Tuesday, February 19, 2013


For quite a number of devout Catholics, the word "paschal" is still a mystery to them.

The short answer is that "paschal" refers to Easter.  Whenever you see "paschal," think of Easter.


The origin of the word "paschal" is found in the Jewish Passover.  If you remember the story from the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, God wanted to free the Hebrews from slavery under the Egyptians.  After trying all sorts of ways to convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go, God resorted to the ultimate plague or punishment - the death of the first born male in each family in Egypt.

In order to save the Hebrew males, God instructed them through Moses to sacrifice a lamb, brush its blood on the door posts of each Hebrew home, and the Angel of Death would, on seeing the blood, pass over that house, sparing that family from the death of the first born son.

In Hebrew, this event was called pesach.  In Greek and Latin, pesach became pascha.

The Jewish Passover, of course, for us Christians, was an early glimpse into the real salvation coming later in the future, when the blood of the Lord Jesus would save all repentant sinners.


The Easter - or Paschal - Fire lit just before the Easter Vigil

The Easter - or Paschal - Candle, symbolizing Christ our Light, risen from the darkness of death

We can also speak of the Paschal Mystery (the mystery of Christ's rising from the dead); the Paschal Lamb (Jesus was the true Lamb of God, sacrificed, but risen from the dead); the Paschal Triduum (three days, including Holy Thursday and Good Friday, but aimed at the final chapter - Easter!); the Paschal Feast (Easter); Paschal Tide (the time after Easter ending the day before Trinity Sunday) and so on.

We can even speak of Christ as our pascha, as we do in this verse.  It means that Christ is our Passover victim.


Saint Paschal Baylon was a Franciscan, very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament.

Two popes were named Paschal, the first being declared a saint.

In Spanish, the name Paschal is Pascual.


In some countries, like Spain, pascha (in Spanish pascua) was applied to four great events in the Christian faith : the birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, the Epiphany and the sending of the Holy Ghost.

The birth of Christ was called pascua de navidad (the pasch of the birth), or pascua navideña.

The resurrection : pascua florida (the flowery pasch) or pascua de resurección (pasch of resurrection).

Epiphany : pascua de Epifanía.

Pentecost : pascua de Pentecostés.


Chamorros borrowed the Spanish word pascua but pronounce it påsgua.

Old-time Chamorros would say "påsguan nochebuena" for Christmas; "påsguan resureksion" for Easter, and "påsguan pentekostes" for Pentecost.  I never heard an elderly Chamorro talk about "påsguan epifania" but for all I know they did in the old days.

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