A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths

Mahavir Swami Jayanti. Jain celebration of c599 BCE birth of Lord Mahavira (Vardhamana), an older contemporary of Gautama Buddha and the 24th and last Tirthankara (ford-maker, great sage) to appear as a saviour, model for about 6 million Jainas who follow a path of non-violence towards all living beings, key prophet of the Jain faith, great spiritual teacher of the Dharma (righteous path) and creator of a tirtha fordable passage across the sea of interminable births and deaths, the saṃsāra. For over a decade, Vardhamana was a wandering ascetic begging for food and wearing little, but he found enlightenment, became a Tirthankara and taught for 30 years before his death. On the 13th day of the waxing (rising) half of Hindu lunar month of Caitra, this is one of the most significant festivals for the Jain community, when the birth and the events surrounding it are re-enacted with a fast and monks or nuns reading from the scriptures and teaching about Mahavira’s life before lay believers normally return to their homes for a celebratory feast. Observed in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. Image: officeholidays.com.

Palm Sunday (Flowery, Willow Sunday). One of the Eastern Orthodox 12 Great Feasts, recreating the triumphal Entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, after His raising of Lazarus from the dead. People tossed palm fronds in His path and hailed Him as the Messiah. Adherents from the about 300,000 Orthodox Christians of the world’s over 2 billion Christians celebrate with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom preceded by Matins and Great Vespers, conducted on the Saturday evening. In addition to the Sunday Divine Liturgy, there is at Matins the Blessing and Distribution of the Palms, woven palm crosses or pussy-willow, from a basket placed in front of the icon of the Lord. Everyone stands holding palms and lighted candles during the important moments of the service. This day marks the start of Holy Week, which shadows the last week of Christ’s life before His death and Resurrection and leads up to the Feast of Great and Holy Pascha (Easter). Fasting is changed due to the triumphal nature of Palm Sunday and the eating of any fish, with wine and oil, is permitted. Whereas the Western Christian Church uses the Gregorian calendar for this lunar date and so celebrated Palm Sunday on 28 March, the Eastern Orthodox Church uses the earlier Julian calendar for the Greek or Orthodox date, which is 4 weeks later this year, although the difference between the 2 solar calendars is only 13 days this century. The difference will be a more normal 1 week in 2022 and 2023, a maximum 5 weeks in 2024 and the dates will coincide in 2025, although in future centuries this will become less and less common and from 2700 they will never coincide again. Image: taylormarshall.com.

Prayer The Son and Word of the Father, like Him without beginning and eternal, has come today to the city of Jerusalem, seated on a dumb beast. From fear, the Cherubim dare not gaze upon Him yet the children honoured Him with palms and branches and mystically they sang a hymn of praise: ‘Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to the Son of David, Who has come to save from error all mankind.’ Amen

Rogation Day. In the calendar of the Western Church, the 590 Major Rogation (Greater Litanies) coincides with St Mark’s Day and the Lutheran Lesser Festival for St Mark the Evangelist, which is transferred to the following Tuesday if it falls on Easter. One of 4 traditional days normally set apart for solemn processions to invoke God’s mercy, the others being the Monday to Wednesday preceding Ascension Thursday, the 470 Minor Rogations (Lesser Litanies). These are Movable Feasts for praying and fasting with the Litany of the Saints. Rogation is from the Latin rogare (to ask) and reflects the beseeching of God for the appeasement of his anger and for protection from calamities. Rogation Days in the 1st half of the 1st millennium were associated with litanies for crops (long series of prayers of intercession and praise). The Anglo-Saxon Beating the Bounds of the parish processions reinforced parish boundaries when there were few maps. Rogation processions continued in the post-Reformation Church of England, although Roman Catholic imagery and icons were banned. Public rights of way were protected and thanks were given for the harvest, with clerics reminding their congregations of the curses the Bible ascribed to those who violated agricultural boundaries. After the 1960s Second Vatican Council, Rogation Days and the quarterly Ember Days were no longer fixed in the Church Calendar. Image: newliturgicalmovement.org.