Easter is just around the corner, and although many look forward to the chocolate eggs and holidays, there is a deeper meaning to the season.
The Christian Traditions of Easter: What it is all about.
Easter is the most significant period of the church year for Christians. Their understanding of Easter is relatively complex and therefore not easily explained. To assist you in understanding the meaning and Christian traditions of Easter (and therefore, the significance of MercyCare’s Easter celebrations) the following information may help...........
~ THE MEANING OF EASTER ~
Christian belief in the real meaning of Easter commemorates that 2,000 years ago Christ was crucified (put to death by nailing his wrists and feet to the cross). He then was laid to rest in a tomb and after three days He was resurrected (rose from the dead). Good Friday denotes Jesus' crucifixion and Easter Sunday denotes his resurrection. Christians believe Christ died to liberate us from our sins - Jesus death was an action by God, an action out of love, making it possible for us (sinners) to be forgiven and accepted by God.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
John 4:10--"This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins."
Romans 10:9.'If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved'
~ WHY JESUS WAS CONDEMNED TO DEATH ~
The Jewish leaders accused and convicted Jesus as a blasphemer, because he claimed to be God. However, as the Jews had no authority to kill anyone, they handed Jesus over to the Romans. Pilate, the Roman governor, questioned Jesus and found nothing worthy of death, but because of the cries of the crowd, committed Jesus to death by crucifixion. Pilate put a title on the cross, 'This is Jesus, the King of the Jews', which implies that Jesus was crucified because he claimed to be a king.
~ THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HOLY WEEK ~
Holy Week is the last week of Lent, the week immediately preceding Easter Sunday. It is observed in many Christian churches as a time to commemorate and enact the suffering (Passion) and death of Jesus through various observances and services of worship.
Each day during Holy Week has its own traditions of services , most of which are taken from the Gospels' account of actions from the time of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the cruxificion and death of Jesus on Good Friday and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. In Catholic tradition, the conclusion to the week is called the Easter Triduum (a triduum is a space of three days usually accompanying a church festival or holy days that are devoted to special prayer and observance). The Easter Triduum begins Thursday evening of Holy Week with Eucharist and concludes with evening prayers Easter Saturday.
Holy Week is a week of contrasts - it has a mixture of celebrations to the joyful arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the suffering, humiliation, and death of Christ on Good Friday and the hope of new beginnings of Easter Sunday.. Catholics believe it is important to place the hope of the Resurrection, the promise of newness and life, against the background of death and endings. It is only in walking through the shadows and darkness of Holy Week and Good Friday, only in realizing the horror and magnitude of sin and its consequences in the world incarnated in the dying Jesus on the cross, only in contemplating the ending and despair that the disciples felt on Holy Saturday, that we can truly understand the light and hope of Easter Sunday morning .
~ SIGNIFICANT EVENTS AND MESSAGES DURING HOLY WEEK ~
PALM SUNDAY 1 April 2007
This Sunday is known to Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians as Passion Sunday or Palm Sunday. This occasion commemorates the trimuphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (having spent 40 days in the desert) in the days before his execution. During the time of Christ, it was also a common custom to cover, in some way, the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. In John 's Gospel it is reported that palm branches were waved and laid in Jesus ' path and he was heralded by the people as King of the Jews. The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory. Because of this the detail of the palm branches and the scene of the crowd greeting Jesus as he entered Jerusalem by waving palm fronds, and carpeting his path with them, has given the day its name.
This Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday to commemorate the beginning of Holy Week and Jesus’ final agonizing journey to the cross. The English word passion comes from a Latin word that means "to suffer," the same word from which we derive the English word patient.
Today, many Churches continue the custom of using palm fronds in the Palm Sunday liturgy. These palms are saved in many churches to be burned later as the source of ashes used in Ash Wednesday services.
MAUNDY ( HOLY ) THURSDAY (5 April 2007)
Thursday of Holy Week is known in the Christian Church as Maundy Thursday. The term Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (from which we get our English word mandate), from a verb that means "to give," "to entrust," or "to order.” The term is usually translated "commandment," from John's account of this Thursday night. According to the Fourth Gospel, as Jesus and the Disciples were eating their final meal together before Jesus’ arrest, he washed the disciples' feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servanthood. After they had finished the meal, as they walked into the night toward Gethsemane, Jesus taught his disciples a "new" commandment that was not really new (John 13:34-35):
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, you also ought to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The sharing of the Eucharist, or sacrament of thanksgiving, on Maundy Thursday is the means by which most Christians observe this day. A reinactment of the washing of the feet also often takes place as part of the Holy Thursday ritual.
GOOD FRIDAY (6 April 2007)
Friday of Holy Week has been traditionally called Good Friday or Holy Friday. On this day, the church commemorates Jesus’ arrest (since by Jewish customs of counting days from sundown to sundown it was already Friday), his trial, crucifixion and suffering, death, and burial. Since services on this day are to observe Jesus’ death, and since Eucharist is a celebration, there is traditionally no Communion observed on Good Friday. Good Friday is not a day of celebration but of mourning, both for the death of Jesus and for the sins of the world that his death represents. Yet, although Friday is a solemn time, it is not without its own joy. For while it is important to place the Resurrection against the darkness of Good Friday, likewise the somberness of Good Friday should always be seen with the hope of Resurrection Sunday.
There are a variety of services of worship for Good Friday, all aimed at allowing worshipers to experience some sense of the pain, humiliation, and ending in the journey to the cross. The traditional Catholic service for Good Friday was held in mid-afternoon to correspond to the final words of Jesus from the cross (around 3 PM). However, modern schedules have led many churches to move the service to the evening to allow more people to participate. Usually, a Good Friday service is a series of Scripture readings, a short homily, and a time of meditation and prayer.
HOLY SATURDAY (7 April 2007)
This is the day Jesus rested in the tomb. It is traditionally a day of quiet meditation as Christians contemplate the darkness of a world without a future and without hope apart from God and his grace. It is also a time to remember family and the faithful who have died as we await the resurrection, or to honor the martyrs who have given their lives for the cause of Christ in the world. No services are held until the Easter Vigil (held in the evening of Easter Saturday). The Easter Vigil prepares us to meet the risen Lord and to celebrate and remember the new passover: Christ passed over from death to resurrection. It is the most important time in the church's year. Chritsians believe that in Christ, we pass over from sin and death to new life in him. Holy Saturday has traditionally been a time of reflection and waiting, the time of weeping that lasts for the night while awaiting the joy that comes in the morning
EASTER SUNDAY (8 April 2007)
Easter or Resurrection Sunday is the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus the Christ from the dead. Easter as an annual celebration of the Resurrection that lies at the center of a liturgical year has been observed at least since the fourth century.Easter should be the most openly joyful time of celebration of the church year. Celebrated against the background of the shadows and darkness of Lent and Holy Week, this season truly becomes a living expression of the hope that God has brought into the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In observing this truth, that new beginnings come from endings, many people are able to draw a parable of their own lives and faith journey from the observances of Holy Week. In providing people with the opportunity to experience this truth in liturgy and symbol, the services become a powerful proclamation of the transformative power of the Gospel, and God at work in the lives of people.