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Easter, Passover celebrate basic message of freedom from bondage

Published: Saturday, April 7 2012 1:06 p.m. MDT

Easter traditions

President Obama, a professed Christian, has also sponsored an annual pre-Easter prayer breakfast at the White House for religious leaders the past three years. www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_20323595/obama-easter-story-helps-him-troubled-times This year's breakfast was held Wednesday, during which he said tht the Easter story of Christ's agony and resurrection has helped him get through the tough moments of his presidency.

Like Jews, Christians vary in their observance of various Easter-related customs. While most Christian denominations celebrate Easter Sunday as a way of honoring Jesus' victory over death and sin, they don't all celebrate the other elements of Holy Week.

In some Christian churches, for example, Palm Sunday services acknowledge Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem by carrying large palm branches in processions. Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, rarely mention Palm Sunday in their services.

Similarly, there is no Mormon observance of Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter which is remembered by other Christian congregations as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus ceremoniously washed the feet of his apostles and established the communion, Eucharist or sacrament ceremony. In Roman Catholic churches, priests wash the feet of 12 people and consecrate the ceremonial oil that will be used throughout the coming year.

Good Friday is observed in many Christian churches on the Friday before Easter. This day commemorates the day upon which Jesus was crucified. This is a day of mourning, and meditation on Jesus' suffering and death.

Some denominations observe an Easter vigil on the night of Holy Saturday, waiting and watching in faith for Christ's conquest of death and sin. In some churches, a pure white Paschal candle is lit to "help make our darkness light."

Easter morning is the most Christian of holidays, joyfully observed throughout the Christian world with special services, prayers, sermons, presentations and songs declaring that "death is conquered, man is free, Christ has won the victory."

That message — that a victory has been won, therefore man is free — isn't really all that different from the central messages of Passover, Rabbi Hirschfield said.

"To teach people that death itself can be conquered is to teach them that the constraints they assume, that the circumstances which limit them and keep them from being free — they can all be overcome," he said. "While we differ as Jews and Christians about the historic claim of the cross, we are both products of teachers who lived and died around the message that no matter what the world does to us or tells us, we are free to make a difference, and that eventually that difference will transform the world."

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews.com

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