South Africa definitely needs a holiday right about now and the upcoming long Easter weekend will hopefully give everyone a break from the relentless bad news since President Jacob Zuma's cabinet reshuffle on March 31, 2017.
But this week is about more than a desperately needed long weekend at the end, and Easter isn't just about the long weekend either.
If you're wondering why Palm Sunday was trending today, it's because Holy Week has kicked off. It's the run up to Easter, which remembers Christ's death in the Christian faith, and his resurrection. These two events are celebrated on Good Friday and his resurrection on Sunday.
Of course we all know by now that this date was chosen not for any particular reasons of historical accuracy: It was picked by the early Church as it was a time of celebration anyway around spring. Hence the association with bunnies, eggs and so on. Moreover, the Bible doesn't instruct Christians to commemorate these events, but rather to regularly take communion in remembrance of the larger act of Christ's death on the cross and our salvation by it. But Easter and the run up to it is a useful and poignant touchstone in the Christian life to concentrate on a thread that should run through all of our days: Christ's death and resurrection.
Likewise, there's a series of events taken from the Bible in the run up to Christ's crucifixion that is remembered every day of the week. Again this isn't an exact chronological timeline of the events in sequence or mentioned in the Bible as special days.
Now this may seem breathtakingly obvious to you if you grew up in a Catholic church but for many Christians like myself particularly from the protestant side of things this run-up to Easter and the associated reflections have been sadly neglected.
Neither should they be observed ritualistically, as that would be missing the point somewhat, particularly as they're not mandated in the Bible. But they can act as a useful tool to prepare the heart and spirit in the run up to Easter. If you're a Christian, of whatever denomination or bent, below is a guide for the week so that the news doesn't end up stealing Easter. Here what each day in "Holy Week", or "Passion Week" stands for, taken from Got Questions.
Passion Week is described in Matthew chapters 21-27; Mark chapters 11-15; Luke chapters 19-23; and John chapters 12-19.
Palm Sunday celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, one week before His resurrection, famously on the back of a donkey. The "palm" in Palm Sunday comes from the branches people spread on the ground as he made his entry, in the humblest was possible. As Jesus entered the holy city, He neared the culmination of a long journey toward Golgotha.
According to tradition, Holy Monday is the day on which Jesus cleansed the temple, was praised by local children, and cursed the fig tree. Read: Matthew 21:12–22.
This is a busy one. According to common interpretation of the Bible, Holy Tuesday is when Jesus was issued various challenges by the Pharisees and Sadducees over subjects such as marriage in heaven, paying taxes to Caesar, and the source of His authority (Matthew 21:23—23:39; Mark 11:27—12:44; Luke 20:1—21:4). By this same interpretation, this is the day Jesus commented on the widow's donation (Mark 12; Luke 21) and was approached by a number of God-fearing Greeks (John 12:20–36). Tuesday would also be the day Jesus spoke His eight "woes" against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13–36) and the evening on which He delivered the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24—25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5–36).
Holy Wednesday is the day on which Jesus was anointed during a meal (Matthew 26:6–13). The day is sometimes called "Spy Wednesday" since it is traditionally thought of as the day Judas conspired with local authorities to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14–16).
Maundy Thursday / Holy Thursday
Maundy Thursday is the name given to the day on which Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples, known as the Last Supper. Two important events are the focus of Maundy Thursday. First, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples and thereby instituted the Lord's Supper, also called Communion (Luke 22:19-20). Second, Jesus washed the disciples' feet as an act of humility and service, thereby setting an example that we should love and serve one another in humility (John 13:3-17).
This is the big one: it is celebrated traditionally as the day on which Jesus was crucified. Many Christian churches celebrate Good Friday with a subdued service, usually in the evening, in which Christ's death is remembered with solemn hymns, prayers of thanksgiving, a message centred on Christ's suffering for our sakes, and observance of the Lord's Supper. The death of Christ on the cross—along with His bodily resurrection—is the paramount event of the Christian faith.
Some Christians recognise Holy Saturday, the seventh day of Holy Week, as the day on which Jesus "rested" from His work of providing salvation. As Jesus died, He called out, "It is finished!" There was no further price to pay; sin had been atoned for. After His crucifixion, Jesus was laid in a nearby tomb, and His body remained there the entirety of Holy Saturday (Matthew 27:59-60; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53-54; John 19:39-42).
Resurrection Sunday (Also known as Easter Sunday)
This is where the celebration kicks in and what the entire Christian faith centres around. You can read about the resurrection in these passages: Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1 and John 20:1,19, and the points of it all here: 1 Corinthians 15.
Ahead of Easter 2017, The Huffington Post South Africa is delving into what faith and spirituality means to South Africans here and now. Against the backdrop of a renewed wave of thought around decolonisation, a new generation are rediscovering their traditional beliefs, while some are reconciling with Christianity. And on another note, we tell South Africa's real good news story: our remarkable and peaceful religious diversity. In a world fractured along religious extremism, we have a large Christian population with significant Muslim and Jewish communities, who often come together peacefully and with purpose, as has been evinced at the memorials for departed struggle stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada. Read the rest of the special report here, or choose from our selection below: