By Kingsley Ugwu
The 40- days journey of Lent comes to the ultimate point as Christians across the world entered Holy Week on Monday; transiting in just 24 hours from Palm Sunday, which marked the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. Some remarkable things that distinguish the Palm Sunday were not in any short supplies as palm-fronds found their way into churches plentifully, particularly, the Catholic Church with chants of ‘Hossana In The Highest’ and other exalting songs reaching their peaks during procession.
Contrastingly, in 24-hours, the triumphant songs of ‘Hosanna In The Highest’’ changed to a dirge-filled-solemnity of hope bonded in supreme sacrifice, Hence, activities in churches got laden with mournful disposition- as faithful reminisce with heavy and troubled spirits, the Passion of Christ, but not without great hopes. For them, whatever trouble that comes their way is a welcome pain – ‘It Is Well.’
Traditionally in the Catholic faith, Lent evokes a period of suffering, deep reflections on life lived in sin and need for retreat, hence, renewed devotion to prayer, fast and almsgiving. The feast of Easter which takes off from lent did not start today. Historians believe it originated from pagan feast of Passover with the word Easter traceable to the Saxons’ Eastra -the Spring goddess that was offered sacrifices of Passover in first Century AD.
But Bible account explicitly, narrated the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the link between the birth, the death which highlights the passion and crucifixion, and ultimately, the Resurrection; development which the Christians adopted in the Eight Century as a feast in the Christian order. Attribution of Easter origin to pagan feast remains debatable as no particular pagan tradition has been established to give birth to the feast.
Hence, the New Testament approach which describes Jesus as the sacrifice itself, the lamb who takes away the sins of the world, bringing to an end offering of bulls and other animals’ blood for remission of sins remains a plausible and preferred option to Christians till today. Consequently, the Easter feast does not take off spontaneously in the Christian order, but builds on the solemnity that gives the event its uniqueness.
The Catholic faith manifests this solemn moment in unique ways and stages differently from some other faith-based organisations. This is evidently manifested in the devotion and overwhelming spirituality expressed in 14 Stations of the Cross exercised during the period.
Today marks the Holy Thursday and the beginning of the Triduum -three days in the Holy Week preceding the Resurrection. Arguably, some schools of thought had posited that deep in the essence of Easter is the realisation that without crucifixion the Christian faith embodied in Resurrection appears vane and nullity. Sunday, April 17, 2022 marks the 2022 Easter celebration; expectedly, A-L-E-L-U-Y-A-Y takes the central stage in the euphoria of the moment.
In St Anthony of Padua Parish, Nkpor- Junction, Idemili North Local Government Area, the solemnity of Paschal Triduum was not without its beehives. Highlights of Holy Thursday’s activities include, the washing of feet of some faithful. This reminds all people of the servant-leadership Christ’s kingship conjures. Arguably, Nigeria’s religious extremism is not hidden. Therefore, high expectations of Christians to put into practice this servant-leadership principle into both their religious and secular lives are not out of place.
Shockingly, on very rare occasions had Nigeria come across personalities that truly fit into this servant- leadership call, especially, at the leadership level.
The question whether the ‘religion’ Nigeria’s faithful profess is detached from their real life keeps engaging the mind. Despite the foregoing, the seeming sham exhibited by Nigerians and their ilk, it cannot and will not reduce the universal significance of the event for any reason.
The demands of the time (Lent cum Easter) will continue to agitate the consciousness of believers until they willingly embrace the principle. Thus, as faithful file-out to kiss the cross in line with the tradition of Holy Thursday’s Catholic events, attention is drawn to the essence of the practice. Apparently, the flame and culture of love flowing beyond bothers as exemplified by the crucified Jesus and amplified in the doctrine of His followers come to the fore.
The Biblical account of Jesus as recorded in Luke 23: 33 -34 disclosed how Jesus despite spiteful treatments of the Jews, still saw through His pains to ask God for forgiveness on their behalf, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” vividly captures the kernel in the amazing action. Juxtaposing the scenario with the trend of evangelism sweeping across the country, it is expected that Nigerians should not only tolerate each other but be truly brother’s keeper to each other.
A religious, Paschal Omife believes there is cause for serious concern, given the level of fanaticism and social vice running concurrently in the system. The spate of distrust, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and ritual killing obtainable in the country contradicts the wave of spirituality that should be attached to the current event.
It is possible for Easter indulgence to trigger a turn-around from the level of drift the country is steeped in, but it will take commitment, especially, from the faithful-fold to blend messages with actions that can bring seemless positive change. Nigerians need positive attitude and marching out fresh from the penitence of Lent can spur the much needed threshold.