Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka
The central celebration in Christianity, Easter Sunday, occurs in the spring when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Unlike Christmas, Easter does not have a fixed date. It is the oldest of the Christian festivals, originating in the Jewish Passover. Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead the Sunday after Passover, so like Passover, Easter is a movable feast connected with the lunar calendar. After the somber remembrance of Jesus' death on Good Friday, Christians celebrate Easter Sunday with great joy, bright colors, and exuberant song. The Easter season lasts for six weeks, and includes the celebration of Christ's ascension, the day on which Jesus ascended to heaven. As with Christmas, many Easter traditions resemble traditions found in the pre-Christian celebrations of the spring equinox in Europe and ancient Rome. After the Easter season, most Christians also observe the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church at Pentecost in late spring.
Some Christians also observe Lent, a forty-day period of fasting and prayer in preparation for Easter. For many centuries, Christians gave up meat, dairy products, and wine, because these were associated with luxury. In the days just before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Christians use up the last of their meat and butter, enjoying a last indulgence of these pleasures on Tuesday, called Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. This has become a special day of celebration in many countries, when people celebrate a carnival (from the Latin caro "meat" and levare "to remove").
The weekly services and the holy days and festivals mark, in annual cycles, the life's journey of a Christian toward eternal communion with God. The Christian also seeks daily communion with God in personal rhythms of devotion.
1. How does liturgy help to classify a church? Describe “high” and “low” churches, and provide examples.
2. Is liturgy required for Christian services? Explain.
3. What elements of Jewish ritual are borrowed for Christianity's sacred time?
4. How does the Christian calendar create timelessness?
5. What is Easter? What leads up to it, and what follows it?