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Lent is a season for investing time and care in our relationship with God. Many people make extra time for daily bible reading and prayer during Lent.
The Sacred Season of Lent is a journey we undertake each year with our Lord Jesus Christ – from his public ministry through his betrayal, passion and death by crucifixion, to his resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand.
The story has its origins in history and is interwoven with rich symbolism. It is the story of our redemption from the power of evil that began in the Garden of Eden, through the Old Testament teaching on sacrifice that atones for sin and which prophets insisted had moral consequences for those seeking salvation or wholeness. Jesus Christ conquered death and sin, and we are called in the New Testament to walk in his footsteps to fulfilment and glory. In Lent, we make time to survey the wondrous Cross that makes this possible.
Easter is a time of reflection, tradition and symbolism. So, what’s the meaning behind the symbols of Easter.
Falling on the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This is done with the distribution of palm leaves tied into crosses. It is these same crosses which are burnt the following Ash Wednesday with the ash marked on the foreheads of worshippers.
The custom of the Easter egg originated with the early Christians of Mesopotamia who stained eggs red in the memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion. Easter eggs are common during Eastertide also because they symbolise the empty tomb of Jesus. The eggs appear to be like a stone of a tomb with a new life hatching from it. Similarly, the Easter egg is a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave and that those who believe can also experience renewal.
You may think they are a modern day tradition but parades at Easter have a long history. Early Christians wore white robes in the lead up to their baptism during Easter. People already baptised wore new clothes instead to symbolise their sharing of a new life in Christ. In Medieval Europe, churchgoers would parade led by a crucifix or an Easter candle.
An Easter bonnet represents the tail-end of a tradition of wearing new clothes at Easter representing the renewal of the year and the promise of spiritual renewal and redemption. The Easter bonnet was fixed in popular culture by composer Irving Berlin, who observed the Easter parade in New York City and wrote a song with the same name.
Traditionally eaten hot or toasted on Good Friday, hot cross buns are thought to pre-date Christianity. According to food historian Elizabeth David, the buns were seen by Protestant English monarchs as a dangerous Catholic belief, being baked from the consecrated dough used in making the communion wafer. Protestant England attempted to ban the sale of the buns but they were too popular. Instead, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them only at Easter and Christmas.
The ancient Greeks believed that the hare was a hermaphrodite. The early Christians then associated the hare with the Virgin Mary as their hermaphroditism led to the understanding that the hare could reproduce without loss of virginity. Another legend suggests that rabbits can give birth without being pregnant, no doubt a view that arose due to the rabbit’s short gestation period and their capacity to breed when very young.
Stations of the Cross is also called Way of Sorrow or simply The Way. This is a series of artistic representations, very often sculptural. They depict Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion in the final hours (or Passion) before he died. The devotions use the series to commemorate the Passion, often moving physically around a set of stations. The tradition as chapel devotion began with St Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. It is commonly observed in Lutheranism and amongst the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism.