Welcome to JOYFUL REFLECTIONS. Also welcome to APRIL!!!! Spring is AWESOME. Enjoy some beautiful TULIPS from Biltmore!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christian Year -Part II

Lent is the season following Epiphany and is more 'known' than Epiphany to most people. Many people think of Lent as a time to give-up something (meat, chocolate, soda drinks, smoking, etc.). But the season of LENT (liturgical color is purple) goes much deeper than 'just' giving up something.

You may have heard of Ash Wednesday (and Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday) if you've ever been to New Orleans and gone to Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) is the last day in Epiphany and is celebrated by eating fattening foods in anticipation of the 'fasting' days of Lent. In some churches, pancakes are served on Shrove Tuesday!!!! The word, Shrove, refers to the ancient practice of being 'shriven' (confessing and receiving absolution) in order to begin and keep a holy Lent. Shrove (or Fat) Tuesday this coming year is on Feb. 16.

Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17) begins the next season of LENT. The Lenten season includes 40 weekdays and five Sundays before Holy Week and the culminating triumph of the Resurrection at Easter (April 4 this coming year). Lent has two major focuses. One is Baptism, which in the early church occurred only at Easter. The second focus and the most familiar to us is that of fasting and renunciation. The theme recalls Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness, and through them the discipline of self-denial reflecting the sacrifice of our will to the purpose of God.

Then comes Holy Week--when the events of our Lord's passion and death are specifically commemorated in preparation for the glorious celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Holy Week begins with the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday (March 28). A special liturgy begins with a procession of the congregation and the blessing of the palms, commemorating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The Gospel reading is the complete story of the Passion. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week, services with special collects and lessons deal with the themes of suffering and coming glory. Thursday in Holy Week is called Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday). Services are held to commemorate the Last Supper. The service ends in complete silence with the stripping of the altar, in recognition of the despair and death to come.

Friday is Good Friday and commemorates the Crucifixion. The cross over the altar is draped in black. Holy Saturday was once a day of fasting in preparation for the Great Vigil of Easter. Today services are held which can include a reading of the Passion and an anthem from the Burial of the Dead.

The Great Vigil begins at darkness on the night before Easter, or very early on Easter morning as a Sunrise Service. Services are held with the lighting of candles and scripture readings... Once the sun arises, bells are rung and glorious Easter begins. EASTERTIDE (color white-although some churches go back to green after Easter Sunday) is MORE than just Easter Sunday. It is the defining event of Christianity. (NOTE: In my opinion, in order to really get the true meaning of Easter, one MUST experience Holy Week also. )

EASTERTIDE is always 49 days. On the Thursday in the 6th week of Eastertide, we have Ascension Day--when Jesus was lifted up into heaven. On that 50th day, we begin another season, PENTECOST (color red on the Day of Pentecost and green for the remaining Sundays after Pentecost). Note: Color red symbolizes tongues of flame and the Holy Spirit, and the color green symbolizes the growth and life of the church.

The day of Pentecost is a day of Christian celebration observed on the 7th Sunday after Easter. On Pentecost we remember an event that occurred to the disciples 50 days after the Passover during which Jesus was crucified and 10 days after they watched Jesus literally ascend into the clouds.

At Pentecost the Resurrection of the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the people. To the Christian, Pentecost also marks the end of one church season and the beginning of the next. Christians consider the Day of Pentecost the birthday of the church because, from that moment on, the disciples carried the message of Christ everywhere they went all over the world. At our church, everyone is asked to wear red to symbolize the tongues of flame and the Holy Spirit.

The Season after Pentecost, in which Christians develop their relationship with the risen Christ, lasts from the Day of Pentecost to the beginning of Advent. This season contains some special days (such as Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday following the Day of Pentecost; All-Saints Sunday which is the 1st Sunday in November; and Christ the King Sunday which is the Sunday before Advent). These special days can be celebrated by wearing the liturgical color white (or red on All-Saints Day). This long season has several names (Sundays after Pentecost, Sundays after Trinity, Ordinary times).

This puts us back to Advent--and we start over!!!! Hope you enjoyed these blogs about the Christian Year. I love sharing the information. If I have bored some of you, I truly apologize. All of my years in church work have given me knowledge that I may not have had otherwise. I think that learning all of this is SO interesting.

On Black Friday, instead of being in crowds and shopping (probably the least favorite thing I would choose to do-- EVER), George and I spent the entire day near Erwin, TN ----hiking and searching for new waterfalls. Pictured below is a combination picture of ALL of the Falls on Millstone Creek, the first set of waterfalls we saw that day.

Have a great Tuesday.. We've been busy decorating the house inside and out for Christmas. It's amazing how fast Thanksgiving is OVER and Advent and Christmas begin.