Lent is a special time in the Church’s calendar that takes place each spring in the run up to Easter. It begins with Ash Wednesday which this year was on the 10th of February. Lent lasts for 40 days (not including Sundays) and ends the day before Easter Sunday, on Holy Saturday. It is a solemn time when Christians remember how Jesus spent 40 days and nights alone in the wilderness being tempted by the Devil. Jesus used this time to prepare for His work by fasting and praying. You can read about this in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. Christians spend the 40 days of Lent preparing for Easter Day. They set aside time to think about whether they are living in a way that makes God happy. They will ask for God’s forgiveness for the times they mess up, and for his help to live in the way that he wishes. Christians specially remember all that Jesus did for each of them when he died on the cross on the first Good Friday. They also remember how he overcame sin and death by rising from death on the first Easter Sunday.
HOLY WEEK & EASTER
Holy Week is the week leading up to the celebration of EASTER when we remember Jesus’ resurection from the dead.
The week commemces on PALM SUNDAY, the day on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the populace greeted him in triumph, waving palm branches and strewing them on the road before him.
The Thursday of Holy Week is called MAUNDY THURSDAY and celebrates Jesus’ LAST SUPPER in an upper room. Before the meal Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist and washed the feet of his companions, his Disciples, as a graphis demonstration that he was here to serve and not to be served – something he expected his followers to emulate. Then, as part of the shared meal, Jesus inaugurated what Christians now know as the EUCHARIST, or HOLY COMMUNION. At the end of the meal Judas Iscariot left to go and betray Jesus to the religious leaders who wanted him dead.
Many churches mark Maundy Thursday with an evening celebration of the Holy Communion together with a re-enactment of Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet.
At the conclusion of the service the holy table is usually stripped of all coverings and ornamentation and other hangings removed from the church to leave everything bare in readiness for:
This is possibly the most solemn and important day of the Christian calendar as it recalls the day on which Jesus, having been betrayed, tried and sentenced to death, suffers a severe flogging before being nailed to a wooden cross and suffering an agonizing death.
It is through faith in Jesus’ death that we are finally forgiven for our sins and able to gain eternal life, hence the importance of this day. Many communities hold acts of public witness in town centres on Good Friday as well as spending time in contemplative prayer and worship in church in the hours leading up to three o’clock in the afternoon, the traditionsl time at which Jesus died.
On the third day following the death of Jesus, early in the morning, we come to the conclusion of Holy Week with the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection – EASTER!
Pentecost is the festival when the Christian Church celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is celebrated on the Sunday 50 days after Easter (the name comes from the Greekpentekoste, “fiftieth”).
It is also called Whitsun, but does not necessarily coincide with the Whitsun Bank Holiday in the UK.
Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Christian church, and the start of the church’s mission to the world.
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit whichis the way Christians understand God.
Pentecost is a happy festival. Ministers in church often wear robes with red in the design as a symbol of the
flames in which the Holy Spirit came to earth.
Hymns sung at Pentecost take the Holy Spirit as their theme, and include:
- Come down O Love Divine
- Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire
- Breathe on me breath of God
- O Breath of Life, come sweeping through us
- There’s a spirit in the air
- Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
The symbols of Pentecost are those of the Holy Spirit and include flames, wind, the breath of God and a dove.
The first Pentecost
Pentecost comes from a Jewish harvest festival called Shavuot.
The apostles were celebrating this festival when the Holy Spirit descended on them.
It sounded like a very strong wind, and it looked like tongues of fire.
The apostles then found themselves speaking in foreign languages, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
People passing by at first thought that they must be drunk, but the apostle Peter told the crowd that the apostles were full of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost is a special day for any Christian, but it is emphasised particularly by Pentecostal churches. Pentecostal Christians believe in the direct experience of the Holy Spirit by believers during all of their services.