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Holiday Almanac: Today is Pentecost

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Bas-relief of the Holy Spirit as a descending dove, on a wall at St. Jude Church in Boca Raton, Fla. (Photo by James Davis)

Pentecost, the day that Christians say the Holy Spirit of God descended on the first believers, is celebrated in churches worldwide today. On this day, according to the New Testament, the apostles of Jesus saw the Spirit in the shape of “tongues of fire,” giving them power to preach and evangelize.

Taking its name from its timing, just short of 50 days after Easter Sunday, Pentecost is often called the “birthday of the church.” Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans celebrate the day with bright red vestments and church trappings, symbolizing the flame of the Spirit.

— JAMES D. DAVIS

 

Written by Jim Davis

May 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm

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Holiday Almanac: Easter celebrations start tonight for Eastern Orthodox Christians

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The world’s 200 million-plus Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate tomorrow as Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead, several weeks after their fellow believers in Roman Catholic and …

Source: Holiday Almanac: Easter celebrations start tonight for Eastern Orthodox Christians

Written by Jim Davis

April 30, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Holiday Almanac: Easter celebrations start tonight for Eastern Orthodox Christians

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Icon of Jesus on the underside of the rotunda at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Fort Lauderdale. The icon portrays Christ as the Pantocrator, or All-Ruler. (Photo by James Davis)

The world’s 200 million-plus Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate tomorrow as Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead, several weeks after their fellow believers in Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

The founding events are the same: Three days after Jesus’ corpse was entombed, women came to embalm it, but found the tomb open and empty. Jesus then appeared to them, then to his disciples, then to crowds of hundreds, before ascending into heaven.

However, the Eastern churches — Greek, Russian, Antiochian and other branches — calculate the date for Easter after the Julian calendar under a formula no longer used by Western churches.

At most Orthodox churches, the observances will start with the Resurrection Service tonight. At midnight, the pastor carries a lighted candle in the darkened sanctuary to proclaim, “Come, receive the light from the light that is never overtaken by night …”

The flame is passed on to his congregants’ candles. Then the pastor and choir sing hymns outside the church and return for the Pascha, the Easter liturgy. Sunday worship features an Agapé service, in which the biblical story of Jesus’ resurrection is read in several languages.

Greek Orthodox churches will bless and distribute red eggs at the end of the service to symbolize the resurrection.

— JAMES D. DAVIS

 

Written by Jim Davis

April 30, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Passover: Freedom festival for the world’s Jews

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Arthur_Szyk_(1894-1951)._The_Haggadah,_Dedication_to_King_George_VI_(1936),_Łódź,_Poland

A page from the famous Szyk Haggadah of 1936. Source: The Arthur Szyk Society, Burlingame, Calif. (www.szyk.org), via Wikimedia Creative Commons. (CC-By-4.0).

Passover, called the oldest festival of freedom, starts at sundown today. The eight-day Jewish festival dates back more than 30 centuries, recounting the deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

As told in the biblical book of Exodus, the pharaoh rejected the prophet Moses’ demand to release the people, bringing a wave of supernatural plagues on the land. The last plague was death for the firstborn of every Egyptian household in one night. The Israelites escaped death by dashing lambs’ blood on their doorposts — a sign of faith that made God “pass over” those homes.

In modern traditional households, the eight-day festival starts with a ceremonial meal called a Seder on the first two nights, according to a program book known as a Haggaday. Foods on the Seder plate symbolize the Exodus story, including a lamb shank; a piece of bitter herbs such as horseradish, for the bitterness of slavery; a bowl of saltwater, for the tears of oppression; and a mix of apples, cinnamon and wine, for the mortar used in the Egyptian bricks.

Also on the Seder plate are a roasted egg and leafy vegetables, for the springtime occasion of Passover; and the hard, unleavened bread called matzoh, for the Israelites’ haste in evacuating Egypt.

— JAMES D. DAVIS

Written by Jim Davis

April 22, 2016 at 5:43 pm

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Holiday Almanac: Easter dawns with the promise of resurrection

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Resurrection window at Nativity Catholic Church in Hollywood, Fla. (Photo by James D. Davis)

Christians celebrate today as Easter, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter, the greatest holiday of the Christian year, ratifies for believers the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God.

As related in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the body of Jesus was wrapped and buried in a rocky tomb near Jerusalem. Women came three days later to embalm the corpse, but found it missing. Jesus then began appearing to various groups of his followers, with the commission to “make disciples of all nations.”

Sunrise services are common Easter Sunday celebrations, especially at the public beaches of South Florida. The events are often sponsored by two or more churches, or even by whole ministerial associations.

But Easter still lies ahead for the area’s estimated 10,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians, who reckon some holy days by the ancient Julian calendar instead of the contemporary Gregorian calendar. Easter for the Orthodox will fall on May 1 this year.

— James D. Davis

Written by Jim Davis

March 27, 2016 at 7:30 am

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Redemptive death: Christians observe Good Friday today

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Christians today mourn the death of Jesus Christ as Good Friday. Despite his agonizing death on a cross, the holiday is called “Good” because Christians believe the death was a sacrifice for all humanity’s sins.

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Bronze bas-relief, with John and Mary grieving for the dead Jesus, hangs on a wall at Saint Vincent De Paul Seminary near Boynton Beach, Fla. (Photo by James D. Davis)

“The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” the New Testament calls him.

In Catholic churches, the traditional Good Friday service includes the Stations of the Cross, a series of meditations based on the 14 traditional events between Jesus’ condemnation in a Roman court and his burial. The Stations typically are represented with plaques or bas-reliefs around the church auditorium.

Catholics also have a Veneration of the Cross ceremony, during which churchgoers approach the altar to show respect before a cross, often with a bow and a kiss.

Sometimes observed by ecumenical Protestants is Tre Ore, a three-hour service examining each of the “Seven Last Words” Jesus uttered from the cross. The service is useful for having seven or more ministers take part.

Another type of service is Tenebrae, in which a church is slowly darkened to illustrate Jesus’ death, then relighted to show his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

— James D. Davis

Written by Jim Davis

March 25, 2016 at 8:33 am

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Holiday Almanac: Palm Sunday starts Holy Week for Christians

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Palm tree at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables, Fla. (Photo by James D. Davis)

Christians celebrate today as Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week on the church calendar. Palm Sunday takes its name from an informal welcome given Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on the last week before his crucifixion.

According to the Gospel  accounts, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, with people paving the street before him with coats and palm fronds. That week he preached in the Temple and celebrated Passover with his disciples. Their observance of the Seder, the ritual meal of Passover, has become known in churches as the Last Supper.

Churches commonly celebrate Palm Sunday with special musical programs and Easter pageants. They often pass out palm leaves, sometimes tied into the shape of a cross. In Catholic and some Episcopal churches, extra palm leaves are burned and the ashes saved for Ash Wednesday the following year.

Holy Week ends with Maundy Thursday, commemorating the institution of the Holy Communion ritual; Good Friday, mourning Jesus’ death; and Easter Sunday, celebrating his Resurrection.

— JAMES D. DAVIS

 

Written by Jim Davis

March 20, 2016 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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