs are hatched for the sake of offspring. Some are consumed as protein food. It is commonly assumed that a person that consumes an egg has eaten a whole chicken. Is it true or false? Another question arises: Is egg a meat?

A baby in the womb is a  kind of human being. Is the egg embryo a chicken? The egg yolk is similar to human brain. The taste can possibly be the same. I have tasted the egg yolk but the human brain is a no-go-area. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday Christians abstain from meat, but eggs are allowed to be eaten on both days of abstinence. What do you deduce from this?

I have to point out that I didn’t grow up nutritiously well because my parents denied me eggs. In those days little children were forbidden from eating eggs because it would lead them into stealing. I am trying now to make up for what I lacked. Unfortunately it is too late. There are conflicting teachings from nutritionists. Some say that adults should not eat more than one egg per week.

Some are of the view that eating one egg daily is okay. Others maintain that an adult should only eat the white layer and throw away the egg yolk. Is this not a waste? It is like eating the shell of groundnut and throwing away the edible seed inside.

The egg yolk is the most nutritious while the white layer is just a shaft. The children of today are lucky. The other day I saw a child consuming a whole egg. I sighed and regretted. If there is reincarnation, I will start eating eggs from the womb in order to make up what I lacked earlier. Unfortunately there is no reincarnation.

You may be wondering about the point of my departure. I am talking sense and not nonsense. I am just clearing the bush in order to cultivate wise seeds in my Wit’s Corner. Having finished the nursery section, I now proceed to my primary assignment here. Are you with me? Do not drink palm wine. Something that is better is coming. Bring your drinking glass and clear your throat.

Traditionally, eggs in general are symbols of fertility and rebirth. In Christian concept, Easter eggs assume higher theological dimension. Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus after his resurrection. They are joyful symbols that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly risen from the tomb.

Therefore, do not fail to eat at least an egg on Easter Sunday and during Eastertide. Jesus Christ died for the entire humanity. Hence we should not eat the Easter eggs alone. We ought to share with others. There is joy in sharing.

The custom of the Easter eggs, according to various sources, can be traced back to the early Christians of Mesopotamia from where it spread to Eastern Europe and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches. Later it spread to the whole of Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches.

From other sources we learnt that the custom of the Easter eggs arose in Western Europe during the Middle Age because the Western Christians were prohibited from eating eggs during Lent, but were allowed to consume them during Easter period.

In Jewish tradition, the white egg was part and parcel of the Passover Seder plate. This is a special plate that contains the symbolic foods eaten or displayed at the Passover feast. The early Christians of Mesopotamia adopted the egg symbolism from Judaism and stained them with red colour as memorial of the Blood of Jesus Christ shed at his crucifixion.

As time elapsed the Christian Church officially adopted the custom and regards the eggs as the symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a testimony, the first edition of the Roman Ritual published in 1610 provided a text for the blessing of the Easter eggs.

It reads: “Lord, let the grace of your blessing + come upon these eggs, that they be healthful food for your faithful who eat them in thanksgiving for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever” (The Roman Ritual, Part XI, Blessings and other Sacramentals).

Decorating the Easter eggs is a tradition that dates back to the 13th century. One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly forbidden food during Lenten season; so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of fasting and abstinence.

Thus they eat eggs as a celebration during Easter season. Often plastic eggs filled with confectionery such as chocolates are used as Easter gifts. In other words, real or plastic eggs can be used as special gifts during Easter and Eastertide.

The custom of celebrating the Easter eggs (Paschal eggs) is not common in Africa. I have not experienced it in Nigeria from my childhood till now. It was during my study period in Germany that I experienced it for the first time. In German language the Easter eggs are known as “Ostereier.” In singular tense, egg in German is called ‘ei’ (pronounce like the personal pronoun ‘I’) while the plural is ‘eier’ (pronounced like ‘aya’ but not Bishop John Aya of Uyo Diocese).

I really enjoyed the presentation and consumption of the Paschal eggs among the Germans. If you are given plastic painted and decorated eggs, then you open the egg shell and then enjoy the artificial egg yolk, which is made up of assorted confectioneries.

The he-goat says that traveling is expedient, that’s why he travelled to his mother’s kindred and learnt how to point his lips up in a stylish manner. We can introduce the Easter eggs symbolic gifts in our families, kindred, parishes, communities, dioceses, etc.

In my little reflection, the Easter eggs also signify hope. We should never despair in this earthly life and should look forward in the life to come. No matter the difficulties we encounter in our lives as pilgrims, we should never lose hope. Since the black hen can lay white eggs, there is always hope in a hopeless situation. There is always light at the end of a tunnel.

The insecurity, economic hardship and bad leadership we now experience here in Nigeria, by God’s intervention, will come to pass someday and sometime. I celebrated my birthday on 1st April 2021 with Jesus Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane. There is hope.

The Preface of the Mass for the dead states that life is changed but not ended. The Easter eggs signify also that our life as human beings is delicate. Therefore, we must handle it with utmost care. If an egg falls on the ground, it breaks into irredeemable pieces.

Its contents are soiled and become useless. If we mess up our lives as pilgrims here on earth, we shall regret it forever in the world to come. As Christians we ought to follow the footsteps of our Redeemer Jesus Christ who urges us: “If you wish to be my disciple, denounce yourself, carry your cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This entails that we should not be lipstick Christians, but practical Christians.

As Christians and non Christians, we are in the world but not of the world. We are on pilgrimage to eternity. In the long run we shall reap over there whatever we sowed here on earth (confer Galatians 6:7- 8). Let us make haste while the sun shines in order to avoid ‘had I known’ on the Day of Judgment. Happy Easter!