Tag Archives: Easter

Some Legends of the Easter (Paschal) Eggs.


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Hand Painted Easte Eggs (Source: menorca-live.com)
Hand Painted Easte Eggs (Source: menorca-live.com)

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On Easter Sunday, at the end of the Paschal Liturgy, the faithful exchange Paschal greetings. In some churches the priests and the faithful present each other with Easter (Paschal) eggs.

Wooden eggs with icons hang as decorations from lamps and chandeliers in the churches, and from the vigil lights in the homes. The Coptic Christians of the Orthodox church in Egypt often hang ostrich eggshells in the front of their churches. The eggshells evoke the image of the mother ostrich’s single-minded and calm concentration on the eggs in her nest. It reminds the faithful how they should pray and conduct their spiritual life.

There are many legends about the Easter (or Paschal) Eggs.

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Mater Dolorosa with open hands. Artist: Titian 1555. Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.
Mater Dolorosa with open hands. Artist: Titian 1555. Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.

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One apocryphal legend concerns Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. It tells of the time when she gave eggs to the soldiers at the cross. She entreated them to be less cruel towards her son and wept. As her tears fell upon the eggs, they spotted them with dots of brilliant color.

Through the ages, the egg symbolizing new life and fertility appeared during many spring festivals. To the Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Gauls, and the Chinese, the egg symbolized the rebirth of the earth at springtime.

Saint Augustine, an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of western Christianity described the Resurrection of Christ from the dead as “a chick bursting from an egg.” This analogy represents the rebirth of humans through Christ. Hence, the Christians identify the egg with the tomb from which Christ rose and used eggs during Easter celebrations.

Many cite the following apocryphal story as the tradition of the first Easter Egg associated with Mary Magdalene.

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Icon of Saint Mary Magdalene holding a red egg.
Icon of Saint Mary Magdalene holding a red egg.

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Mary of Magdala is a major saint in the East, where she is never associated with women of ill repute and known as being equal to the apostles. She traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was present at two most important moments in the life of Jesus: the crucifixion and the resurrection.

After the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, Mary Magdalene gained an audience with the Roman emperor Tiberius Julius Caesar. She denounced Pontius Pilate, the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from 26-36 AD for his mishandling of the trial of Jesus.

She then told the emperor about the resurrection of Jesus. The unconvinced emperor pointed at an egg on the dining table and riposted that there was as much chance of a human being returning to life as there was for the egg to turn red. As soon as the emperor said this the egg miraculously turned red!

Hence, from antiquity, Mary Magdalene has been associated with red color. Most icons of Mary Magdalene show her holding a red egg.

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Red Easter Eggs (Source: psalterstudies.wordpress.com) (Custom)
Red Easter Eggs (Source: psalterstudies.wordpress.com) (Custom)

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From these tales originated the basis for dyeing Easter eggs. While people use all the colors of the rainbow to dye eggs, red is by far the most usual color used, especially in countries of the Eastern Orthodox faith. Sometimes the priests bless the red eggs at Orthodox masses on Easter Sunday.

Chocolate Easter Egg

With changing times, chocolate eggs or plastic eggs filled with confectionery such as jellybeans have replaced the real dyed and painted eggs as gifts.

Fabergé eggs

While the commoners were happy to receive dyed and hand painted real eggs as gifts for Easter, the Russian Tsar Alexander III and his eldest son Tsar Nicholas II presented their wives and mothers jeweled eggs as Easter gifts. The two Tsars commissioned Peter Carl Fabergé and his company between 1885 and 1917 to create a series of 54 jeweled eggs. These eggs were often called the ‘Imperial’ Fabergé eggs.

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Russian Imperial Easter Fabergé egg, the Jeweled Hen Egg from the collection of Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg.
Russian Imperial Easter Fabergé egg, the Jeweled Hen Egg from the collection of Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg.

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Peter Carl Fabergé delivered the first Fabergé creation known as the “Jeweled Hen Egg” to Tsar Alexander III in 1885. It featured a seemingly ordinary egg, but inside was a yolk of gold that contained a golden hen with ruby eyes, seated on a nest of gold. Inside the hen was a miniature diamond replica of the royal crown and a ruby egg pendant that could be worn as a necklace. Tsarina Marie Feodorovna was overjoyed with the egg so much that Alexander III ordered a new egg from Fabergé for his wife every Easter thereafter.

