History of Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

HISTORY OF ASH WEDNESDAY In the Western church, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday, derived from the ceremonial use of ashes as a symbol of penitence in the service prescribed for the day. It follows Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, and ends with Easter 40 days later, not counting Sundays.…

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History of Mardi Gras: Why is it called Fat Tuesday?

Mardi Gras

HISTORY OF MARDI GRAS In French, Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday.” It is celebrated the day after Shrove Monday and the day before Ash Wednesday as a last “fling” before the 40 days of self-denial of Lent, which precede Easter. Lent is a word that comes from the Middle English word “lente,” which means “springtime” — so…

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Jerusalem in a Day, part 1

temple mount

  HISTORY IN JERUSALEM: CHRISTIAN TRADITION Is it possible to see Jerusalem in a day? I did. Twenty eight years ago, following a trip to Israel, I published three articles. I was speaking on technology in Tel Aviv and had only 24 hours to visit Jerusalem. The city may have changed, but the historical sites…

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History of Palm Sunday: How it starts Holy Week

Triumphal Entry

HISTORY OF PALM SUNDAY The week we now call Holy Week or Passion Week starts this weekend with Palm Sunday. Why was this week so important that three of the gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) devote a full third of their contents to reporting this week, and The Fourth Gospel (John) dedicates its entire last half? Jerusalem,…

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History of Ash Wednesday: Where does the Ash come from?

Ash Wednesday

HISTORY OF ASH WEDNESDAY In the Western church, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday from the ceremonial use of ashes, as a symbol of penitence, in the service prescribed for the day. It follows Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, and ends with Easter 40 days later, not counting Sundays. It…

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History of Shrove Monday: Ahead of Mardi Gras

Shrove Monday

HISTORY OF SHROVE MONDAY The Monday before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Monday. The three days before Ash Wednesday is also known as “Shrovetide,” starting with Quinquagesima Sunday and ending on Shrove Tuesday, known more popularly as Mardi Gras. Quinquagesima meant the fiftieth day before Easter, or specifically the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday,…

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History of Good Friday

GOOD FRIDAY For centuries, pilgrims have walked the Via Dolorosa, “the way of sorrow” in Jerusalem, following the path Jesus took from the judgment seat of Pilate at the Antonia in the eastern part of the city immediately north of the Temple through several “stations of the Cross” to the ultimate location at the Church…

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History of the Trial

THE TRIAL OF JESUS The trial of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion was actually a series of perhaps half a dozen trials, across several locations in Jerusalem, some of which are captured in the tradition of the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow, a series of locations that pilgrims take through the streets of…

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History of Maundy Thursday

MAUNDY THURSDAY Amid the bustle of Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter, Maundy Thursday is easy to overlook. Few calendars label it, and some churches don’t observe it at all, though it may be the oldest of the Holy Week observances. It’s worth asking why, and how, generations of Christians have revered this day. The…

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History of the Sanhedrin

SANHEDRIN The Greek word sunedrion, translated “council” is referred to in the New Testament as “the Great Law-Court”, “the Court of Seventy-One”, and “the rulers and elders and scribes”. It was the supreme theocratic court of the Jews and reflected the local autonomy which the Greek and Roman powers granted the Jewish nation. Its origin…

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