What happens on Easter Vigil

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Status: 03/31/2021 12:31 p.m.

What happened on Palm Sunday? Why is Maundy Thursday called that? And who sets the date for Easter? Explanations from a religious point of view on the days surrounding the oldest and most important festival of Christians.

The Easter time

On Easter Sunday night, Christians carry the light into the dark churches.

Sometimes we celebrate Easter in March, sometimes in April. Why actually? In the 4th century the Church determined that Easter falls on a specific Sunday, namely the first Sunday after the first full moon after the beginning of spring. March 22nd is the earliest date and April 25th is the latest. Because Ascension Day and Pentecost depend on the date of Easter, they too are moving holidays. Easter lasts until Pentecost.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter. Holy Week begins with him. The New Testament reports that on that day Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The population, who saw in him the expected Messiah (anointed), greeted him with jubilation and laid clothes, palm and olive branches on the street, as it were as a "red carpet" for Jesus.

Maundy Thursday

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus celebrated the Lord's Supper with his disciples. This representation by Leonardo da Vinci hangs in Milan.

Maundy Thursday commemorates the Lord's Supper, which Jesus celebrated with his twelve disciples on the eve of his death. Holy Communion, which is celebrated in the church, goes back to this event. Leornado da Vinci depicted Jesus' Last Supper in his famous fresco in a Milan convent.

Other events are commemorated on Maundy Thursday: Jesus washed his disciples' feet and showed them that he was serving them. Later that evening, in the garden of Gethsemane, he fell into the hands of his persecutors because his disciple Judas had betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver and through a kiss, the Judas kiss. Lent also ends on Maundy Thursday. The origin of the name Maundy Thursday is not clear. It could go back to the Old and Middle High German words "grunen" and "grinan", which means lament or cry.

AUDIO: What is green on Maundy Thursday? (4 min)

Good Friday and Holy Saturday

Jesus Christ on the cross is the most famous symbol of Christianity.

"Kar" is derived from a word that means lament, misery, or sorrow. On this day Jesus was confronted with the Roman governor in Judea, Pontius Pilate, sentenced to death and nailed to the cross on the hill of Golgotha. The form of execution of the crucifixion was very common in ancient times and conformed to Roman law. According to the Gospels, others condemned to death died the same death as Jesus did.

The 15th hour of the day is considered the hour of his death, therefore services are held on Good Friday at 3 p.m. Easter Saturday, also known as Easter Sunday, is the day of the rest of the grave. As a rule, there is no service and the altars in the churches are free of candles and flowers. On the night of Sunday, however, Easter vigil is celebrated. Easter candles bring light back into the previously dark churches.

Easter Sunday and Easter Monday

This picture was taken in France around 1900 and shows the resurrection of Jesus.

On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the victory of life over death. According to the Gospel of Matthew, an angel rolled aside the stone with which the tomb of Jesus was closed. The grave was empty. The angel announced that Jesus was risen. Easter is the highest feast for Christians and the central event of their religion. Because the resurrection of Jesus establishes the belief in an afterlife. According to the New Testament, two of the disciples met their Lord on Easter Monday. Until then, they had doubted his resurrection, but now spread the news with joy.

Ascension of Christ

Ascension Day is celebrated 40 days after Easter, i.e. always on a Thursday. The Acts of the Apostles reports that Jesus was with his disciples when a cloud caught him and carried him to heaven. In Germany, Father's Day is also celebrated on this day. In the past, landowners had to circumnavigate their property once a year in order to maintain their claim to ownership. This Father's Day tour looks a little different today: In many areas, groups go on boozy excursions on Ascension Day.

Pentecost

Whitsun takes place 50 days after Easter. Hence the name: Pentecost is derived from the Greek word "pentekosté", the fiftieth. Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit, who is said to have appeared to the apostles. At Pentecost, the "outpouring" or "sending" of the Holy Spirit is celebrated. This event was the starting point for the missionary work of the disciples of Jesus. The missionary mandate is a central point in Christianity, which distinguishes it, for example, from Judaism, which has no active mission.

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NDR 90.3 | Culture journal | 04/18/2019 | 7:00 p.m.