Would you know that Lent is only the first part of the overall religious observance of the Easter season?
Yes, according to the World Book Encyclopedia Easter is the center of the entire season of the Christian year, and Lent which starts on Ash Wednesday some 40 days before Easter Sunday, is the best known part of the celebration. And according to the Bible Diary, a publication of the Claretian Communications Foundation, Inc., Lent ends on Holy Thursday, before the evening mass of the Lord’s Supper. From Good Friday to Easter Sunday the Church celebrates the Easter Triduum of Christ’s passion and death, burial and resurrection.
The 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, is for us Christians, the time for penance. It is when we have to do acts of contrition for our sins; to ask for forgiveness from God. In this period Christians do fasting, an act that Jesus did for 40 days while praying prior to his death by crucifixion.
As we all know, the first day of Lent is the Ash Wednesday. Churches all over the world hold services that include blessing of the ashes and putting it on the foreheads of church goers. And this act is a reminder of the words in Genesis 3:19, “for dust thou art came, and unto dust shalt thou return.” It is also a simple way of telling us faithful that the best way to celebrate Lent through penance is by humbling our spirit.
The final week of Lent
The Christian world though has its final week of Lent called the Holy Week. It opens with Palm Sunday and culminates with Easter Sunday.
During this week Christian Churches do special services every day. Holy Week commemorates the various events that were said to have happened leading to the death of the Redeemer up to His resurrection.
The first day, Palm Sunday activities reenact the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem where he was met by people holding branches of palm along his way.
On the other hand, the World Book Encyclopedia also corroborated biblical accounts of Jesus on that fateful Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday. Church activities center on the recollection of Jesus’ last supper and his subsequent arrest, incarceration, and trial by the mob. Catholic Churches celebrate Holy Thursday with masses where priests take the Host that is regarded to represent the body of Christ, from the main Church altar to a section of the Church side considered as shrine. The place symbolizes Christ’s prison after he was arrested on orders of the Jewish high priests. It is also the day when Jesus himself washed the feet of his disciples and asked them to do the same as one sign of humility.
The day after, or the Good Friday, is the day when Church services focus on the commemoration of the death of Jesus on the cross. All activities are those of mourning and that start normally at 12 noon of that day until 3 o’clock when Jesus breathed his last breath hanging on the cross after his flagellation. Churches also relive Christ’s seven last words.
Mourning by the faithful is usually capped with fasting during Good Fridays.
Meanwhile Holy Saturday (also termed as Black Saturday) is a day in the Holy Week set aside for vigil. The main activity in all Christian churches comes during the night since it is the time when the observance of Christ’s resurrection approaches.
During the pre-resurrection hour the lights in churches are put off. It comes back to life when the priest lights up one big candle that symbolizes the risen Christ. From this candle’s flame the churchgoers light the candles they bring with them creating the symbolism that Jesus’ light is spreading all over the world.
Then come Easter Sunday. The day commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus. Roman Catholic Churches hold its services mostly on Saturday night until Sunday dawn with the traditional “Salubong” or the meeting of the Risen Christ and his mother Mary.
Perhaps as a way of celebrating their redemption from sin through Christ death and resurrection, many Christians find Easter Sunday as the opportunity for feasting and family get-together in houses of parents or picnics in beaches and outdoor parks.
The second part of the Easter season
Now Easter Sunday is said to culminate the Holy week and the season of Lent. There is no argument about it. But does this mean the end of the Easter season? Many would like to believe it is. But no, the season of Easter has its second part. And that is the 50-day period that starts on Easter Sunday up to the Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter Sunday.
According to the Bible this is the time when Jesus reappeared to some of His followers, the last of which was during His Ascension to heaven. Ten days later is the feast of the Pentecost, the day when Jesus’ apostles revealed that the Holy Spirit entered into them. It is the last day of the Easter season. And, according to the Bible, many Christians believe, it is the day when the Church really began.
Today, the Church founded by Apostle Peter upon the will of Jesus Christ is 2019 years old. There were several attempts to destroy it by changing some aspects of its history or the interpretations of its doctrines.
The greatest among the Church challenges was its schism. But the Church founded on rock survived. Yes there are those who formally put forward their own idea of what a Church should be. But still the same idea centers on the very God that is universally worshipped.