While the Hen Egg is among those that have survived, the gifts inside have been lost to time. The Jeweled Hen Egg is currently located in Russia as part of the Vekselberg Collection and is housed in the Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

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A few Fabergé Eggs (Source: thesipadvisor.com)
A few Fabergé Eggs (Source: thesipadvisor.com)

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Other famous eggs include the Danish Palaces, Memory of Azov, Diamond Trellis, Caucasus, Renaissance, Rosebud, Twelve Monograms, Imperial Coronation Egg, Lilies-of-the-Valley, etc.

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Easter Vigil: The Light of Christ


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Pope Francisattends Easter Vigil 2014 (Source: sacredspace102.blogspot.in)
Pope Francisattends Easter Vigil 2014 (Source: sacredspace102.blogspot.in)

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Easter is a joyful and happy occasion for all Christians. They decorate their churches with flowers and attend church on this day.

In some Christian churches, Easter worship begins at about 11:30 pm on Holy Saturday. At midnight, they ring the bells to tell the world that Christ has risen from the dead.

Roman Catholic monks of the Order of Saint Benedict preparing to light the Christ candle prior to Easter Vigil mass at St. Mary's Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey. (Photo: John Stephen Dwyer)
Roman Catholic monks of the Order of Saint Benedict preparing to light the Christ candle prior to Easter Vigil mass at St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey. (Photo: John Stephen Dwyer)

In some churches of the Roman Catholics and the Church of England, people will hold a vigil. They will gather outside the church around a bonfire.

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Paschal Candles
Paschal Candles

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The church being in darkness, one of the Deacons or Acolytes (servers) will carry a large unlit candle called the Paschal candle marked with a cross and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet Alpha (Α) and Omega (Ω).

The Celebrant after blessing the fire will turn towards the person carrying the large candle and prepare the Paschal candle by drawing with his finger or incising in the wax with a stylus a Cross while reciting these words:

Christ yesterday and today, (the vertical beam)
the beginning and the end, (the transverse beam)
Alpha (the Greek letter Α above the vertical beam of the cross)
and Omega, (the Greek letter Ω below the vertical beam of the cross)

Year
all time belongs to Him, (the first numeral of the current year in the upper left-hand angle of the Cross)
and all ages; (the second number of the current year in the upper right-hand angle of the cross)
to Him be glory and power, (the third numeral of the current year in the lower left-hand angle of the Cross)
through every age and for ever. (the fourth numeral of the current year in the lower right-hand angle of the Cross)
Amen.

Next, one of the Acolytes (servers) gives the grains of incense symbolizing the five wounds Christ received at the crucifixion one by one to the Celebrant who inserts them into the candle, saying:

Grains

By his holy (1)
and glorious wounds (2)
may Christ our Lord guard (3)
and keep us. (4)
Amen. (5)

Lighting the Paschal Candle (Source: catholiccourier.com)
Lighting the Paschal Candle (Source: catholiccourier.com)

The Celebrant lights the Paschal candle saying:

May the light of Christ, rising in glory,
banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.

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The Paschal candle is then taken through the church, with the deacon lifting it at three different times, singing: “The Light of Christ” (or Lumen Christi) and the congregation sings in reply: “Thanks be to God” (or Deo Gratias).

Everyone lights their candle from the Paschal candle and join the procession. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World.

After the procession with the paschal candle, before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word, follows the glorious Easter song of the Catholic Church: the Exsultet (spelled in pre-1920 editions of the Roman Missal as Exultet) or Easter Proclamation (Latin: Praeconium Paschale).

The Exsultet is a magnificent hymn of praise sung, by a deacon, before the paschal candle during the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite of Mass. Exsultet is also used in Anglican and various Lutheran churches, as well as other western Christian denominations.

In the absence of a deacon, a priest or by a cantor may sing the Exsultet.

The lyrics of Exsultet are beautiful and has profound symbolism. It describes the dignity and meaning of the mystery of Easter. It tells of man’s sin, of God’s mercy, and of the great love the Redeemer has for humanity. It admonishes the faithful to thank the Trinity for all the graces lavished upon them.

