GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

Web sites, TV, films, books and the search for meaning.

Holiday Almanac: Christians celebrate Pentecost today

leave a comment »

Picture

Dove in a sunburst at St. Jude’s Church in Boca Raton, Fla., symbolizes the Holy Spirit. (Photo by James D. Davis)

Pentecost, the day that Christians say the Holy Spirit of God descended on the first believers, is celebrated in churches worldwide today. 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, 50 days after Easter Sunday, Pentecost is often called the ‘‘birthday of the church.” It is the Christian equivalent of Shavuot, the Jewish festival that follows Passover by seven weeks.

Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans celebrate the day with bright red vestments and church trappings, symbolizing the flame of the Spirit.

 

— James D. Davis

Advertisements

Written by Jim Davis

May 20, 2018 at 4:32 pm

Holiday Almanac: Jews celebrate holy law today

leave a comment »

Torah 02

Torah page, photographed by Renaude Hatsedakis, via freeimages.com.

Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, began at sundown for the estimated half-million Jews in South Florida. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

The holiday is one of the three Jewish ‘‘pilgrim festivals,” along with Passover and Sukkot, meant to recall the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt and subsequent wanderings in the Sinai desert. Shavuot takes its name from Passover, which it follows by seven weeks — a ‘‘week of weeks.”

Synagogues observe Shavuot with the reading of the Ten Commandments. Some also read the biblical story of Ruth, who converted to Judaism and became the grandmother of King David. The story is seen as a historical parable of commitment to God and the holy law.

In recent years, many synagogues have increasingly held confirmation on Shavuot, as their young men and women take on the promise to obey the holy law.

 — James D. Davis

Written by Jim Davis

May 20, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Holiday Almanac: Ramadan starts for the world’s Muslims

leave a comment »

ramadan mohamed hassan via pixabay (2)

(Graphic by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay)

The world’s 1.8 billion Muslims are joining in observance of Ramadan, the holiest month of their year. It was during this month, according to Islamic belief, that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, was first transmitted through the Archangel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad some 14 centuries ago.

To fix their attention on spiritual matters, the faithful refrain from eating, drinking, smoking or sexual intercourse during daylight hours of Ramadan. Many Muslims also attend mosque services every night during the month. In most mosques, one-thirtieth of the Quran is read each night, so that the whole book is read during the month.

Observance of Ramadan is one of the five “pillars” or basic duties of Islam. The others are almsgiving, prayer five times daily, at least one pilgrimage to Mecca if possible, and the confession that ‘‘there is no deity but God, and Muhammad is final prophet.”

All adult believers are expected to observe Ramadan unless they are ill, traveling or defending their country in wartime. Women are not required to fast during menstruation or if nursing babies. But later, they are expected to fast for every day they have deferred it.

— Jim Davis

 

Written by Jim Davis

May 17, 2018 at 3:26 am

Back from the dead: Easter dawns today for Christians

leave a comment »

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

Picture

Jesus catches soldiers literally off guard in the Easter window at St. Ann Church, West Palm Beach. (Photo by Jim Davis)

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.”

The significance of Easter is not only the resurrection of Jesus, but the hope that he can grant eternal life to those who trust and follow him. “Because I live, you shall live also,” he said.

For traditional churches, the change in liturgical colors is striking. During the Lenten season, which begins with Ash Wednesday (Feb. 18 this year), altars and vestments took on purple, the color of royalty. The color hearkens to the story of Jesus’ suffering, in which Roman soldiers draped him in a purple robe to mock his claim of kingship.

On Easter, however, the cloths are all changed to white — symbolizing joy, glory and triumph — as believers rejoice over Christ’s resurrection. The color predominates even in church floral decorations, with white, trumpet-like Easter lilies.

Sunrise services are common Easter Sunday celebrations. The events are often sponsored by two or more churches, or even by whole ministerial associations.

But Easter still lies ahead for the world’s quarter-billion 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 April 8 this year.

— Jim Davis

Written by Jim Davis

April 1, 2018 at 11:43 am

Passover celebrates freedom to worship

with one comment

matzoh, alex ringer (2)

Stack of matzoh used in Passover; photo by Alex Ringer via Freeimages.com.

Passover, called the oldest festival of freedom, starts at sundown today for the world’s Jews. The eight-day holiday dates back some 34 centuries, recounting the deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

As the story is told in the biblical book of Exodus, the pharaoh rejected the prophet Moses’ demand to release the people, bringing a wave of 10 supernatural plagues on the land. The Nile River turned to blood, disease struck humans and livestock, vermin multiplied, the sky rained hail mixed with fire, and darkness struck the land for three days.

The last plague was the Angel of Death, who struck down 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 the angel “pass over” those homes.

In modern Jewish homes, Passover starts with a ceremonial meal called a Seder on the first two nights, with foods symbolizing the Exodus story. They include a lamb shank, for the sacrificial animal; 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.

— Jim Davis

 

Written by Jim Davis

March 30, 2018 at 7:00 pm

When God died: Today is Good Friday

leave a comment »

aDSC_0006 (2)

Crucifix at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Coral Springs, Fla.

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 Jesus’ death was a sacrifice for all humanity’s sins. ‘”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 are represented with plaques or bas-reliefs around the church auditorium.

Catholics also hold a ‘‘veneration of the cross” ceremony, during which churchgoers approach the altar to kiss the feet of a statue of the crucified Jesus.

Sometimes observed by ecumenical Protestants is Tenebrae, in which a church is slowly darkened to illustrate Jesus’ death, then relighted to show his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Another type of service 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.

— Jim Davis

Written by Jim Davis

March 30, 2018 at 12:55 pm

Palms for a king: Palm Sunday observed today

leave a comment »

Frond by Diane Groves via sxc.hu

Frond by Diane Groves via sxc.hu 

Palm Sunday today starts Holy Week, the most solemn yet joyous time on the Christian calendar. Palm Sunday takes its name from an impromptu welcome given Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on the last week before his crucifixion.

According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus came 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 continues with Maundy Thursday, commemorating the birth of the Holy Communion ritual; Good Friday, mourning Jesus’ death; and Easter Sunday, celebrating his Resurrection.

—  Jim Davis

Written by Jim Davis

March 25, 2018 at 11:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: