Thursday, March 17, 2005

Legend of the Red Egg

Icon of St. Mary Magdalene by Nicholas Papas

After the Ascension of the Christ, Mary Magdalene traveled to Rome. As a wealthy woman of high social standing, she was admitted to the courts of Tiberius Caesar. At dinner, she told Tiberius Caesar of Pilate’s miscarriage of justice at the trial of Jesus. Tiberius Caesar was captivated by her retelling. However, when she said that Jesus rose from the dead, Tiberius Caesar scoffed. Undeterred, Mary Magdalene picked up an egg from the table and held it before him. The Romans understood that the egg symbolized life bursting forth from a sealed tomb, but Tiberius Caesar laughed and said, “A human being can no more rise from the dead than the egg in your hand could turn red.”

Immediately, the egg turned red. (So did Tiberius Caesar, probably.)

To this day, the Byzantine church commemorates this legend with the exchange of red eggs. If you look closely at one of the many dinner scenes in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” you will see characters tapping each other’s red eggs as if they are toasting with wine-glasses. In my family, we don’t dye eggs all that often, but we do make hard-boiled eggs pickled with the juice from sweet beets. The eggs are deep rosy red with yellow centers, and there is a slight tang imparted to the whites of the eggs.

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