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Exsultet (Roman Catholic English text)

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).

(Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.)
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night
when Christ broke the prison bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault
that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
a flame divided but undimmed,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

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What is Ash Wednesday?


Myself 

 

 

BT.V. Antony Raj

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Ash Wednesday Service in Westminster Cathedral

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales)

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According to the Christian canonical gospels, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days in the desert, where he encountered the temptations by Satan. So, the solemn religious observance of Lent originated as a mirroring this event. Hence, Christians fast 40 days as preparation for the Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of Christ. In Latin, Lent is referred to by the term Quadragesima (meaning “fortieth”), in reference to the fortieth day before Easter.

Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting. In Western Christianity, it marks the start of the 40-day period of fasting, the first day of the season of Lent.

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An 1881 Polish painting of a priest sprinkling ashes on the heads of worshippers by Julian Fałat (1853 - 1929).
An 1881 Polish painting of a priest sprinkling ashes on the heads of worshippers by Julian Fałat (1853 – 1929).

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Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing the ashes made from palm branches that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, and placing them ceremonially on the heads of the participants. The Ash is either sprinkled over their heads or more often  a visible cross is marked on their foreheads to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” based on Genesis 3:19

By the sweat of your brow
you shall eat bread,
Until you return to the ground,
from which you were taken;
For you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

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Father Ken Simpson burns palms Tuesday as students from St. Clement School in Chicago look on. (CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) (Custom)
Father Ken Simpson burns palms Tuesday as students from St. Clement School in Chicago look on. (CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) (Custom)

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In Western Christianity, during Lent, every Sunday is regarded as a feast day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus  Christ on a Sunday, and so fasting is considered inappropriate on that day. And so, Christians fast from Monday to Saturday (6 days) for 6 weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (4 days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days.

Many Western Christians, including Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians observe Ash Wednesday. However, not all Catholics observe Ash Wednesday. Eastern Catholic Churches, do not count Holy Week as part of Lent, and they begin the penitential season on Monday before Ash Wednesday called the Clean Monday. Catholics following the Ambrosian Rite begin it on the First Sunday in Lent.

Throughout the Latin Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and in the Maronite Catholic Church, the Ashes are blessed and ceremonially distributed at the start of Lent. In the Catholic Ambrosian Rite, this is done at the end of Sunday Mass or on the following day.

Here are readings in the Churches for Ash Wednesday. It  is the continuation of the sermon on the mount. Jesus warns against doing good in order to be seen and gives three examples. In each, the conduct of the hypocrites is contrasted with that demanded of the disciples.

Teaching about Alms-giving

[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.

When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

–  (Mathew 6: 1-4)

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Teaching about Prayer

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.

Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.

If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

– Matthew 6:5–15

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Teaching about Fasting

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.

– (Matthew 6:16-18)

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“The Lord has truly been raised …”


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified

He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”

– Matthew 28:5-7

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Christ of the Millenium by Frederick Hart

Luke the Evangelist narrates the resurrection of Jesus in five parts and all the resurrection appearances take place in and around Jerusalem; moreover, they are all recounted as having taken place on Easter Sunday.

Part 1 – The women at the empty tomb (Luke 23:54–24:12)

Women At The Tomb by William Bouguereau

It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin.

The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils.

Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.

They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.

They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”

And they remembered his words.

Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.

The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.

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Part 2 – The appearance to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35)

Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast.

One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”

And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”

They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.

But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.

Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.

Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”

And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.

But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

So he went in to stay with them.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.

With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”

Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In the above episode Luke focuses on the interpretation of scripture by the risen Jesus and the recognition of him by his disciples in the breaking of the bread.

  • Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. (Luke 24:27)
  • And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)

Luke mentions Emmaus as situated seven miles from Jerusalem.

  • Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, (Luke 24:13)

Seven miles: literally, “sixty stades.” A stade was 607 feet. Some manuscripts read “160 stades” or more than eighteen miles.

The exact location of Emmaus is disputed by scholars.

In all the resurrection stories a consistent feature is that the risen Jesus appeared differently even to his close associates and was initially unrecognizable.

  • When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. (John 20:14)
  • but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. (Luke 24:16)
  • But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. (Luke 24:37)
  • After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country. (Mark 16:12)
  • When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 21:4)

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Part 3 –  The appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36–43)

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.

Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

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Part 4 –  Jesus’ final instructions (Luke 24:44–49)

He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And [behold] I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

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Part 5 – The Ascension (Luke 24:50–53)

Then he led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them.

As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.

They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.

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Christ is risen from the dead – المسيح قام من بين الأموات

This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it

Jesus is risen from the dead
Defeating death by death
And giving life to those in the grave

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The Transition to the Gregorian Calendar


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Do you know that people who lived in the year 1752 AD lost 11 days of their lives?

Normally, except in a few instances, a reform can bring about happier times in our lives. The Gregorian calendar, also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar that we use today, is internationally the most widely accepted and used civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, by papal bull Inter gravissimas dated February 24, 1582 as a reform to the Julian calendar.

Calendar for September 1752

Look carefully at the image of the above calendar for September 1752. You will notice that 11 days, 3rd to 13th, are missing.

To better understand the calendar change of 1752 that led up to this particular occurrence of missing dates we must know a little about the history of major calendars starting with the Roman calendar.

The Roman calendar

The Roman calendar changed its form several times from the founding of Rome to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The original Roman calendar is believed to have been a lunar calendar, which may have been based on one of the Greek lunar calendars. As there are about 12 lunations (synodic months) in a solar year, this period (354.37 days) is sometimes called a lunar year with an average length of the synodic month of 29.530589 days. This requires the length of a month to be alternately 29 and 30 days (termed respectively hollow and full). At some point of history dates of months ceased to be connected with the lunar phases, but it is not known when it happened.

A common purely lunar calendar is the Islamic calendar or Hijri Qamari calendar. A feature of the Islamic calendar is that a year is always 12 months, so the months are not linked with the seasons and drift each solar year by 11 to 12 days. It comes back to the position it had relative to the solar year approximately every 33 Islamic years. It is used mainly for religious purposes, and in Saudi Arabia it is the official calendar. In other systems, a lunar calendar may include extra months added that synchronize it with the solar calendar.

The Julian calendar

Following the advice of Sosigenes, the Alexandrian astronomer, Julius Caesar established a more regulated civil calendar based entirely on the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It took effect in 45 BC (709 AUC). It had three common years containing 365 days, and one year (leap year) containing 366 days (every fourth year). This twelve-month calendar, based on a solar (tropical) year, served for many years in perpetual cycle. This calendar is known as the Julian or Old Style (O.S.) and was used throughout the Roman Empire and by various Christian churches. It was the predominant calendar in most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was superseded by the Gregorian calendar.

The Gregorian Calendar

Pope Gregory XIII celebrating the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. Detail of the pope's tomb by Camillo Rusconi.

Early Christians of Jewish origin celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, as a new facet of the Jewish Passover festival as both are linked with much of their symbolism, In many languages, the words for “Easter” and “Passover” are etymologically related.

The early Roman Catholic Church found the steady drift in the date of Easter undesirable since it was tied to the spring equinox. In 325 AD, the First Council of Nicaea established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) after the March equinox. Therefore, the date of Easter varies between March 22 and April 25. A canon of the council specified that all Christians should celebrate Easter on the same day.

The Gregorian reform contained two parts:

  • a reform of the Julian calendar as used before Pope Gregory XIII’s time, and
  • a reform of the lunar cycle used by the Church, with the Julian calendar, to calculate the date of Easter.

The reform was a modification of a proposal made by Aloysius Lilius, an Italian doctor, astronomer, philosopher and chronologist. His proposal included reducing the number of leap years in four centuries from 100 to 97, by making three out of four centurial years common instead of leap years. This part of the proposal had been suggested before by, among others, Pietro Pitati, an Italian astronomer and mathematician.

The Gregorian reform modified the Julian calendar’s scheme of leap years as follows:

Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100; the centurial years that are exactly divisible by 400 are still leap years. For example, the year 1900 is not a leap year; the year 2000 is a leap year.

The Gregorian reform also took note of the change in the mean length of the calendar year from 365.25 days (365 days 6 hours) to 365.2425 days (365 days 5 hours 49 minutes 12 seconds), a reduction of 10 minutes 48 seconds per year and dealt with the accumulated difference between these lengths.

