Christian holy season begins
Each spring roughly 2.1 billion Christians celebrate the religious miracle that is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Lenten season is one of the holiest times of the year on the Christian calendar. It is a period of 40 days and nights starting with Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent and lasts through Easter Sunday.
Many Christians celebrate Easter, but may not know the significance or meaning behind certain days on the Lenten calendar. Here is a primer on the Lenten season.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the season when one prepares for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ash Wednesday always falls 46 days before Easter and will vary according to the calendar.
Ash Wednesday is a Holy Day of Obligation, which means parishioners are expected to attend mass to mark the beginning of the holy season. During the mass, celebrants receive ashes in the form of a cross on their foreheads. The ashes are made from burning the blessed palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday mass.
In ancient times ashes were worn as a symbol of sorrow, repentance and acknowledgment of sins. Nowadays, ashes allow Christians to humbly display an outward sign that they are aware of their shortcomings and are cleansing their souls in the preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and it is a day of obligation when Christians attend mass, and they receive fronds of blessed palms.
Occurring a week before Easter, Palm Sunday commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. The gospels record the arrival of Jesus riding into the city on a donkey, while the crowds spread their cloaks and palm branches on the street and shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” to honor him as their long-awaited messiah and king.
Holy Thursday is the Thursday preceding Easter Sunday. It marks Jesus Christ’s last supper with his disciples. His act of breaking bread and offering it as his “body” and sharing wine as his “blood” has become an integral part of the Christian mass.
Good Friday also is known as Black Friday, but should not be mistaken with the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday. It is the day Jesus had to march to his crucifixion site while carrying a heavy wooden cross. Jesus was mocked, spit on, tortured and forced to wear a crown of thorns during his journey after being betrayed by Judas and then suffering at the hands of Pontius Pilate.
After being nailed to the cross at his palms and ankles, Jesus suffered for six hours before he died. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of people.
The holiest day of the season is Easter Sunday.
On this day, Jesus rose from his tomb. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found Jesus missing. Jesus then approached her and showed how he was again alive. His disciples were shocked at the appearance of his resurrected self, furthering their faith in him as the Son of God.
Local Ash Wednesday services
Several Fairfield churches are planning Ash Wednesday events.
First Presbyterian Church will have a soup supper at 6 p.m. Wednesday, followed by worship. First Christian Church (Diciples of Christ) is planning a service at 6:30 p.m., and First Lutheran Church has scheduled its service at 7 p.m.
First United Methodist Church is having a Lenten study. The Rev. Nate Nims will lead the study at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and the Rev. Mark Haverland will lead the study, with breakfast, at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday. Ash Wednesday worship is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Immanuel Lutheran Church will have a soup supper at 6 p.m. Wednesday, followed by an Ash Wednesday Divine Service, with Holy Communion, at 7 p.m.
Word of Life Lutheran Church LCMC will have a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper from 5:30-6:45 p.m. Tuesday and an Ash Wednesday service at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Van Buren County Co-op Ministries will have an Ash Wednesday service at the Selma United Methodist Church in Selma. A soup supper will be at 5:30 p.m., and the service will be at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is invited.
The Rev. Arley Ellingson will lead a Lenten Bible study beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Faith United Methodist Church in Libertyville. The study is based on Adam Hamilton’s book “Final Words from the Cross.” Everyone is invited. Child care will be provided.
Other churches also could be planning events. See the church calendar or contact the church for information.