Lent is the season of preparation for Easter. The purpose of Lent is not to dwell on the sufferings of our Savior, but rather to prepare ourselves for a celebration of his resurrection. Lent is a time for repentance and prayer and for renewal of our Baptisms.
The Festival of Epiphany is the second-oldest festival of the Christian church. It is always January 6th and marks the start of the next season of the church year.
During Jesus’ earthly life, he gave us an epiphany of God’s true identity—his nature, character, and love. If Christmas celebrates the fact that the Father gave his only-begotten Son to the world, then Epiphany is the unwrapping of this gift.
Happy New Church Year!
We live in a time when we follow an annual calendar based on the orbit of the planet Earth around the sun. New Year’s day on that calendar is January 1st. The Christian church also follows a calendar, but based on the orbit of the Christian life around the Son of God.
The scene is so familiar. Parents, children, the Divine Service, and all the “accessories” that come along for the ride—the children’s bulletins, the scraps of “scribble paper,” the Cheerios, and the crayons. Each week, we parents go to great lengths to keep our children occupied during the worship hour. We know how our children, especially the younger ones, can become when they are bored or ignored, and we really don’t want to see that in public.
But is there something beyond merely keeping our children occupied for the time being? Is there some way to move in the Divine Service “beyond Cheerios and crayons”?
At Pentecost, the wind brought the Spirit of God which re-created the people of Israel as the New Testament church. 3,000 people were baptized that day and the church was born. The name is an alternate name for the Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks, which occurred fifty (Latin: pente-) days after Passover.
So far in the divine worship service the congregation has been the primary speakers, opening their lips in prayer and praise. At this point the congregation falls silent and our Lord himself speaks to us. We open our ears and hearts to his life giving words spoken through the Lessons.
The hymn “The Day of Resurrection” is one of the oldest hymns in our hymnary—written more than a thousand years ago by Saint John of Damascus. At the Easter Eve midnight service it is customary in Eastern Orthodox churches for worshipers to carry unlighted candles which are lighted on signal while this hymn is sung.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
On Easter Day, we celebrate the astonishing, miraculous resurrection of Jesus, an event that changed the course of history. Yet the whole redemptive work, not only the one phase of the resurrection, is the object of Easter’s celebration.