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Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Agony in Gethsemane and the Ecstasy of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday!

Good Friday, with the words on the Cross -- “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani”



This is the story of the agony in Gethsemane on Good Friday and the ecstasy that followed with the resurrection of Jesus, the only Son of God. One could argue the logic behind calling it ‘Good Friday’ when it is the day 'Jesus was crucified' – His death brought forgiveness for our sins and therefore it is good news for us! "You have authority over me only because it was given to you by God", He told Pilate, the Roman governor, during the trial. And finally, Pilate told the crowd, "I am not responsible for the death of this man -- this is your doing”! “Let the responsibility for his death fall on us and our children", the crowd shouted. And ever since, people around the globe have been wondering why the Jews have been persecuted; perhaps it may have something to do with that thoughtless statement in front of the Son of Man and Pilate on that day - that's my line of thinking, anyway!

Good Friday is the day when Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for their sins! “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani”, Jesus cried out at the ninth hour, which means, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me”? As he gave up His spirit, the whole country was covered in darkness that lasted for three hours, the curtain at the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, earth shook and the rocks split(Matt 27: 46,51); "He really was the Son of God", said the Army Officer who watched all the happenings at the crucifixion! Most of the believers fast, till after the 9th hour – the Biblical day starts at 6:00 AM, making the '9th hour' for us, as 3:00 PM, and this 'Biblical 9th hour' is still followed as the time of Jesus' crucifixion, the world over! Some Christians take part in a procession, 'The way of the Cross', carrying a cross and finally entering the church at this time!


Jesus celebrated the Passover Festival with his disciples and during this special supper, 'The Last Supper', He said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me - one who is eating with me; the Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him”(Mark14: 21); Jesus told Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly". As soon as Judas went, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him”(John13: 27, 31); Jesus added, “But how then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say "It must happen this way”. Over the centuries, Christianity has portrayed Judas as the betrayer, the disciple who took the thirty pieces of silver from the High Priests and a traitor with qualities such as greed, hypocrisy and unfaithfulness. The name Judas represents evil in the Christian history - German law even forbids parents to give a child the name Judas! According to the four Gospels, Judas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus and the treasurer of the group. One wonders why Judas is talked about in the literature more than any other disciples, especially when he was the least talked about in the Bible. There is no denying the fact that it was him ‘Who handed over Jesus’ to the priests on that night at the Calvary. One should also remember here that it was 'Jesus who chose Judas to be one of his disciples'!


Jesus is clearly depicted as one who is in control of his destiny and nothing in the world can take away that spiritual aura and confidence. 'The handing over', on the night of the betrayal, was according to the scriptures -- an act of God and therefore, should the person who carried out the will of God be ridiculed, slighted or demonized? When Judas found that his Master was condemned, he was overcome with remorse and tried to return the money. As the priests refused to accept it, Judas threw the thirty pieces of silver and hanged himself. One could argue here that Judas truly believed that his Master was too powerful to be captured by the High Priests and therefore he was heart broken at what happened. But, it was God's will that the Scriptures be fulfilled. There have been many paintings based on the 'Last Supper' and the betrayal by Judas. The most famous of them all is the 'Last Supper' by Leonardo da Vinci that represents the scene when Jesus told his disciples that one of them was going to betray him.

This is what is written: "The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations”. (Luke24: 45-47). Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome were there at the tomb very early on Sunday morning. “Don’t be alarmed”, a young man in white robe told the three women who took spices to the tomb, “You are looking for Jesus from Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised"!(Mark16: 6); It has also been said that He appeared to Mary Magdalene first, and when she told his disciples that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they didn't believe her, till they went into the tomb to learn the truth for themselves, in spite of, 'What is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations”. (Luke24: 45-47).


There are various types of food and customs associated with 'Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, in different parts of the world, to commemorate the Passover Celebration(Pesach, in Hebrew) of Jesus. We make a special 'Steamed cake, called 'Pessaha Appam', made of rice batter, by grinding coconut with rice that is soaked for a few hours, adding yeast and then fermented overnight in a warm place; sugar, cardamom or vanilla extract are added in the morning and then steamed to a delicious fluff that melts in the mouth -- Maundy Thursday (Pessaha Vyaazhaazhcha) is not the same without this, just as the 'Washing of the feet of one's subordinates to show humility, and in the UK, the specially made 'Maundy Money' is given to the poor by the Queen of England -- 88 pence in silver, relating to her age this year, and 88 pence in normal money in two leather purses, red and white! It is tradition to eat 'Hot Cross Buns' on Good Friday, a sweet and spicy bun made with white flour and currants with a sign of the cross on top of the bun using pastry – the cross on the bun symbolizes and reminds the Christians of Jesus' crucifixion. 'Rice Kanji' ( Porridge made with rice), with a simple accompaniment made with green gram is eaten on this day in every Christian family in Kerala! What follows the holiest day, 'Good Friday', is 'Holy Saturday', a Day for remembering the Dead, when prayers and candle vigil at the tomb of all the dear departed are held in the presence of the relatives and friends. Prayers are held in the church through the night and then it is the expectant wait for the jubilant 'Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday'! And those of us who have been following the '50 days of Lent', would have another reason for the excitement -- the 'Celebratory Lunch on Easter Sunday' with everything they have forsaken during the Lent, chicken curry, Beef fry, Fish curry, egg roast, etc, not forgetting the chocolatey 'Easter Eggs and Easter bunny rabbits! The name “Easter” was most likely derived from 'Eostre', the name of the Anglo-Saxon lunar goddess: the goddess Eostre in Pagan celebrations was associated with fertility, and therefore also associating rabbits and eggs with the celebration; but over the years, these have been adapted as part of the Easter Celebrations, a day of new beginning with the firm pledge to help fellow beings, especially women and children and the elderly in our society!


