This Holy Season – Part III

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Upon examining the Interfaith Calendar we find some 26 Holy Days or observances during the month of April. The first full moon after the vernal equinox brings events for five religions in its wake. There are several observances after the Full Moon (which occurs on Easter Day). So we shall bring you a triptych – three panels in art (often depicting the Divine or saints) – three articles covering the events of this Holy Season of 2022. This third article covers events from Ridván to the Orthodox Pascha – Easter Day.


Ramadan (fasting in Islam)

Minaret at Sunset
Minaret at Sunset: Sunset is when the time of fasting is over

All during the month of April, the Muslims of the Goulburn Valley – where we have four mosques – continue their fast from food and water from dawn to sunset. This is a time that elicits religious awareness, and care for the needy, as one of the five pillars of Islam is Zakat, care for the needy. Families and the worshipping community come together for Iftar meals, meals that break the fast.

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21 April 2022
First Day of Ridván – Baha’i

garden of ridvan restored
(The Garden of Ridván as restored)

The Festival of Ridván (meaning Paradise), April 20-May 1, marks the anniversary of the start of the Bahá’í Faith in 1863. In a garden outside of Baghdad in present-day Iraq, Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, announced that he was a Messenger of God.

Bahá’u’lláh was preparing to leave for what is now Istanbul. He spent twelve days with friends in a garden on the banks of the Tigris River. Every day, gardeners picked roses and piled them so high that people couldn’t see over them as they drank tea in Bahá’u’lláh’s tent. He sent the roses as gifts to friends throughout the city and met with those of many faiths who came to say good-bye.

Ridván gatherings often include prayers, music, creative activities and shared meals. Here are some examples of ways in which Bahá’í families celebrate this festival. Please note that Bahá’ís never represent any Messenger of God in drawings or other presentations. Activities based on events in the life of Bahá’u’lláh may present other aspects of the occasion and its setting, but not the person of Bahá’u’lláh himself.

The first, ninth and twelfth days of the Festival of Ridván are Holy Days on which Bahá’ís do not attend work or school.

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22 April 2022
Holy Friday – Orthodox Christianity

Orthodox Great Friday

Many Orthodox Christian churches in Australia often observe Good Friday at a later date than the Good Friday date observed by those of Western Christianity. The Liturgies of Good Friday focus on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which is described in the New Testament. The day is also known as Great Friday, Holy Friday, or Holy and Great Friday.

Holy Friday is traditionally a mourning and fasting day among Orthodox Christians in Australia, particularly in the Greek Orthodox churches. The Orthodox Church rituals commemorate Jesus’ death by crucifixion. Spring flowers are often collected for the epitaph (bier) at church. Evening or late afternoon liturgies are held, followed by the procession of the epitaph in some churches where the evening ends with a candlelit procession of the epitaph through the streets.

In every Greek city, village or island, the Passion of Christ is revived through different traditions. From the early morning hours in all the Greek churches, the Epitaph, decorated with flowers, is ready to receive the body of Jesus. In most areas, the epitaph procession begins around 9pm, but in some parts of the country procession takes place at noon or even on the morning of Holy Saturday.

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23 April 2022
Last Day of Passover – Judaism

Seder Meal

The seventh day of Passover is not a separate Festival in its own right, as is the case with Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Sukkot. Rather, it is the conclusion of Passover and we therefore do not recite the blessing when making Kiddush or lighting candles.

The seventh day of Passover marks the day when many miracles were performed for our forefathers at the Red Sea. The Torah (Exodus, 12:15) states:

And the seventh day shall be declared a holy day for you. No work shall be done on that day.

In most of the instances where the Torah refers to the first day of Passover, mention is made of the Exodus from Egypt. Regarding the command to observe the seventh day of Passover, however, no mention is made of the miracle of the splitting of the sea which took place on that day. Moreover, when the Torah refers to the miracle no mention is made of the date on which the miracle took place.

In the Diaspora (homes of Jewish people outside Israel) an eighth day of Passover is observed. This day is obligatory by Rabbinical decree and the Sages invested it with all of the sanctity of the Festivals.

All of the laws applicable to the Seventh day (the Festival day required by the Torah) are applicable to the eighth as well.

