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 40 days later, not counting Sundays, with Easter. It…

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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” and 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” —…

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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 Pentecost

HISTORY OF PENTECOST The Feast of Pentecost is taken from the Greek word πεντηκόστη which means “the 50th,” referring to the fiftieth day after Passover and Easter. In the Jewish calendar, this would coincide with the harvest festival Shavuot the “Feast of Weeks.” In the Christian calendar, Passover played a part in a number of…

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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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History of Herod Antipas

HEROD ANTIPAS Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great (whom we met in the Christmas story) and Malthake. After his father’s death in 4 B.C. he was made tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea in Trans-Jordan. Like his father, he was a lover of great and artistic architectural works, and built the beautiful Tiberias…

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History of Pontius Pilate

PONTIUS PILATE His name provides two valuable clues to his background and ancestry. The family name, Pontius was that of a prominent clan among the Samnites, hill cousins of the Latin Romans. They had almost conquered Rome in several fierce wars. The Pontii were of noble blood, but when Rome finally absorbed the Samnites, their…

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Historical Climate of Easter

HISTORICAL CLIMATE OF EASTER What was the historical climate surrounding the last week of the life of Jesus of Nazareth? This man born to die, not just in the normal sense, but in some special sense, entered Jerusalem amidst a torrent of political, social and economic turbulence. The events in Palestine at this time are…

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