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Description and comparative analysis of the celebrations of different religions and confessions


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Easter celebrates the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament of the Bible, the event is said to have occurred three days after Jesus was crucified by the Romans and died in roughly 30 A.D. The holiday concludes the “Passion of Christ,” a series of events and holidays that begins with Lent—a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and sacrifice—and ends with Holy Week, which includes Holy Thursday (the celebration of Jesus’ Last Supper with his 12 Apostles), Good Friday (on which Jesus’ crucifixion is observed), and Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday and related celebrations, such as Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday, are considered “moveable feasts,”: Easter can fall on a Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th.

Easter is preceded by a week (called holy week) in which the facts concerning the passion and death on Christ's cross, his burial and the resurrection from the dead are commented; Thursday, Friday and Saturday constitute the sacred triduum. On the evening of Holy Saturday, during the great vigil, gradually one passes from mourning to the joy of the resurrection, recalled - after the baptism of the catechumens and numerous readings, songs and prayers - with the solemn Mass towards the dawn of Sunday, the Easter properly said, which intends to celebrate with the greatest solemnity the resurrection of Christ, the summit of his work of redemption.

The main Easter symbol is the cross, which recalls the death of Jesus and his resurrection. Since ancient times the cross has been adopted by Christians also as a gesture (the "sign of the cross"), which is obtained by touching the forehead with the three fingers, the navel and then, one after the other, the two shoulders. Other symbols are: the Alpha and Omega (Δ Ώ), the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, letters referring to Jesus, the beginning and end of the story, according to the Bible; the lamb because Jesus is the Lamb of God who offers his life for the salvation of humanity; the dove and the olive tree, symbols of peace that recall the episode of the universal flood described in Genesis and the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when the crowd welcomed him joyfully; the egg that represents the birth of a new life.

Christians, by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ - the spotless lamb that offered himself so that men may have life and have it in abundance - have been redeemed to welcome the proposal of the God of Jesus and transform the rite into a genuine choice life, and not simply repeating gestures far from the reality of everyday life. Celebrating Easter means, for the faithful, believing that there is no human reality, however ugly and terrible, alien to the possibility of salvation; it means continually renewing oneself in justice by taking on the sentiments of Christ: mercy, goodness, humility, meekness, patience. The main sacred texts of reference are the stories of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus contained in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

GIOVANNI BELLINI, Resurrection of Christ, 1475-1479, Gemäldegalirie, Berlin. Three women approach the tomb from the background. One of them, Mary Magdalene, is dressed in white. They intend to anoint Christ's body. But the door is already open, and Christ floats above the world. Two soldiers look up in amazement. A third soldier is still sleeping. In this painting the artist follows Northern currents in his scrutiny of nature. Mystical yet realistic, his combination of faith and focus gives the painting a singularly convincing quality, its theme of resurrection a comforting one for the painting's funerary setting.

SAFET ZEC, The deposition of the body of the Lord from the cross, 2014, Chapel of the Passion, in the Church of the Jesus, Rome.The artist presents the deposition of Christ as an embrace. His hands that had washed the disciples’ feet, broken the bread at their last meal together, his arms on the cross that had been spread out in a painful and loving abbracio: now his disciples embracing his dead body and bringing it ‘down to earth’ from this wooden frame.

MICHELANGELO MERISI DA CARAVAGGIO The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1601-1602, Sanssouci, Potsdam. The drama of disbelief seems to have touched Caravaggio personally. Few of his paintings are physically so shocking - his Thomas pushes curiosity to its limits before he will say, 'My Lord and my God.' The classical composition carefully unites the four heads in the quest for truth. Christ's head is largely in shadow, as He is the person who is the least knowable. He also has a beauty that had not been evident in the Mattei paintings of His arrest and appearance at Emmaus. Interesting is the use of light, which streams into the image from the left hand side. Jesus is bathed in light and his white skin and robes also make his stand out. Thomas position in the canvas is reinforced by his red clothing and the light shining on it.

GEORGES ROUAULT, Christ on the Cross, 1936. In this lucid image John and the two Marys no longer cry out, rather they seem to be worshiping—they kneel or look up at the drama unfolding. And, typically, the hope they feel is reflected in the orange-yellow sky behind the cross. In this as in other prints, Rouault seeks, as he says, \“a plastic transcription of his emotions.\” His religious vision of human suffering led him to his dramatic style of light and shadows, and to his vivid colors. His style developed in pursuit of this spiritual vision.

MASACCIO, The Holy Trinity or Throne of grace,1426-1428, Santa Maria Novella Church, Florence.The Holy Trinity is located in the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella, in Florence. To create a sense of depth and space, Masaccio uses linear perspective with a vanishing point, chiaroscuro, foreshortening and directional light. This was all new at the time. The figures are life-size, emotional, and so realistic they look sculpted. Jesus is especially realistic looking, with his body affected by gravity. In the lower part of the fresco is located a skeleton on an open tomb. Painted to look carved in the stone is written «io fu’ già quel che voi sete, e quel ch’i’ son voi anco sarete» –I was what you are and you will be what I am. This is a Memento Mori, a reminder of our death.Thanks to the use of perspective, the believer who observes the fresco is "really" in front of Christ, who makes himself present with his body. This use of perspective reveals that the Trinity belongs to the world. That event did not happen only centuries before, but it is happening hic et nunc, it continues today in the life of the faithful who can thus find themselves before the Father, the Son and the Spirit, so that his life can be transformed, vivified.


The Easter Triduum – Easter. Father Robert Gendreau explains the Easter Triduum and the Easter celebration in a short videos.

The Easter Triduum and Easter. This episode of Reason for the Season focuses on the Triduum, from Holy Thursday till the Easter Vigil. It explains why and what we celebrate during this highlight of the liturgical year.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.