Traditionally this is known as the Second Sunday of Easter on the liturgical calendar. Since 2000, it is known in the Catholic Church as Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy Sunday is not a feast on its own but is used to close out Easter as it is 8th and last day of the Easter feast. This is based on the fact that many Jewish observances also last for 8 days. St. Faustina Kowalska also revealed in her revelations that Jesus wanted this 8th day to be part of the Easter feast.
Passover is an eight day festival celebrated in the spring between the 15th through 22 during the Hebrew month of Nissan. Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The first two and last two days are considered holidays. On those days holiday meals are served and observant Jews do not work or drive on those days (they also cannot write and even switch on/off electric devices though exception is made for cooking and carrying food outdoors.) The middle four days are called intermediate days and most forms of work are permitted.
A very important way Jews recall the Exodus is that they cannot eat or have an form of leavened bread (and that includes any food or drink that contains wheat, barley, oats, spelt or derivatives of it). That includes a lot of foods from breads, pastas, cookies and cakes, alcohol and soda. Most processed or industrial made foods are thus not allowed unless they have been certified for Passover by a rabbinical authority. It is not uncommon to see certain sodas in heavy Jewish areas reconfigured for the Passover season (such as Coke using real sugar and nothing that is derived from leavened bread in its making).
Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of the Lord your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night. Sacrifice as the Passover to the Lord your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his Name. Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days. Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning. (Deuteronomy, 16:1-4)
The most important part of Passover is the Seder. It is a fifteen step tradition that is family oriented and packed with rituals for the feast. The most important points of the Seder are eating matzah, bitter herbs(to commemorate the slavery under the Egyptians),drinking wine or grape juice to commemorate their freedom, and most importantly reciting from the Haggadah. The Haggadah is the liturgy of the Exodus from Egypt and the duty of every family to recite the story so the next generation never forgets what Passover means to them.
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
For Further Information:
- What Is Passover (Pesach)? (Chabad.org)
- Passover – Pesach: History & Overview (Jewish Virtual Library)
Today is Good Friday, an important event in the Christian liturgical calendar. Some argue the word Good is a corruption and used to mean God Friday. Others argue it always meant that the day is meant to be pious or holy. For Christians, Good Friday is the day Jesus was crucified on the cross. Observant Christians will mark the day by silent meditation, prayer, and church attendance. Many will fast during the day, particularly during the hours of 12 noon to 3 p.m. Hot Cross Buns are a traditional food many cultures use on this day (and through the Easter season). Most Catholics and Christians will avoid eating meat on this day and usually the main meal will be fish. Good Friday (and sometimes Easter Monday)are public holidays in many countries. Good Friday always occurs on the Friday before Easter Sunday.
For Further Information:
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and known for bringing Christianity to Ireland. He was born in 390 A.D in Britain and raised by a Christian family. However he was not much interested in God and at the time was illiterate. When he was 16, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland where he was forced to work as a shepherd on a hillside. All alone except for his sheep and captors. he began to cry out to God for rescue him. He had a dream in which God revealed himself and that he would be going home.
Risking his life, he boarded a ship for Britain where he returned to his family. He was welcomed back but realized that he had been transformed by God. He entered a monastery to pursue his calling as a Catholic priest. As a result of his education, he came to understand Holy Scripture and impressed his peers and superiors with his character. He would be made a bishop in due course. Nearly three decades after this slavery in Ireland, he felt a call from God that he had to return to Ireland and spread the word of Jesus to a people who had become lost. This was no easy journey for him since travel was difficult but he faced hostility from those who opposed him trying to convert people away from paganism. Patrick was ready though to face the trials that might take his life (he was attacked and beaten by thugs and Irish royalty disdained him) and persevered in proclaiming the Gospel and training converts.
His courageous leadership and his crisscrossing the countryside paid off as thousands and more would be converted. Churches were being established and he was training those to shepherd the church after he was gone. He would die on March 17, 461 A.D. He has been venerated as a saint and patron saint of Ireland since then by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches. In Ireland it is a solemnity and thus a holy day of obligation. It is also a cultural day as well to celebrate Ireland. Traditionally many in Ireland will wear shamrocks, wear green, attend Mass, watch parades, have a special breakfast and dinner, and of course celebrate by having a beer in their favorite pub (or outside due to the crowds). It has been a public holiday in Ireland since 1903. Since the feast does fall within Lent and is a solemnity in Ireland, it is permissible to eat foods normally excluded during this time (or any food you have selected to give up). Outside of Ireland though, it is not and local bishops will offer guidance. If it should fall on a Friday, generally the Lenten rule of no meat is lifted for that day.
What is Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday is one of the most important dates on the Christian calendar. It opens the Lenten season, a time of fasting and prayer for Christians. The Lenten Season goes from Ash Wednesday till Easter Sunday. According to Catholic Online, it comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting, which includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes remind that God made man from and to dust you shall return. The ashes also symbolize grief and that we have turned from God in our sin.