Between AD 325 (when the First Council of Nicaea was held, and the vernal equinox occurred approximately March 21st), and the time of Pope Gregory’s bull in 1582, the vernal equinox had moved backward in the calendar, until it was occurring on about March 11th, ten days earlier. Therefore, the Gregorian calendar began by skipping ten calendar days, to restore March 21st as the date of the vernal equinox.

The bull Inter gravissimas issued by Pope Gregory XIII on February 24, 1582 became the law of the Catholic Church in 1582, but it was not recognized by Protestant Churches, Orthodox Churches, and a few others. Consequently, the days on which Easter and related holidays were celebrated by different Christian Churches again diverged. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox countries continued to use the traditional Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian reform after a time, for the sake of convenience in international trade. It took almost five centuries before almost all Christians achieved that goal. The last European country to adopt the reform was Greece in 1923.

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Was there a Year Zero?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Year zero - blue

Do you know that year zero does not exist in the Anno Domini system of our present Gregorian calendar and in its predecessor, the Julian calendar?

In 525 AD, Dionysius Exiguus (c.470-c.544), a 6th-century monk born in Scythia Minor, modern Dobruja shared by Romania and Bulgaria, introduced the Anno Domini (AD) era used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the (Christianized) Julian calendar.

According to his friend and fellow-student, Cassiodorus (De divinis Lectionibus, c. xxiii), though by birth a Scythian, Dionysius was in character a true Roman and a thorough Catholic, an accomplished Scripturist, learned in both Greek and Latin.

Dionysius introduced the Anno Domini era to identify the several Easters in his Easter table; however, he did not use it to date any historical event. Before he devised his Easter table, Julian calendar years were identified by naming the consuls who held office that year. In the preface to his Easter table, Dionysius stated that the “present year” was “the consulship of Probus Junior [Flavius Anicius Probus Iunior]” which was also 525 years “since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No one knows how he arrived at that number, but there is evidence of the system he applied.

Dionysius invented the Anno Domini system of numbering years to replace the Diocletian era, based on the accession of Emperor Diocletian, that was in vogue and used in an old Easter table because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians.

The Anno Domini era became dominant in Western Europe only after the English monk Venerable Bede used it to date the events in his “Ecclesiastical History of the English People,” which he completed in 731 AD.

Historians have never included a year zero. For example, there are 999 years between January 1, 500 BC and January 1, 500 AD: 500 years BC, and 499 years preceding 500 AD.

In the Gregorian calendar system that we use now, the year 1 AD follows 1 BC without an intervening year zero. So, the year zero does not exist. Thus the year 2013 actually signifies “the 2013th year.” The absence of a year numbered 0 leads to some confusion concerning the boundaries of other decimal intervals, such as decades and centuries. However, in all Buddhist and Hindu calendars as well as in astronomical year numbering there is a “year zero” that coincides with the Julian year 1 BC, and in ISO 8601:2004 where it coincides with the Gregorian year 1 BC.

In fact, the issue of the millennium reflects a Christian-centric view. Outside the Christian world the year 2000 will actually be the year 5760 according to the Jewish calendar, 5119 in the current Maya great cycle, 5100 years elapsed in Kali Yuga according to the Hindus, 2544 according to Buddhism and 1420 according to the Moslem calendar.

So, the question is: “What exactly is the millennium, and are we actually celebrating on the correct date?” For example, the 20th century began on January 1, 1901, likewise the third millennium of the Gregorian calendar began on Monday, January 1, 2001, and not on the widely celebrated Saturday, January 1, 2000.

This anomaly arose because the Gregorian calendar begins with a year 1 instead of 0. Cardinal and ordinal numbering of years is, therefore same:

    • The year 10 is the tenth year of the calendar and the end of the first decade. 
    • The year 11 is the first year of the second decade. 

Despite this rule, years ending in 0, and not 1, are commonly perceived as marking the beginning of a new decade, century, or millennium. Decades, however, are more used as a collective term such as “the 1930s” and not a periodic term such as “1930-1939”.

By the way, could we attribute the absence of year zero to the fact that Indian mathematician and astronomer Brahmagupta’s numeral for zero (0) did not reach Europe until the eleventh century, and Roman numerals had no symbol for zero?