“Now that you have known me”, Jesus told his disciples, “You will know my Father also, and from now on, you do know him and you have seen him”. One does not need any more proof, as is stated in various books in the Bible, that the 'Father, Son and the Holy Ghost', the 'Holy Trinity', is one and the same! Christianity accepts Jesus as, the only Son of God, and it is important to remember that other religions accept Jesus in other versions – Muslims regard Jesus as a Prophet and Messenger of Allah, many Jews find Him a Teacher, Hindus respect Him as someone who reached the highest level of consciousness and the Buddhists regard Him as a figure of compassion. God appears in different forms and gender to human beings, but one needs to accept that there is only one God and what one sees is only the different incarnations (Partial or Full – Amsh or Poornna) of just 'One God'! Judas, the original betrayer, only fulfilled the prophecies and perhaps, one should spare a moment here for Judas who believed in the power of Jesus, without whose action the prophecies would not have been fulfilled, perhaps! One hopes that we learn to have tolerance of fellow beings and understanding of other religions enabling us to live harmoniously, without having to resort to violence to settle our different views and opinions. We must also learn to respect those, whose views are different from our own for a better new world, just as the start of the new era all those years ago! Jesus said, "Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another". Now it is for us to honour His Commandment for eternity!



Happy Easter!
©EMenon2014
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Palm Sunday Starts the 'Holy Week' – “Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest”
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Palm Sunday Starts the 'Holy Week' – “Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest”



'The Holy Week' starts today with the celebration of 'Palm Sunday'! Palm Sunday is the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Festival, the 'Passover'. He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey and the people welcomed Him carrying palm leaves and olive branches, shouting "Hosanna", and they threw their cloaks on the ground in front of him! They chanted, “Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Mt 21:9). (For those who haven't studied the Bible: the reference, "Son of David", doesn't mean that Jesus is the son of David, but, by saying 'Son of David', it's relating to the genealogy of Jesus, showing that jesus is a descendant of King David! Jesus was born around 1000 years after King David! But the genealogy is given differently by Matthew and Luke: Matthew gives three sets of 14 generations(42 generations) starting with Abraham, to focus that jesus was the 'Messiah'! But Luke starts with Adam, 76 generations, focusing that Jesus was the 'Saviour of the world'! But Luke starts with Adam, 76 generations, focusing that Jesus was the 'Saviour of the world', and both gospels differing in the details from King David to Jesus also!)

'Palm Sunday', or 'Hosanna Sunday', as we say in Kerala, is always the beginning of a big celebration, and I remember how excited we were as children! During the Church Service on Palm Sunday, each of us took basket full of flowers and every time the word, 'Hosanna' was chanted we threw flowers to show reverence! It was a big thing for us as kids, to wake up early in the morning to hunt for flowers, from our own courtyard and those of the neighbours, and we didn't stop at anything – beg, borrow, steal -- and the neighbours didn't mind just because it was 'Hosanna Sunday'! I remember each of us competing as to who collects more flowers! But things gradually changed as we grew older, handing over the baton to the young ones! But amidst all this, none of us forgot the importance and reverence of the day, as the 'Start of the 'Holy week'! Those who followed the Lent (50 days in India, starting from the Sunday before the Shrove Tuesday, while it is 40 days elsewhere in the world, starting from 'Ash Wednesday', which is the day after 'Shrove Tuesday' and Sundays are excluded), it was 50 days without meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, etc, but now there are days when the rules are relaxed, but some of us still follow the strict regime, but again, it is what one believes and not for show!


Jesus travelled from the small village of Bethany to Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, and for the people, it was the triumphant procession of their 'King' on to the big City of Jerusalem and the Church! 'Hosanna' is the Hebrew equivalent of 'Hoshianna', which was a 'Cry in distress or a Prayer for Deliverance'. But the meaning has evolved over the years and now it generally is a 'Cry of jubilation and a Spiritual Acclamation of God'! There are special 'Evening Prayers' in churches during the Holy week and then the 'Day of Humility' on 'Maundy Thursday' (In UK, the Queen gives out the specially made 'Maundy' money on this day to pensioners, 88 pence this year, matching her age).Then the holiest day, 'Good Friday', the day of 'Crucifixion' and then of course, the expectant wait for the jubilant 'Resurrection' of Jesus on 'Easter Sunday'!

And to those of us who have been following the Lent, since the 'Shrove Tuesday' would have another reason for the excitement -- the celebratory Lunch on Easter Sunday with everything they have forsaken during the Lent! But it is also a day of new beginning with the firm pledge to help fellow beings, especially women and children and the elderly in our society, and to protect our planet. We must also learn to respect those, whose views are different from our own for a better new world, just as the start of the new era, all those years ago! “Hosanna to the son of David; Hosanna in the highest”

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