Easter: Western Christians rejoice in Resurrection

White lily with cross in background

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

SUNDAY, MARCH 27: Raise the lights, ring the church bells and joyously sing “Alleluia”—it’s Easter! Christians the world over shout in exultation on Easter Sunday, as the faithful celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate Pascha, the Orthodox term for Easter, on May 1, this year.)

Western Christians across the globe revel in the Resurrection of Jesus today, rejoicing in the promise of new life. Following the solemn 40-day reflections of Lent and the Easter Triduum—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday—Christians awaken to a new day. Donning their finest clothing in pastel hues, more than 1 billion men, women and children head to church for the festive Easter service, which often showcases shining brass instruments and rows of blossoming Easter lilies.

Did you know? The week beginning on Easter Sunday is known as Easter Week, or the Octave of Easter.

The New Testament tells Christians that the Resurrection of Christ is the core of their faith, and on this grand day, crowds flow into and out of churches, bells are rung in praise and adherents joyously profess their faith.

THE EMPTY TOMB

Gospel accounts say that early on the Sunday morning following Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary Magdalene (and, though accounts vary, other women as well) traveled to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. Upon reaching the tomb, an earthquake shook the ground; the stone was moved from the tomb, and a holy messenger announced that Jesus had risen from the dead. Though no specific moment of Resurrection is recorded, Mary Magdalene’s encounter has, since the 2nd century, been celebrated as Easter. The Resurrection is described as having occurred c. 30 CE.

Eggs painted in various colors, detailed, in basket

Photo in public domain

THE (NOT SO HUMBLE) EASTER EGG

The springtime egg has symbolized the season’s new life since before the life of Jesus, drawing back to ancient civilizations. Nonetheless, the egg holds a place of prominence in many secular Easter traditions. Children around the globe search for hidden eggs, and decorating eggs can range from simple to elaborate—as much as the artist allows. In the UK, the Guardian holds an annual for the most beautifully decorated Easter egg. International chocolatiers mold sweet concoctions in the shape of delicate eggs, with the most exquisite replications selling for hundreds of dollars.

RECIPES & RESOURCES

Looking for a great recipe or ideas to spruce up your Easter table?

Find delicious recipes, from appetizers to brunch to dessert, at Food Network, AllRecipes and Hershey’s.

Give eggs extra style, or try an Easter craft, with ideas from HGTV and Martha Stewart.

Kid-friendly Easter coloring pages, cards, games and more are at the UK’s Activity Village.

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Categories: Christian

Easter: 2 billion Western Christians rejoice for the Resurrection of Jesus

Upward vantage point of churchgoers in congregation raising their hands and responding to activity at the front of the church

Churchgoers rejoice for the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday 2013 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Mars Hill Church Seattle, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, APRIL 20: East meets West this year as more than 2 billion men, women and children celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, on Easter. Hot cross buns, chocolate bunnies and brunch souffles fill tables and baskets of plenty on this joyous holiday, as families and friends gather to mark this, the focal point of the entire Christian calendar year. Lilies adorn altar spaces and remind churchgoers both of resurrection (blossoms from dormant spring bulbs)—and that Jesus enjoyed a form of lily himself as is evidenced in the Gospel of Luke. The 50 days following Easter are called Eastertide.

Though termed Pascha in the Eastern Christian Church, the themes are similar across East and West.

Pink, thick-cut slice of lamb with brown meat gravy on a dinner plate

A traditional Easter meal features lamb, in memory of Christ, the Paschal Lamb. Photo courtesy of Flickr

AROUND THE WORLD:
FROM EGG HUNTS
TO LAMB

Easter in America may be characterized as much by the Easter Bunny and pastel-hued candies as it is by Christian joy in Christ’s Resurrection. Egg hunts, treat-filled baskets and festive brunches mark Easter for many American families, although for Christians, shared meals most often involve white-and-gold settings, fresh lilies on the table and, in many homes, a sacred Paschal Candle. A traditional Easter menu also often features lamb—a symbol of Christ at this time of year as the Paschal Lamb. However, these days, Easter hams far outpace cuts of lamb. Whether at church or at a post-service feast, Christians dress in their best apparel on Easter day.

