Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The priestA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the... or ministerMinister is a general term for a member of the clergy in the Christian church. The term has also come to use in other religious traditions to designate a member of the clergy (as in the Jodo Shinshu tradition and the Nation of Islam). speaks these words, inscribing a small crossThe cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith, pointing to the significance for the church of the whole Christ event: the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. of ashes on the forehead of each person who comes to the special Ash WednesdayAsh Wednesday is the first day of the season of fasting, penitence, and spiritual discipline and study called Lent, the six and one half weeks preceding Easter. For many Christians it is a day of fasting and a day on which the season ahead is symbolized b... service at the beginning of LentIn the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of forty days of preparation, study, and penitence preceding Easter.. The season of Lent lasts for forty weekdays, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. It is a solemn drama in which Christians are to prepare themselves, through fasting and prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not., to accompany Christ in the events of Holy WeekHoly Week is the week preceding Easter in which the whole drama of the Christian story is recalled, from Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday., including his betrayal, his crucifixion, his death, and his resurrectionResurrection means rising to life from the dead. In the Christian tradition, it refers specifically to the rising to life of Jesus after his death by crucifixion, signaling the expected resurrection of all who have died. Envisioning the resurrection of th....

Lent is the church’sThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ... great season of penitence, abstinence, and preparation and is said to correspond to the forty days JesusJesus is the historical figure considered by Christians to be the Christ, the Messiah, whose life and teachings, death and resurrection give clear evidence of God’s love for humankind. Jesus was born shortly before the death of Herod the Great (d. 4 BCE... spent in the wilderness preparing for his public ministryMinister is a general term for a member of the clergy in the Christian church. The term has also come to use in other religious traditions to designate a member of the clergy (as in the Jodo Shinshu tradition and the Nation of Islam).. In the early churchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ..., this was the initiatory season in which new Christians were prepared through instruction and catechismA catechism is a manual or lesson book of Christian instruction, containing essential Christian teachings for young people or those seeking to join the Christian community. for the initiation of baptismBaptism is the Christian sacrament of initiation in which new birth into the Christian community is conferred by sprinkling of or immersion in water., which took place on Easter Sunday. Today, Lent is still a time of preparation for baptism. It is also a time for all Christians to strengthen their faith through study and reflection, fasting and abstinence. In ProtestantProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists... and Catholic churchesThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ..., some form of fasting or some daily practice of study and prayer is encouraged during Lent. Christians of OrthodoxIn general, orthodox means having a “correct opinion or outlook” and is a term used by people in many religions who claim authority for traditional views and forms of their religion. churches observe a strict LentenIn the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of forty days of preparation, study, and penitence preceding Easter. fast including abstinence from all meat, fish, and dairy products.

The last week of Lent repeats, step by step, the central drama of ChristianityChristianity is the religious tradition of Christians: those who confesses faith in Jesus Christ, follow the path Christ taught, and gather together in the community of the church.. It begins on Palm SundayPalm Sunday is the Sunday preceding Easter when Christians commemorate Jesus’s triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem to crowds cheering and waving palms of victory before him. In churches today, palms are often distributed and the community forms ..., marking Jesus’ entry into JerusalemJerusalem, the ancient capital of Israel from the time of King David (c. 1000 BCE), was the ritual and spiritual center of the Jewish people for 1,000 years until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. For Jews, Jerusalem is still the geographical... when he was hailed by the populace, who spread palm branches before him, the long-expected redeemer. In churches throughout the world, palm branches are distributed, often followed by a procession holding high the palms of victory and hope. On Thursday of Holy Week, many churches observe the “Last Supper” of Jesus with his disciples. It will be the last time the elements of bread and wine can be consecrated until Easter Sunday.