Bindhu:The ancient Indian symbol for Zero - a circle with a dot in the middle, symbolizing the void and the negation of the self.
Bindhu: The ancient Indian symbol for Zero – a circle with a dot in the middle, symbolizing the void and the negation of the self.

A Short History of Mother’s Day


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The tradition of honouring Motherhood has its roots in antiquity.

Osiris was the lord of the dead in the ancient...
Osiris

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According to the primaeval Egyptian mythology, divine Osiris, the eldest son of the Earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut was the god of fertility, the afterlife, the underworld and the dead.

Osiris was a wise king who brought civilization. His siblings were Horus the Elder, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys. His younger brother Seth was the god of the desert, storms, darkness, and chaos. He was hostile and outright evil. Though they were brothers their diametric personalities made them adversaries.

Osiris was happily married to his sister, Isis while Seth married his other sister Nephthys.

Though Osiris and Seth were brothers, their diametric personalities made them adversaries.

Seth, the envious brother slew Osiris, dismembered him into 13 pieces and scattered the remains all over Egypt. He usurped the throne of his dead brother.

Isis
Isis

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Isis collected the dismembered body of her brother-husband Osiris, reassembled the pieces. As the archetypal mummy, Osiris reigned over the after-world as a king among deserving spirits of the dead.

Isis used the embalmed corpse of Osiris to impregnate herself to conceive posthumously. She gave birth to Horus. She then hid her baby son amidst reeds lest Seth slaughtered him too . Horus grew up as a natural enemy of Seth, defeated him and became the first ruler of a unified Egypt. Isis, thus earned her stature as the “Mother of the Pharaohs.

In ancient Egypt and Ethiopia, Isis was one of the four most widely venerated deities. The ancient Egyptians held an annual festival to honor the goddess Isis as the ideal mother and wife.

The worship of Isis spread throughout the Greco-Roman world as the patroness of nature and magic; friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, and the poor. The rich aristocrats, rulers and maidens prayed to the goddess who was also known as the goddess of children, and protector of the dead.

Despite being a foreign deity, the Romans venerated Isis and reserved a place for her in their temples. The Romans commemorated an important battle with a festival in her name that lasted for three days with female dancers, musicians and singers marking the beginning of winter.

Black Madonna

Societies around the world celebrated symbols of motherhood as mythological goddesses and not real human mothers except the Christian Church. The Mother and Son imagery of Isis and Horus, where Isis cradles and suckles her son, and that of the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus is astonishingly similar.

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Celebrations in England and Europe

By the 16th century, due to the spread of Christianity, people in England and Europe moved away from the ancient roman religious and cultural traditions. Hilaria, the ancient Roman religious festival celebrated on the vernal equinox to honor Cybele gave way to Laetare Sunday – the fourth Sunday of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar (the 40 days of fasting preceding Easter Sunday), once known as “the Sunday of the Five Loaves.” Christians in England used this Sunday, to honor the Mother of Christ and decorated the church in which they were baptized, which they knew as their “Mother Church” with flowers and offerings.

In the 17th century, a clerical decree in England referred to the Laetare Sunday as “Mothering Day.” The decree broadened the celebration, from one focused on the “Mother of Christ” and the “Mother Church,” to include real mothers. It became a compassionate holiday toward the working classes of England. During this Lenten Sunday, the masters allowed their servants and trade workers to travel back to their towns of origin to visit their families. Mothering Day also provided a reprieve from the fasting and penance of Lent. Across England family members, living far away came home to visit and enjoy a family feast. The children presented cakes and flowers to their mothers.

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Celebrations in America

The first English settlers, the Pilgrims, who came to America discontinued the traditional Mothering Day. They fled from England to practice a more conservative Christianity without being persecuted. In the new land, they lived under harsh conditions and worked long hours to survive. Due to their devotion to God, they ignored secular holidays. For them, even holidays such as Christmas and Easter were sombre occasions that took place in a Church stripped of all extraneous ornamentation.

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Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe conceptualized the first North American Mother’s Day with her “Mother’s Day Proclamation.”

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Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe

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Julia Ward (May 27, 1819 — October 17, 1910) born in New York City was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, and poet. She wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” after she and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, visited Washington, D. C., and met President Abraham Lincoln at the White House in November 1861.

