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Holiday Almanac: Easter dawns with resurrection hope

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"Empty Tomb," wall sculpture by Billy Frank Alexander Design via sxc.hu

“Empty Tomb,” wall sculpture by Billy Frank Alexander Design via sxc.hu

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 told 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.”

Christians also celebrate Jesus’ resurrection for the hope it holds out for eternal life. As Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live.”

Sunrise services — in parks, on beaches, even in cemeteries — are common Easter Sunday celebrations. The events are often sponsored by two or more churches, or even by whole ministerial associations.

Because of dating differences, the world’s 225 million Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter next Sunday, April 12. For most Eastern Orthodox, the holy day begins the previous night with the Resurrection Service. At midnight, the pastor carries a lighted candle, a flame that 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.

— James D. Davis

Written by Jim Davis

April 5, 2015 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Holiday Almanac: Easter dawns with resurrection hope

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"Empty Tomb," wall sculpture by Billy Frank Alexander Design via sxc.hu

“Empty Tomb,” wall sculpture by Billy Frank Alexander Design via sxc.hu

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 told 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.”

Christians also celebrate Jesus’ resurrection for the hope it holds out for eternal life. As Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live.”

Sunrise services — in parks, on beaches, even in cemeteries — are common Easter Sunday celebrations. The events are often sponsored by two or more churches, or even by whole ministerial associations.

Because of dating differences, the world’s 225 million Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter next Sunday, April 12. For most Eastern Orthodox, the holy day begins the previous night with the Resurrection Service. At midnight, the pastor carries a lighted candle, a flame that 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.

— James D. Davis

Written by Jim Davis

April 5, 2015 at 7:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Freedom story on a plate: Passover starts at sundown today

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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.

512px-Stack_of_Matzoth_from_kosherstock

Stack of Matzoh, from kosherstock.com.

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 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.

— James D. Davis

Written by Jim Davis

April 3, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

When God died: Good Friday mourns the death of Jesus

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Cross on red, by cbcs via sxc.hu

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 recorded 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 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

April 3, 2015 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Palms for a king: Palm Sunday observed today

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

— James D. Davis

Photo: Palm frond, shot by Karen Branch and uploaded to Wikimedia Creative Commons  (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Written by Jim Davis

March 29, 2015 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Holiday Almanac: Ash Wednesday starts Lenten prayer and fasting

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AshWed

Lt. Cmdr. Joselito Tiongson, a chaplain on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, blesses a sailor during an Ash Wednesday service in the ship’s chapel. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Benjamin T. Liston/Released)

Christians in several traditions will observe today as Ash Wednesday, the start of six weeks of Lent. The season is a period of solemnity before Good Friday, the traditional observance of Jesus’ death, which will fall on April 3 this year.

Ash Wednesday takes its name from ashes daubed on the faithful as a sign of penitence, with the traditional words, “Remember you are dust and will return to dust.”

Lent is a somber season marked by prayer, introspection and repentance. For Catholics, it also includes fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays for those 14 years and older.

Eastern Orthodox Christians, who still use the ancient Julian calendar, begin Lent on Feb. 23 this year. However, they will join Protestants and Roman Catholics in celebrating Easter on April 12.

— James D. Davis

 

Written by Jim Davis

February 18, 2015 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Holiday Almanac: The Twelfth Day of Christmas

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DSC_0024

Today, Jan. 6, is Epiphany, the traditional “Twelfth Day of Christmas,” recalling when Christians say Jesus’ divinity was revealed.

For Western churches, especially Roman Catholic, Epiphany is Three Kings Day, when they believe the Wise Men visited the young Jesus. In South Florida, Hispanics will celebrate Three Kings Day, with floats and bands in an exuberant parade along Miami’s Calle Ocho.

For Eastern Orthodox churches, Epiphany marks Jesus’ baptism, when the Bible says a dove settled onto him and a voice from heaven declared him “my beloved son.” Some parishes, or groups of parishes, gather for a colorful “‘Blessing of the Waters” ceremony, in which youths retrieve a cross that has been thrown into a waterway.

In West Palm Beach, Greek Orthodox Bishop Alexios will perform the blessing at the Intracoastal Waterway a few steps from St. Catherine’s Church. All Eastern Orthodox churches in South Florida will take part.

In formal Epiphany observances, many parishes use incense as a fragrant reminder of the magi’s gifts to Jesus. Eastern Orthodox priests use the day to bless their baptismal fonts by dipping a cross into the water.

— James D. Davis

Written by Jim Davis

January 6, 2015 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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