On Good FridayGood Friday—the Friday before Easter—is the day observed by the Christian church as the day of Christ’s crucifixion. Christians keep this day in many ways: with prayer, fasting, or the veneration of the cross., many churches observe a three-hour vigil from noon until three p.m., the hours Christ hung on the cross before his death. In Catholic churches, the cross is venerated on Good Friday and may be carried in procession through the streets. St. Jerome’s Church in the Rogers Park area of Chicago, with its old English-speaking congregation and its newer Mexican and Haitian immigrants, has an annual Via Crucis or “Way of the Cross” pilgrimage through the streets on Good Friday. Those who follow the cross on this pilgrimage stop for prayer at those places in the community where people are involved in projects to help one another.

In many churches, after the Good Friday service, the altarAn altar is a raised platform or stand which bears the central symbols of a religious tradition—whether in a temple, church, shrine, or home—and at which offerings are made, worship is offered, or prayers are said. cloth is stripped from the altar and the cross is shrouded with a cloth. On either Thursday or Friday night, many churches observe a service called Tenebrae, the “Shadows.” It consists of a series of readings, often from the Book of Lamentations. Candles are extinguished one by one, and people leave the church in darkness. The church bells cease to ring and remain silent until Easter morning.

Easter Sunday is the great festival of the Christian year. The women who came early to the tomb found it empty. “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” exclaims the priest or pastorA pastor (from the Latin word for shepherd) is a member of the clergy with responsibility for a particular congregation. For Lutherans, it is a formal title for a parish minister.. “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” respond the people. American Christians greet Easter in many ways. Catholic, EpiscopalEpiscopal refers to any church in which authority is vested in a bishop (Greek episkopos). More particularly it refers to the Episcopal Church in America, which developed from the Church of England after the American Revolution., and Orthodox churches observe the “Great Vigil” late Saturday night or early in the still-dark hours of Easter Sunday morning. Harking back to some of the most ancient traditions of the church, the congregation gathers in the darkened church where no candle has been lit since Thursday night. The new fire is kindled at the door. The priest says, “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” Carrying the Paschal candle into the dark sanctuary, the celebrants proclaim, “The Light of Christ!”

In Eastern OrthodoxThe Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox churches are a family of fourteen or fifteen churches that developed from the Church of the Byzantine Empire, which formally separated from the Church of Rome in the 11th century. Today they include the ancient patriarchat... churches, the bells begin to ring at midnight. The Easter Matins service begins with a procession around the darkened church, representing the tomb of Christ. Finally, the church doors are opened and the priest greets the people with “Christ Is Risen!” “He is indeed Risen,” the people respond.

Many Protestant churches also celebrate Christ’s resurrection at the first light of dawn. Easter sunrise services are usually held outdoors, where the sun can be seen as it rises, and are often held ecumenically with other churches. For Christians, the power of Easter is symbolized by the dawning of a new dayNavroz is the Zoroastrian New Year. Contemporary Zoroastrians observe three distinct religious calendars: Fasli, Shenshai, and Kadmi. Accordingly, three New Year celebrations are also observed. “Jamshedi Navroz” takes its name from King Jamshed, and o... and of new life. Later in the morning, worshippers fill churches to overflowing. They sing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today! Alleluia!” a hymn composed by Charles Wesley, one of the founders of the MethodistThe Methodist church is a Protestant communion of churches which began in England with John Wesley (1703-91) and has become a worldwide movement. In the U.S., the United Methodist Church—one of the largest Protestant denominations—is known for its str... tradition, but loved by Christians of many denominations.

Easter morning is a celebration of rebirth and the renewal of life. Easter services will often include rites of baptism and confirmation for new Christians. The themes of renewal, so much a part of Easter, have also infused the wider culture. Easter eggs, which many do not consider a religious aspect of Easter, are actually part of the heritage of the early church, which considered the egg to be a symbol of rebirth. Today, America’s Easter is a medley of Christian themes of renewal and secular expressions, such as the national Easter egg roll on the lawn of the White House, new clothes for Easter, and the Easter parade. But record church attendance is a clear signal that the religious observance of Easter is still a dominant note of the season.


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