In France and Belgium, the bells that “went to Rome on Maundy Thursday” return home for the evening Easter Vigil, only to bring Easter eggs to boys and girls—or so, the story has it. (Wikipedia has details.)

In most countries with a substantial Christian population, Easter is a public holiday.

IN THE BIBLE:
THE WITNESS OF AN EMPTY TOMB

The New Testament describes the events of the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe verify him as the Son of God. There is no recorded “moment of resurrection,” but rather, the discovery by Mary Magdalene (and possibly others) early on Sunday morning—that the tomb was empty.

In his crucifixion, Jesus died on a Roman cross. That evening, according to Christian tradition, Joseph of Arimathea asked the Roman official Pilate for the body, wrapped it in linen cloth and laid it in a tomb. Saturday passed, and early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene (and, some Gospels attest, other women in attendance) visited the tomb of Jesus. Much to their surprise, the tomb’s stone was moved, and a messenger announced that Jesus had risen from the dead. Gospel accounts vary regarding the messenger’s specific message and the women’s response, but all emphasize that the empty tomb was witnessed. To this day, sunrise services are popular in some regions on Easter Sunday, echoing the traditional stories of the empty tomb.

Did you know? Ukrainian legend has it that after Christ resurrected, He threw Satan into a pit and chained him with 12 iron chains. Throughout the year, Satan chews at the chains, but just as he gets to the final chain, Easter arrives and the people shout, “Christ is risen!” If devotees ever cease this Easter acclamation, the end of time has come.

First evidence of the Easter festival appears in the mid-2nd century, and today, an elaborate Vigil usually begins in darkness and gives way to the singing of “Alleluia,” trumpets and unfettered joy.

Pile of colored eggs in basket with green Easter grass, table blurry underneath with three chocolate foil-wrapped eggs

Eggs are a widely recognized symbol of Eastertime. Photo by Nomadic Lass, courtesy of Flickr

EASTER HOW-TO:
EXTRAVAGANT EGGS,
TABLE DECOR,
RECIPES & MORE

  • Feeding a crowd—or a few? Flavorful recipes for pastries, elaborate egg dishes and even a bunny house are at Food Network.
  • The sophisticated palate will likely find pleasing combinations at Food and Wine, with ideas ranging from lamb dishes to Boston lettuce salad with herbs to a creamy quiche.
  • Marbleized, glittering and chalkboard eggs are a snap to create, thanks to tips from Martha Stewart, Reader’s Digest and Home and Garden Network.
  • Glow-in-the-dark eggs for a nighttime hunt are more feasible than they might sound: Wiki How offers instructions.
  • Set your Easter table a little more creatively this year, with help from Martha Stewart and HGTV.
  • Real grass in Easter baskets? Why not? Try your hand at this unique project, with a simple how-to from the Mom-centered blog, HowDoesShe.
  • Homemade chocolate Easter eggs are made easy, thanks to directions from the BBC.
  • Kids can get into the bunny spirit with craft ideas from Spoonful.com.

IN THE NEWS:
A VALUABLE GOLDEN EGG,
WHITE HOUSE EGG ROLL UPDATES

For the first time in more than a century, a Faberge Easter egg—one that once belonged to Russian royalty—will be on display, reports BBC News. A scrap metal dealer in the United States bought the egg for approximately $14,000, with plans to melt it for gold, but soon discovered that it was one of only 50 created for the Russian royals, with a value of approximately 20M pounds, or $33M.

Tomorrow—Monday, April 21—the First Family will host the 136th annual White House Easter Egg Roll, with the theme, “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape.” The 2014 White House Keepsake Eggs come in four colors—pink, orange, blue and green—and include, of course, the signatures of both the President and First Lady. The Keepsake Eggs were incorporated into this White House tradition in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan and his wife hosted a hunt for wooden eggs. Find more information here.

Note: Easter is followed by the 50 days of Eastertide, which comes to an end on Pentecost Sunday.

