Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interfaith Days: Beginning of Ridvan

Today is the first day of the twelve-day period of Ridvan in the Baha'i faith. The festival commemorates Bahá'u'lláh's announcement of his claim to prophethood, and subsequently his 1863 departure from Baghdad. Today, the ninth day, and the twelfth day are Baha'i holiday days with a suspension of work. "The name derives from the Najibiyyih Garden in Baghdad where Bahá'u'lláh stayed during this period and to which he gave the name Ridvan (Paradise)," according to this site, which provides more information.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Interfaith Days: Yom Hashoah

Today is Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah, "Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day," the Jewish commemoration of the Holocaust, when 6 million Jews and 5 million others perished, as well as Jewish resistance during that time. It began in 1953 and is usually observed on 27 Nisan. "Shoah" is Hebrew for utter destruction or catastrophe. This site gives more information on its meaning, history, and observance.

(From the 2015 Interfaith Calendar of the Diversity Awareness Partnership of St. Louis---see dapstl.org for more information---and various online sources.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Interfaith Days: Baisakhi/Vaisakhi, Lord's Evening Meal

Because of writing deadlines, I "spaced" yesterday and missed a holiday: Vaisakhi, also called Baisakhi. It is an important Sikh holiday, the Punjabi new year, and also the day of the establishment of the Khalsa. Vaisakhi is the beginning of the solar new year in parts of India, thus making it important for Hindus as well.  This site gives more information about this day.

Today is the Lord's Evening Meal, the annual Jehovah's Witness commemoration of Christ's death. This site describes the day's importance.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Interfaith Days: Pascha

Today is Pascha, or Easter in the Orthodox Church. The word Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word Πάσχα), which in turn means "Pesach" or Passover. The day has been preceded by twelve weeks of preparation: the pre-lenten Sundays, Great Lent, and Holy Week; the day itself focuses upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which is the center of Christian faith. This site gives a summary of the day's religious services, and this site provides more information.

My wife Beth found this site of services happening in Jerusalem. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/11/holy-fire-2015-orthodox-easter_n_7045904.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

Friday, April 10, 2015

Interfaith Days: Orthodox Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, or Great and Holy Friday, in Orthodox Christian churches in the U.S. It is a day of fasting; some priests wrap icons of Jesus in linen to symbolize his burial. Services begin with the Matins of Holy Friday on Thursday evening and end with Friday afternoon Vespers. Some families use the day to decorate eggs for the upcoming Easter celebration. This site contains information about the Orthodox observance of the day.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Interfaith Days: Founding of the LDS Church

Joseph Smith, c. 1842
Today is the anniversary of the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1830. The prophet Joseph Smith had been staying at the Fayette, NY home of Peter Whitmer, where Smith completed the translation of the Book of Mormon, and where Smith continued to receive divine revelations. One was a commandment to organize the church, as described at this site. April 6 is also considered by Mormons to be the date of Christ's birth, and it is also the date of dedication of the St. George Utah Temple, the Salt Lake Temple, and the Palmyra New York Temple.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Interfaith Days: Easter

Today is Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, the Christian festival that celebrates Christ's resurrection. (In Orthodox Christianity, Easter is April 12). It is the climax of Holy Week and concludes the season of Lent, and is the beginning of the seven-week Easter Season leading up to Pentecost Sunday. The date is figured by the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, which means that the holiday can happen as early as March 21 and as late as April 25. "Easter" actually comes from the name of an Anglo-Saxon and Germanic goddess of the springtime, while "Pascha" derives from the Hebrew "Pesach," the name of the Passover season, from which Easter derives several theological aspects as well as calendar proximity.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Interfaith Days: Holy Saturday, Hanuman Jayanti, Lazarus Saturday, Theravadin New Year

Today is Holy Saturday, the second day of the Eastern Triduum when many Christians honor the fact that Jesus lay dead in the grave but soon will rise from the dead on Easter morning.

For Orthodox Christians, today is Lazarus Saturday, commemorating the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The day combines with tomorrow's celebration of Palm Sunday here at the end of Great Lent. http://lent.goarch.org/saturday_of_lazarus/learn/

Today is also Hanuman Jayanti, the birthday of the popular Hindu god Lord Hanuman. Like Easter and its accompanying days, Hanuman Jayanti is determined according to lunar days, and this year the festival occurs on April 4. Hanuman is associated with Lord Ram, and with service, devotion, and strength.

