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The Easter Mystery of Golgotha

Night at Golgotha by V. Vereshchagin (1869)
Night at Golgotha by V. Vereshchagin (1869)

The events recounted in the Christian religion related to Easter, can easily occupy a person for an entire life of study, and the ideas and insights will only grow in their depth and breadth. One may not even be a “believer” at all – in Christianity, or any other religion – but the mere depth of the world-comprehension to be found in the deeper ideas related to “Easter” – beginning with the mysterious death on Golgotha – cannot but challenge and astound the deepest skeptic’s heart and mind. In fact, the ideas and beliefs related to the mystery of Easter, when they are studied, learned and understood, also require a person to deepen, expand and mature himself.

Even the very words and ideas related to Easter and the Resurrection lead into tremendous depths – and not only of great ideas which include the cosmos, nature and time, but of the very inwardness of the human soul. As the American philosopher Emerson said, God is, not was. Or, as Goethe described it in a poem: Stirb und werde – Die and Become.

The word “mystery”, for example, comes from the Greek mustikos from mustes- initiated person, from muo- close the eyes or lips, initiate; whereby it is related to the secrets of the ancient “mysteries”, which a person must have become pure enough to undergo, and which they must never, on penalty of death, speak profanely (Latin profanus- before, i.e., outside of the temple, not sacred (as pro- before + fanum temple). The name “Golgotha” (or Calvary) – which, as is well known, was the name of the mountain where Christ was crucified – means “the place of the skull” (Late Latin calvaria- skull, translation of Greek golgotha, Aramaic gulgultâ; see e.g., Matthew 27:33); and the deepest legends say it was the place where “Adam” (Hebrew for “man”) was buried.

The ideas of the Death and Resurrection of Christ – from Greek khristos- ‘anointed one’, from khrio- ‘anoint with oil’ [on the skull]: translation of Hebrew masiah, messiah – not only relate to Christ, of course, but to the entire cosmos, man and nature. The Hebrews had the idea of the “Messiah” from the Persians (saosyant), during the so-called “Babylonian Captivity”; and the legendary “Three Wise Men of the East”, who came following a still mysterious star, to see the new born King, are a reminder that the deepest ideas of Christianity began long before “Christianity” was even used as a word by any man!

First published in the magazine English, #16, April 1997, p. 15.