It is customary in the Diaspora to be somewhat more lenient on this last day of Passover. The leniency that is customary on the eighth day of Passover concerns the relaxation of certain stringencies that people observe on the other days of Passover.

For example, there are many who do not eat matzah that has been soaked in water on Passover, but this stringency is relaxed on the eighth day of Passover observed in the Diaspora.

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23 April 2022
St George’s Day

St George

George is one of the most popular names in Greece and Saint George is one of the most beloved saints throughout the Christian world.

In Greece, Saint George Day, or Agios Georgios Day, is celebrated on April 23.

In hagiography, Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic Church, Anglican, Orthodox, East Syrian, and Miaphysite Churches.
Grecian Delight supports Greece

He is immortalized in the myth of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

Saint George was the son of a rich and aristocratic family in Cappadocia, Asia Minor. His parents decided to name him Georgios, a Greek name that means “worker of the land.”

The Saint and the dragon

Saint George is very much honored by the Eastern Orthodox Church, wherein he is referred to as a “Great Martyr.”

The traditional legends have offered a historicized narration of George’s encounter with a dragon.

According to tradition, the dragon was guarding a spring in Libya and it wouldn’t let the residents take any water if they didn’t first sacrifice one of their compatriots. The victim was chosen by drawing lots. One day, this happened to be the princess.

The monarch begged for her life to be spared, but to no avail. She was offered to the dragon, but then Saint George appeared and faced the dragon, protecting himself with the sign of the Cross. He slayed the dragon, and rescued the princess. The citizens abandoned their ancestral paganism and converted to Christianity.

Saint George is the patron saint of the Greek army, since during his life he used to work as a military officer. Furthermore, he is also the patron saint of England.

Saint George is also associated with agriculture and proliferation say his name derives from the Greek word “georgia” meaning agriculture. The day the church commemorates Saint George (April 23) is a day of sowing for farmers in Greece.

 


 

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24 April 2022
Easter (Pascha) – Orthodox Christianity

Orthodox pascha

The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the Council of Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D. According to this decree, Easter must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox but always after the Hebrew Passover to maintain the Biblical sequence of events of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Orthodox Christian churches have adhered strictly to this formula.

“We celebrate once again the Holy and Great Pascha the most significant feast of the year. A feast which by its name Pascha signifies the passing, the exit from a condition of slavery and torment to a condition of freedom and joy. Our Lord Jesus Christ with His Crucifixion and Resurrection passed us from the bondage of sin, guilt, anxiety and death to the immense joy of freedom. He became our exit from the night of evil and sin to the eternal light of a day that has no end, a life that is victorious over death and transfers us to eternity,” states Archbishop Demetrios, spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians in America said in his Paschal message.

Centuries-old religious services which recall the passion, crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ are conducted each morning and evening throughout this Holy Week in Orthodox Christian Churches including: Greek, Russian, Romanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Albanian, Serbian and Ukrainian, which serve some 6 million faithful in the Americas.

Holy Saturday evening, the Easter Resurrection Service begins with Matins at 11 p.m. At midnight, the Church is completely darkened and the faithful wait in joyous expectation for the bishop or priest to come forth carrying a white candle, chanting, Come; Receive the Light, the Light of the Resurrection. The light is passed to the congregation until the Church is ablaze with the glow of candlelight. A procession of altar boys, choir, chanters and clergy joined by all the faithful move outdoors where the Gospel proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ is read. The triumphant hymn, Christos Anesti, Christ is Risen is joyously sung by the faithful. At the conclusion of the Resurrection Liturgy, red Easter eggs, which symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, are distributed to the congregation.

The Light of Resurrection
Orthodox Christians gather in Church to receive the Holy Fire – the Light of the Resurrection

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24 April 2022
Divine Mercy Sunday – Christian

Divine Mercy Sunday

Origin of Divine Mercy Sunday, the Divine Mercy image, the Chaplet, and the Novena

Saint Faustina: Mankind’s need for the message of Divine Mercy took on dire urgency in the 20th Century, when civilization began to experience an “eclipse of the sense of God” and, therefore to lose the understanding of the sanctity and inherent dignity of human life. In the 1930s, Jesus chose a humble Polish nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, to receive private revelations concerning Divine Mercy that were recorded in her Diary. Pope John Paul II explains:

This was precisely the time when those ideologies of evil, nazism and communism, were taking shape. Sister Faustina became the herald of the one message capable of off-setting the evil of those ideologies, that fact that God is mercy—the truth of the merciful Christ. And for this reason, when I was called to the See of Peter, I felt impelled to pass on those experiences of a fellow Pole that deserve a place in the treasury of the universal Church.