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Categories: ChristianInternational Observances

Sacred Heart of Jesus: Catholics pay devotion to divine love

Stained glass window of Jesus opening cloak to reveal Sacred Heart

The Sacred Heart depiction includes a crown of thorns—representing the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death—and fire, representing the transformative power of divine love. Photo courtesy of Fotopedia

FRIDAY, JUNE 7: From the renowned basilica in Paris to several religious orders bearing its name, Catholics today honor divine love on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A relatively recent development in Christian history, devotion to the Sacred Heart—as it is known today—began in the late 17th century; the official feast didn’t appear on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar until 1856. Christians believe that the human Jesus embodied God’s infinite love, and therefore, it is with passion that devotionals are held, 19 days after Pentecost. (Global Catholic Network suggests a Meditation, Novena Prayer and Offering.)

The first indications of modern devotion to the Sacred Heart began in the Middle Ages, although it was French Nun Marguerite Marie Alacoque who pressed for a greater commemoration. In the late 17th century, Margaret Mary began witnessing several apparitions of Jesus that allegedly told her how the faithful should practice devotion to the Sacred Heart. With the help of a nearby priest, news of Margaret Mary’s apparitions began to spread. (Wikipedia has details.) In 1873, Ecuador became the first country to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart.

Today, Roman Catholics enthrone the Sacred Heart with an elaborate ceremony. (A Catholic perspective is at Fish Eaters and Catholic Culture.org.) According to Mary Margaret, devotion to the Sacred Heart promised a series of blessings, but specific instructions had to be obeyed: for example, the first Friday of each month had to be set aside for consecration. If performed with sincerity, devotees are promised peace in the home, a blessing in undertakings and a refuge in life and in death.

SACRED HEART MEETS
60TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE KOREAN WAR

Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung will lead 600 priests on a pilgrimage through Seoul today, in hopes that prayers recited at cathedrals and shrines along the way will bring peace to the Korean peninsula. (Catholic Culture has the story.) The purpose of the pilgrimage is threefold: to allow priests to reflect on their duties (the Sacred Heart promises devoted priests the ability to touch “the most hardened of hearts”); to spread awareness of Korean martyrs; and to pray for peace on this, the 60th anniversary year, of the Korean War.

Note: The Sacred Heart of Jesus is primarily a Catholic devotion, although it is observed in some high-church Anglican and Lutheran congregations.

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Categories: Christian

FEAST OF THE ASCENSION: Christians rejoice in Christ’s rising

Painting of Christ ascended above a crowd

Photo released via Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, MAY 9 & SUNDAY, MAY 12: Head to the hills today—if you’re a Christian, that is—because today is the Feast of the Ascension, celebrating Christ’s raising up into Heaven. In many areas, it’s common to climb nearby hills or mountains to commemorate Jesus ascending from what is traditionally described as the Mount of Olives. The feast is the Ascension (or Ascensio in Latin) to indicate to Christians Christ was raised up by His own powers.

Although the feast officially falls on May 9—and June 13, in the Eastern Church—most countries have received permission from the Vatican to move the feast’s observance to Sunday. (Wikipedia has details.) Australia, Ireland, Canada, England and most of the United States are just a few of the countries that will commemorate the Feast of the Ascension on Sunday, although a few U.S. cities—including Boston, New York and Philadelphia—retain the Thursday observance.

The Feast of the Ascension remains, quite possibly, one of the oldest commemorations of the Church. Although there is no documentary evidence of the feast prior to the 5th century, St. Augustine mentions it to be of Apostolic origin, and experts believe it may have instead been observed in combination with Easter or Pentecost.

Regardless, various customs have arisen through the centuries for this holiday, ranging from torch processions outside of churches to the elevation of a Christ figure through an opening in the church roof. In England, parishioners would often parade a banner with a lion at the front and a dragon at the back, symbolizing Christ’s triumph over the devil. Johann Sebastian Bach composed multiple cantatas for today’s services. (Learn more customs from FishEaters.)

POPE FRANCIS ON THE ASCENSION

Pope Francis recently preached about the Feast of the Ascension, in a declaration of “The courage to do great things, the humility to appreciate the little things.” Though observing the Feast of St. Mark at the time, Pope Francis spoke of the passage in the Gospel of Mark that describes the Ascension of Jesus. The homily focused on Jesus, prior to the Ascension, sending the apostles forth to preach the Gospel “to the end of the world.” (Read more from Radio Vatican.) Pope Francis urged today’s Christians, in a likewise manner, should continue this vocation.

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Categories: Christian