Holy Week is the most eventful time in most churches. To many Christians, it is the time to commemorate Christ’s final days and passion. It is the period where many people seek for forgiveness, repentance, and a new life. However, shouldn’t also this be the moment to seek for the TRUTH?
The observance of Holy Week has been rooted around the Second Century. In the writing of Dionysius of Alexandria, in his Letter to Basiliades around 260, offers the earliest source for an early ritual of Holy Week. Dionysius spent much time and effort in linking each day and hour of Holy Week to events in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. During the Fourth Century, innovation came from Jerusalem through Egeria, a pilgrim from Spain. She described every Holy Week rite in full detail in her diary. Her record shows close proximity of the actual sites where the events of our Lord’s passion took place, and the entry of pilgrims, which suggested visiting and venerating at those locations. This seems like the earliest record of the Station of the Cross?
The historicizing and emotional tendencies that began in the fourth century has been a trend that’s been within the Church until now. Even the Orthodox Church has been influenced by humanistic movements in the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches, particularly focusing on the dramatic responses of "feeling" in the faithful. Thus, the abundance of cenakulo, pilgrimage, and penetencia during the holy week.
The highlight of Holy week is the Easter - the celebration of Christ's resurrection. It is the queen of all the Christian holy days. The word "Easter," which is Eostre in Northumbrian Old English or Ostara in German is a goddess in Germanic paganism. This word refers to the direction from which the sun rises. In other words, it refers to the celebration of the spring sun. Easter is a celebration for the sun? This is not surprising since many pagan Babylonian practices were blended in the Christian worship from the time Constantine became emperor. In the 19th century book called Two Babylons or the Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and his Wife by Bishop Alexander Hislop shows that every little aspect of Roman Catholicism is actually derived from Babylonian Baal worship.
How about the Easter eggs and bunnies? Well, they are not actually Biblical symbols, but rather fertility symbols. Those customs arrived in America through German immigrants.
Why are many Christian traditions cluttered with cultural baggage? As a Christian, this query is daunting. All these innovations and reformations suggest that Holy week and Easter are not Biblical. If so, then what is in the Bible?
There are no records of Holy Week or Easter, both in the Old and New Testament. However, God repeatedly command His people to celebrate the Passover. What is the Passover?
The book of Exodus tells the story of how God freed the Israelites from captivity of Egypt. At that time, the pharaoh didn’t want to release the Israelites since they are Egypt’s main workforce, so God inflict Ten Plagues to the land, the last being the plague of the firstborn. To save the children of God from the last plague, God commanded to celebrate the Passover. The Israelites were instructed to slaughter the Passover lamb and put its blood on the top and sides of the door frames, and to roast its meat over the fire and eat. “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance,” as written in Exodus 12:12-14.
In the New Testament, it iswho commanded His disciples to celebrate the Passover for their forgiveness of sins. The book of Matthew in chapter 26 states, “He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house. So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.” But instead of slaughtering a lamb, the disciples prepared the Passover bread and wine, which represents Jesus’ flesh and blood. Why not slaughter a lamb? It is because Jesus is the Lamb of God – the reality of the Passover lamb.
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
However, the Passover was abolished in 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea where Constantine gathered bishops from different churches to resolve the issue of a common celebration of Easter. This is because many local churches celebrated it on a Sunday while some churches in Asia Minor celebrated Passover in the Jewish manner, on the first Full Moon of spring, regardless of the day of the week.
The Council of Nicaea resolved this issue by establishing a common Sunday celebration of Easter, which was agreed upon by Eastern Churches.
As Christians today, what should we do? Should we hold on to traditions? Or should we follow the teachings of God based from the Bible? You decide... After all, it’s for your salvation.