As a Christian day of fasting and repentance, many will attend church services and receive ashes on their foreheads. Most Western Christian denominations observe the day (Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, Moravians, Methodists, and Nazarenes to name a few). Fasting usually consists of two small meals and one large meal (usually dinner) that is simple rather than ostentatious or luxurious. Eating meat is also forbidden (beef, pork, poultry and related) but fish is allowed. Catholics will fast on every Friday until Easter Sunday except when it is a solemnity. It is also a time where observants will give up something for the Lenten season. Sometimes it can be a food or activity (like watching television). In more strict observances, a strictly vegetarian diet is observed for the Lenten season that often excludes dairy products.
Valentine’s Day is used by many to show their affection or love for someone they care about. It has spawned an industry for greeting card makers, candies, and of course flowers. However there is a real religious component as many Christian denominations celebrate it as feast day, commemoration, or optional for the local diocese (such as the Catholic Church). Valentine was the name of many Christian martyrs in the early Church resulting in them all being remembered for their acts of sacrifice for the faith. Some denominations, such as Eastern Orthodox Church, celebrate a particular St. Valentine on two different days.
The association with romantic love could be linked to an ancient Roman festival has been made but there is no evidence of any link. Most seem to believe the link began with Chaucer’s Parlemont of Foules where he indicates birds choose their mates on St. Valentine’s Day although 14 Feb might not be the day Chaucer was referring to. Other poems made the association of love and St. Valentine’s Day in the medieval period and English Renaissance. For those who needed love verses but lacked the ability to compose them, publishers starting offering them. Then putting them on paper and sending them became possible. Paper valentines became very popular in 19th century England resulting in their industrial production. They became popular in the United States as well. With such cards being popular, you needed other things to accompany a card. Roses and chocolates became popular, likely due to skillful marketing to associate them with the day. And so Valentine’s Day became a very major day for greeting card companies, chocolate makers, and sellers of flowers (roses being the most popular flower for the day).
Of course we ought to remember that it is based upon Valentine, who became a saint after he was martyred in Rome in 269 and buried on Flaminian Way. He is the patron saint of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages.
Today is Epiphany Sunday in most Christian liturgical calendars. It is normally observed on 6 January but since Christmas fell on a Saturday, it is celebrated on the nearest Sunday which is today. Thus the 12 Days of Christmas are still in effect and will continue until the actual date when the Christmas season generally ends for many. Most Eastern Orthodox churches and Russian Orthodox celebrate it using the Julian Calendar, so it occurs 13 days later. Their Advent Season is now taking place with Christmas Day on 7 Jan 2022.
Epiphany or Three Kings Day is to celebrate the baptism of Jesus and the arrival of The Magi (Three Kings or Wise Men). During the Middle Ages, this was a major feast day (a solemnity) requiring attendance at church on that day. However, it was decided (since its popularity began to wane) to move it to the Sunday followingChristmas. Some Protestant churches celebrate the Epiphany season from January 6 till Ash Wednesday. Orthodox Christians celebrate it on January 19 as they follow the Julian calendar.
The Feast of the Holy Innocents or Innocent’s Day is to remember the slaughter of male children 2 years and younger in Bethlehem and in its vicinity by Herod the Great. The story as related in the Gospel of Matthew (2:16-18). Herod was angered when the Wise Men did not return to him after locating the Messiah. No one can say with certainty how many were killed. Some have doubted it happened at all, but it would be consistent with Herod the Great’s personality. He had no problems executing even members of his family if he thought they were betraying him. And since Bethlehem was a small area, the slaughter may not have been widely noticed.
Nearly all the Christian churches observe the feast day though not on the same day. The Catholic Church and most western churches observe it on December 28 but Eastern Orthodox celebrates on December 29. The slain children are treated as martyrs of the church. It is not certain when it was first observed. While the exact date of the deaths is unknown, it is kept in the octave of Christmas as it followed the birth of Jesus. However, it is believed it took place sometime after Jesus’s birth. Matthew says the Wise Men saw the child with his mother indicating he was no longer a baby. And Herod had learned from the Wise Men the approximate date of the birth.
Scripture tells us little or nothing at all about the early years of Jesus. We know they had to flee to Egypt when God warned Joseph about Herod’s order to kill all males 2 years old or younger. We know they returned to Nazareth and what happened when Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem. Yet there is something important that is passed over in our hurry to get to Jesus’ ministry. The Holy Family-Mary, Joseph and Jesus-are important symbols about the family. You have two loving parents devoted to raising their son and obeying God by raising him in their faith. Their love and respect for one another, God, and Jesus are important components of what God wants the family to be. Towards the end of the 19thcentury, Pope Leo XII (as did other popes) became concerned that the concept of the family was being diluted and in danger. So, he introduced the Feast of the Holy Family to venerate them as a model for Christian families in 1893 and set it originally on the Sunday after the Epiphany. This was changed in 1969 when it was moved to the first Sunday after Christmas to make it part of the Christmas season.
However in 2021, since Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, it will be celebrated on Sunday, 26 December. Normally this would be the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, but it has been bumped off the liturgical calendar for Catholics and other Christian denominations. In countries where it is a public holiday, it will be celebrated on Monday. Boxing Day in the UK (and other countries that observe it) will take place according to the local calendar (the UK celebrates it as a bank holiday on 28 Dec 21).