—Pope John Paul II, Memory and Identity (2005)

Divine Mercy Sunday: St. Faustina’s Diary records 14 occasions when Jesus requested that a Feast of Mercy (Divine Mercy Sunday) be observed, for example:

My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. … Let no soul fear to draw near to Me. … It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.

—St. Faustina, Diary, no. 699

On May 5, 2000, five days after the canonization of St. Faustina, the Vatican decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Image: Jesus appeared to St. Faustina in a vision, with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left touching his garment above his heart. Red and white rays emanate from his heart, symbolizing the blood and water that was poured out for our salvation and our sanctification. The Lord requested that “Jesus, I trust in You” be inscribed under his image. Jesus asked that his image be painted and venerated throughout the world: “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish” (Diary, no. 48) and “By means of this image I will grant many graces to souls” (Diary, no. 742).

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy: The Chaplet was also given to St. Faustina with this promise: “Encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given you” (Diary, no. 1541). “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. … Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy” (Diary, no. 687). (Instructions for its recitation are provided on a separate page.)

The Divine Mercy Novena: Jesus gave St. Faustina nine intentions for which to pray the Chaplet beginning on Good Friday and ending on the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday. (http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/novena.htm)

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25 April 2022
St. Mark – Founder of the Coptic Church

Lion of St Mark
The Lion is traditionally the symbol of St Mark

Saint Mark is best known as the author of a Gospel. Like Saint Luke and Saint Paul, he was not one of the Twelve Apostles and so likely never met Jesus Christ in person. Scholars believe that the Gospel of Saint Mark relates the experiences of Saint Peter, Mark’s mentor. Each Gospel has its own unique sources, emphases, and audiences. Mark writes for non-Jews who would be impressed by Christ’s miracles more than His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. So in Mark’s Gospel are found certain colorful details that suggest the writer was relating the words of an eye-witness. For example, in Mark 5:41 Jesus enters the home of Jairus, a synagogue leader whose daughter lay dead. Christ says to her, “Talitha koum.” Mark then tells the reader what “Talitha koum” means, presumably because his readers did not speak Aramaic. No other Gospel includes this touching detail of the untranslated words coming from the mouth of Christ that day. Mark also places other Aramaic words on Christ’s lips: “Ephphatha,” “Abba,” and “Hosanna.”

St. Mark and The Lion

The vioce of the lion is the symbol of St. Mark for two reasons:

  1. He begins his Holy Gospel by describing John the Baptist as a lion roaring in the desert (Mk 1:3).
  2. His famous story with lion, as related to us by Severus Ebn-El-Mokafa:
    Once a lion and lioness appeared to John Mark and his father Arostalis while they were traveling in Jordan. The father was very scared and begged his son to escape, while he awaited his fate. John Mark assured his father that Jesus Christ would save them and began to pray. The two beasts fell dead and as a result of this miracle, the father believed in Christ.

Works of St Mark

St. Mark was a broad-minded Apostle. His ministry was quite productive and covered large field of activities. These include:

  • Preaching in Egypt, Pentapolis, Judea, Asia Minor, and Italy during which time he ordained bishops, priests, and deacons.
  • Establishing the “School of Alexandria” which defended Christianity against philosophical school of Alexandria and conceived a large number of great Fathers.
  • Writing the Divine Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist which was modified later by St. Cyril to the Divine Liturgy known today as the Divine Liturgy of St. Cyril.

 

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Catafalque Party

25 April 2022
ANZAC Day – Australia and New Zealand

‘ANZAC’ stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. These became known as Anzacs and the pride they took in that name continues to this day.

With the coming of the Second World War, Anzac Day also served to commemorate the lives of Australians who died in that war. The meaning of Anzac Day today includes the remembrance of all Australians killed in military operations.

