Springtime Holy Feasts and Special Days
time leading up to Easter,
beginning at Lent, through the 50 days after ascension, known in Christianity
as the Pentecost, there are
certain days, most particularly in Holy
Week (the week preceding
Easter), that have specific importance in the Christian Church.
Lent begins on Ash
Wednesday. Ash Wednesday traditionally began 40 days
before Easter, but since it originally required fasting for 40 days,
Church extended it to last six and a half weeks, which allows for the
40 days, excluding Sundays.
Jesus's triumphant ride into Jerusalem, cheered by admirers and fanned by
palm branches. Palm Sunday begins Holy Week.
24 hours after arriving in Jerusalem, it is said Jesus cleansed the temple by chasing
out the money changers. Then he preached and healed the sick. This day
is commemorated through private meditation and Mass.
Jesus addresses his disciples on the Mount of Olives on this day when the
Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus into saying a blasphemous statement.
Commemorated with private meditation and Mass.
Widely known as Spy Wednesday, the day attributed to Judas Iscariot's
agreement to show his enemies where they could capture Jesus. Commemorated
with private meditation and Mass.
This day is associated with the three tragic events near the end of Jesus'
life: the Last Supper, his Agony in the Garden, and his arrest.
derived from mandatum, or commandment of God. At the
Last Supper, Jesus gave a new commandment, "Love one another as I have
loved you." Thus, this Thursday is traditionally celebrated as the day
of brotherly love.
Services on this day are variety and deeply symbolic
of Jesus's arrest and predicament; altar candles are extinguished to symbolize
the temporary victory of the forces of darkness ~ the altar is stripped bare and
washed in preparation for Christ's Resurrection, Hosts or wafers are consecrated
in commemoration of Christ's initiation of the Sacrament to the Eucharist
at the Last Supper.
Scourged and forced to carry his own cross, Christ
is crucified on "Good" Friday, the blackest day in Christian history.
of the word good is somewhat perplexing. Some scholars argue that good
is a corruption of God and early Christians commemorating the sad event
called it God's Friday. Others claim that good signifies the bounty of
blessings, salvation itself, Christ won for humankind for his sacrifice.
the "three hours" is the name of the solemn service from noon to 3 pm.
During that time Christians meditate on the Seven Last Words of Christ,
the seven utterances Jesus delivered from the cross, which are culled
from the Four Gospels:
forgive them, for they know not what they do."
2. "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
3. "Woman, behold your son! ... Behold, your Mother."
4. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
5. "I thirst."
6. "It is finished."
7. "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."
brings both the Holy Week and the 40-day season of Lent to a close. This
is a day for baptisms in the early Church. A tall Paschal candle was lit,
placed on the altar and embedded with five grains of incense, representing
Christ's five wounds. The candle remained on the altar for 40 days as
a living presence of the risen Christ, until the Feast of Ascension. Holy
Saturday is also called Easter Eve.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus "presented himself alive
after his passion by many proofs" and appeared to the disciples during
a period of 40 days, speaking of the Kingdom of God. On the fortieth day,
after promising them "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has
come upon you," He ascended into Heaven: "a cloud received him out of
is always celebrated on a Thursday. There is some dispute about this day
and what is really symbolized. In the Gospel according to John, the glorification
took place immediately after the Resurrection. And while the account in
Luke is similar, it makes no mention of the forty days. The day was first
said to be celebrated in 68 C.E., and 300 years later Saint Augustine
claimed it originated with the apostles.
Feast of the Pentecost
Ten days after Christ's ascension into Heaven, His promise to empower
the apostles was kept by a visitation from the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost.
is celebrated 50 days after Easter
and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, prior
to their going out into the world to spread the teachings of Christ.
It is also known in English, especially in Britain, as Whitsun (Whitsunday),
because of the white robes traditionally worn this day by those newly
baptized on the previous Easter.
information synthesized from Chapter 12 "Christian Feasts" from
Sacred Origins of Profound Things, Charles Panati
© 1996, Penguin/Arkana Books
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