And today is the New Year festival for Theravada Buddhists in Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Laos. It is the three days from the first full moon in April.

It's not a religious holiday, but April 4 is also the day Dr. Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis in 1968.

(From the 2015 Interfaith Calendar of the Diversity Awareness Partnership of St. Louis---see dapstl.org for more information---and various online sources.)

Holy Saturday, an In-Between Day

Fra Angelico's "Christ's Descent into Limbo,"
In some Christian churches, little or nothing happens on Saturday of the Easter Triduum. There are no decorations or services. Pastors attend to other matters and perhaps can take a Sabbath rest, after the previous days' services and prior to the busy Easter. Somewhere I read that Saturday is a Sabbath rest for Jesus in his grave. Holy Saturday is an important day, an in-between day.

Two of the devotional guides I read, call us to think about in-between times. One (The Word in Season) describes Jesus as someone who placed himself between things several times. He died between two criminals, neither of whom he likely knew beforehand, but he loved both, even though one was hostile. Jesus also put himself between people in terms of social boundaries, and between people and God in terms of the sin that separated them from God.

The writer for the other periodical guide, Christ in Our Home, notes that our lives have in-between times of difficulty, as when we’re between symptoms and diagnosis, and between diagnosis and treatment. My wife and I have had health scares several times when symptoms indicated the need for more diagnosis; I had one of these circumstances just last summer. The writer connects such times with Holy Saturday and shows how the promises of Psalm 118 (“his steadfast love endures forever,” verse 1) can help fill the between times.

The word “between” made me think of the philosopher Martin Buber, who writes that we can perceive the other as an “it” or as a “Thou” (in German du, the second-person pronoun signifying familiarity and intimacy), but when we perceive the other as a “thou” we are in relation to one another, and the center of this relating he calls the between (Zwischen).

It’s never difficult to find examples of people being treated like “its,” denied a common humanity, whether gunmen in Kenya, or that poor fool who crashed the German plane, unconcerned about other lives, or any example of racism and homophobia reported on the news or experienced first-hand. When we objectify one another, there is no “between” of relationship, there is only one aloof from the other, or one against the other.

Christ was one who was always in relationship with one another. Even when he sought solitude, it was a time of relationship with his loving Parent in Heaven so that he could continue ministering to others. Even the grave was a place of relationship, with Christ placing himself, so to speak, between our common experience of death and the power of God to conquer death.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Interfaith Days: Passover (Pesach), Good Friday

Passover (Pesach) begins at sundown this evening. The Jewish festival commemorates God's liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as depicted in the book of Exodus. The festival always begins at sundown on 14 Nisan on the Jewish lunar calendar. Passover continues this year until April 11. It is one of the Shalosh Regalim (pilgrimage festivals) when Jews made a pilgrimage to the Jerusalem temple.  The day is preceded with a removal of all chametz from one's home and, on the day, the seder ceremony, with the sharing of food symbolic of the Exodus story. See this site.

Today is also the Christian commemoration of Good Friday, the day of the execution of Jesus. It is the first day of the Easter Triduum. Easter is the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This site provides ways that different groups of Christians honor the day.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Interfaith Days: Mahavir Jayanti, Maundy Thursday

Today is Mahavir Jayanti, the most important holiday in Jainism, celebrating the birthday of Mahavira,  who was the 24th and last Tirthankara (ford-maker). is the most important religious holiday for Jains. It celebrates the birth of Mahavira, twenty fourth and the last Tirthankara of present time cycle. He lived in the 500s BCE. After he attained enlightenment he spent many years teaching the basic principles of Jainism: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha. Jains attend temple services today and collect alms for the poor.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the Christian observance of the first Lord's Supper, is the Thursday before Easter and the day before the Easter Triduum. Jesus met with his disciples in a selected upper room and established a new covenant in his body and blood as he shared bread and wine with his students. The name comes from the Latin mandatum, or commandment, referring to Jesus' command in John 13:34 that his followers love and serve one another. The word may also come from the old word "maund," meaning the baskets once used to collect alms for the poor on this day.