Anzac Day remembrance takes two forms. Commemorative services are held at dawn – the time of the original landing in Gallipoli – across the nation. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet to take part in marches through the major cities and in many smaller centres. Commemorative ceremonies are more formal and are held at war memorials around the country.

A typical Anzac Day ceremony may include the following features: an introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, a recitation, the Last Post, a period of silence, either the Rouse or the Reveille, and the national anthem. After the Memorial’s ceremony, families often place red poppies beside the names of relatives on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour, as they also do after Remembrance Day services.

Dawn service
The Dawn Service at the National Memorial, Canberra

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27 April 2022
Yom HaShoah – Judaism
Holocaust Memorial Day

Yom HaShoah - remembrance

The full name of the day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is “Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah”— in Hebrew literally translated as the “Day of (remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan — a week after the end of the Passover holiday and a week before Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers). It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

The legacy of World War II and the Holocaust is visible in the new laws, new international institutions, and even new religious teachings that were created after the end of the war. The memories and stories of those who lived through and survived the Holocaust form another kind of legacy, less tangible but equally important.

The voices of survivors have become a central part of how we understand the Holocaust. Today there are hundreds of memoirs on library shelves and thousands of hours of recorded audio and video testimony in archives. After the war, these stories emerged only slowly. Some survivors preferred to remain silent or were discouraged from speaking; for others, sharing their experiences was simply too painful. And for many survivors, the desire to tell their stories was outweighed by the belief that those who weren’t “there”—in the ghetto, in hiding, in the camps—could never truly understand. Author Elie Wiesel has said, “Only those who were there will ever know, and those who were there can never tell.”

Holocaust denial

Holocaust denial tries to erase the Holocaust from history. Deniers claim that the Holocaust never happened, that it is a fake event made up by Jews, or that the Nazis and their collaborators were not responsible for the genocide of Jewish people. They question whether gas chambers existed, if mass shootings ever took place, and whether victims died from forced labour, starvation, and torture—all in contradiction to reliable sources and established research.

Holocaust denial tries to create a world where antisemitism is acceptable once again. Deniers will often focus on one unclear aspect of the Holocaust or simple errors in survivor testimonies to ‘disprove’ the entire historical fact.

Holocaust denial is often presented as serious scholarship. But a closer look shows that their sources are either fabricated or taken out of context, allowing them to make manipulative interpretations that blame Jews for the Holocaust or claim that Jews exaggerated or invented the Shoah for political or financial gain. Holocaust deniers try to exonerate National Socialism.

For all these reasons, Holocaust denial is a form of antisemitism, but one found mostly on the fringes.

Holocaust Denial
United Nations social media tile on Holocaust Denial

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3 May 2022
Eid-al-fitr – Islam

Islamic congregation at prayer
Fasting is not observed on the Day of Eid. Traditionally people have sweet dish before attending the special Eid prayer (salah). Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, community centers or at mosques.

Before the last day of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid-al-fitr prayers , each Muslim family gives a predetermined amount as a donation to the poor. This special charity could be of actual food or money to ensure that the needy have a meal and participate in the celebration. This donation is known as sadaqah al-fitr (charity of fast-breaking).

Eid is an Arabic word meaning “festivity”, while Fi?r means “conclusion of the fast”; and so the holiday celebrates the conclusion of the thirty days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan.

Common greetings during this holiday are the Arabic greeting ‘Eid Mubarak (“Blessed Eid”) or ‘Eid Sa’eed (“Happy Eid”). In addition, many countries have their own greetings based on local language and traditions.

Eid-Al-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of Shaw’waal, at the completion of Ramadan. Shaw’waal is the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The date changes from year to year. Since there are different ways of recognising the beginning of Eid, Muslims around the world do not always celebrate on the same day. Eid festivities may vary culturally depending on the region, but one common thread in all celebrations is the spirit of generosity and hospitality.

Fasting is not observed on the Day of Eid. Traditionally people have sweet dish before attending the special Eid prayer (salah). Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, community centers or at mosques. After the Eid prayer, Muslims usually join with the family, visit relatives & friends, give gifts (especially to children), and make phone calls to distant relatives

Eid muburak

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