Spring is eagerly anticipated, as many people look forward to enjoying the great outdoors once more. Spring is also a special time of year for practicing Christians.
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and lasting 40 weekdays until the arrival of Easter Sunday, the Lenten season is a very important time of year for Christians. During Lent, Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, self-denial and spiritual discipline. While the Bible does not reference Lent, the practice of observing Lent has become a standard.
The following focuses on each of the special days of this church season as they pertain to Western Christianity (Eastern Orthodox churches observe Lent somewhat differently).
The Day of Ashes commemorates the repentance of sin. On Ash Wednesday, Christians have ashes placed on their foreheads in the shape of a cross in recognition of their need to repent. Many churches host Ash Wednesday services, and those who receive the ashes are not only reminded of their mortality and sinfulness, but also of the opportunity for absolution. Christians typically fast on Ash Wednesday, though some simply abstain from eating meat.
On what is now called “Palm Sunday,” Jesus Christ rode a donkey into Jerusalem while villagers welcomed him and waved palm branches. This is mentioned in each of the Biblical Gospels and occurs a week before His subsequent resurrection. Jesus possibly rode a donkey rather than a horse as a sign of peace, as a war-waging king might ride a horse. The “Passion of the Christ” is typically read during Palm Sunday masses.
Holy Thursday is sometimes referred to as “Covenant Thursday,” “Maundy Thursday” or “Thursday of Mysteries.” Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the apostles. According to Catholic News Agency, Holy Thursday might be one of the most important, complex and profound days of celebration in the Catholic Church. Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus was condemned by his peers as King Herod and Pontius Pilate had found him not guilty of his crimes. But crowds were enraged, and Pilate reluctantly ordered his crucifixion rather than face a mass riot.
Holy Saturday marks the final day of the Triduum, or the three days preceding Easter Sunday. Scripture states that Holy Saturday was when Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb.
A festive and celebratory day for Christians, Easter Sunday is a time for sharing the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. His body is discovered missing from the tomb, and Jesus appears to his followers again showing proof that He is alive. Typically, Easter Sunday is one of the most well-attended Sunday services for Christians. It also is a day to spend with family, and many families share large meals to mark the end of the Lenten season.