In the Eastern churches, the above three events are celebrated at
Christmas. The name Christmas is derived from Old English and refers to
Lent is the 40-day penitential period of fasting in preparation for Easter
commonly observed by many Christian denominations. In the West, because
fasting was not observed on Sunday, the 6 weeks of Lent (42 days) contained
only 36 fast days. Because of this circumstance, an additional 4 days were
included before the first Sunday of Lent. Lent commences in the West on
Ash Wednesday. In the East, where fasting is forbidden on both Saturday
and Sunday, Lent lasts for 8 weeks before Easter, beginning on Monday.
Palm Sunday, the last Sunday in Lent, marks the beginning of Holy Week.
The three leading themes of Lenten Liturgy commonly in use are
Baptism, Penance, and the Passion of Christ. All are very ancient. In the
early Christian era, Lent prepared Christian novices for the solemn baptism
of Easter night.
The same themes and practices are found in the Easter liturgies of the
Eastern churches. The Anglican (Episcopal) Book of Common Prayer also
prescribes the observance of Lent with fasting.
Within Christianity, Easter celebrates the death, resurrection, and
ascension of Jesus Christ. Easter is a movable feast and falls within a 35-day
period between March 22 and April 25. The date of the Easter celebration
among Eastern Orthodox churches may vary from that used among the
In the early Christian era, Easter was the day for the solemn baptism of
the catechumens. They were instructed in the fundamentals of the Christian
faith during the period we now know as Lent.
THE EASTER VIGIL AND EASTER SERVICES.Among Roman
Catholics, the Easter Vigil generally starts about 10 p.m. the night before
Easter in order that the Easter Mass may begin at midnight. This vigil may
consist of the blessing of the new fire; the lighting of the Paschal candle; a
service of lessons, called the prophecies; blessing of the baptismal font
followed by baptisms; and then the Mass of Easter.
Among the Greek and Russian Orthodox, the Vigil service is preceded by
a procession outside the church symbolizing the search for Jesus Christ. The
joyous announcement of Christ is risen is followed by the Easter
Eucharist. When the procession leaves the church there are no lights
anywhere, but on its return, hundreds of candles and colored lamps are
lighted to show the splendor of Christs Resurrection.
Within the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, special anthems are used
at Matins. Lutheran and other hymn books contain orders of service for use
at Easter. The Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland includes
prayers for Easter and the Divine Worship of Methodists has an optional
order of worship for Easter morning services.