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American Civil War soldiers

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Twelve years later, distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War, she called on mothers to protest what she saw as “the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers.” She wrote the following “Mother’s Day Proclamation” and called for an international Mother’s Day to celebrate peace and motherhood:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonour, nor violence indicates possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe even proposed converting July 4th into Mother’s Day, to dedicate the nation’s anniversary to peace, but June 2nd was designated for the celebration.

In 1873, women’s groups in 18 North American cities observed this new Mother’s Day. Initially, Julia funded many of these celebrations. Most of them died out when she stopped funding. Boston city, however, continued celebrating Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day for the next ten years.

Despite the failure of her Mother’s Day, Julia Ward had nevertheless planted the seed that blossomed into the modern Mother’s Day.

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Mother’s Day in 1908

In Webster, Taylor County, West Virginia, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis (1832 – 1905), a social activist, led a women’s group that celebrated an adaptation of Julia Ward Howe’s holiday. She and her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis (1864 – 1948), are now recognized as the founders of the Mother’s Day holiday in the United States.

Ann-Maria-Reeves-Jarvis
Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis

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Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis was born in Culpeper, Virginia, on September 30, 1832 to Rev.  Josiah Washington Reeves and his wife, Nancy Kemper Reeves. The family moved to Barbour County in present-day West Virginia when the Rev. Reeves got transferred to a Methodist church in Philippi. In 1850, Ann married Granville E. Jarvis, the son of a Philippi Baptist minister. Two years later, Granville and Ann Jarvis moved to nearby Webster in Taylor County.

In the 1850s, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis lost eight of her 11 children before they reached the age of seven due to poor health conditions in the area. With the help of her brother, Dr. James E. Reeves, she organized “Mother’s Friendship Clubs” in Webster, Grafton, Fetterman, Pruntytown, and Philippi, to improve health and sanitary conditions.

Thousands of women learned nursing and proper sanitation. Among other services, the clubs raised money for medicine, hired women to work for families in which the mothers suffered from tuberculosis, and inspected bottled milk and food. In 1860, local doctors helped to form Mother’s Friendship Club in other towns.

During the American Civil War, this noble woman urged the Mother’s Friendship Clubs to declare their neutrality and give relief to both Union and Confederate soldiers. The Club members nursed and cared for soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

Following the end of the war, she called on her club members to help mend the wounds of the war by reuniting the Union and Confederate families who fought on opposing sides by holding a “Mother’s Friendship Day.”

The Andrews Methodist Church built at Grafton, West Virginia and dedicated in 1873 was built under her husband’s leadership. Ann Maria Jarvis’ life revolved around the church. She taught Sunday School at the church for more than 20 years. After her husband’s death in 1902, Ann moved to Philadelphia to live with her son Claude and daughters Anna and Lillian.

Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis died on May 9, 1905, in Bala Cynwyd, in southeastern Pennsylvania, bordering the western edge of Philadelphia.

Anna Marie Jarvis
Anna Marie Jarvis

After Ann Maria Reeves Reeves’ death, her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis, began a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States to honor her mother’s wish that there be a day set aside to honor all mothers.

In 1908, Anna Marie petitioned the superintendent of the church where her mother had spent over 20 years teaching Sunday School to hold a memorial service to honor her mother who died three years before. Her request was accepted, and on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, and at a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The event in Grafton drew a congregation of 407. Anna Jarvis had arranged for her mother’s favorite flower – white carnations. Two carnations were given to every mother in attendance.

At present times, people use white carnations to pay tribute to deceased mothers, and  pink or red carnations to honor living mothers.

In 1912 West Virginia was the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day. 

President Woodrow Wilson
President Woodrow Wilson

On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson, a friend of Anna Marie Jarvis, signed a Congressional Resolution setting the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Portrait

Soon, other countries too adopted Mother’s Day of Anna Marie Jarvis.

However, by the 1920s, Anna Marie Jarvis felt disappointed with the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

Christ is risen from the dead – المسيح قام من بين الأموات


Christ is risen from the dead – المسيح قام من بين الأموات

This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it

Jesus is risen from the dead
Defeating death by death
And giving life to those in the grave

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