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On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, at least 72 Christians met their death whilst celebrating Easter in a park in Lahore, Pakistan.
The suicide attack also injured 340 people.
Mohammad Usman, a local official, explained:
The attacker was able to enter the park and blow himself up in the children’s play area, near the swings.
An emergency services manager described the death toll as follows: 29 children, seven women and 36 men.
Police chief Haider Ashraf said that the explosives used were particularly powerful. However, he maintained that the majority of the victims were Muslim, not Christian.
Yet, an extremist group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsiblity for the attack. Their statement said that:
Christians were the target.
Christians comprise a tiny two per cent of Pakistan’s population.
The group also warned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that they would be in Lahore to stay and there wasn’t anything that he could do about it.
Elsewhere in Pakistan that day, violence broke out in Islamabad and Rawalpindi against the execution of radical Mumtaz Qadri on February 29, for the assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab.
Le Monde‘s readers had several pointed reactions to this story. Essentially, when this happens in the West, it is all our fault. We aren’t accepting enough. We are inherently racist.
One woman wrote that when she commented on the Christian-friendly Glaswegian Muslim who was killed on Maundy Thursday saying he was one of us, other readers told her she:
was being prejudiced …
Several readers took issue with sociologists who have all sorts of theories on Islamist attacks with one thing in common — Westerners are to blame when they happen in our countries. Three excerpts:
Sociologists are bombarding us unscrupulously with unfounded theories. They don’t have the necessary tools to tackle this issue which is outside the realm of their competence.
An Italian comedian has a sketch making fun of sociologists’ incompetence: ‘I had no desire to work, so I became a sociologist’. Harsh but true.
You misunderstand … Sociologists (well, some sociologists) have an explanation for jihad in France. But it’s not the same reason for jihad in Pakistan. When one theory does not hold true, they invent another. But that one won’t be true for Boko Haram, nor explain the support from some rich Saudis for jihadists. Never mind, here’s a third explanation and a fourth. Is this how science works?
We are living with extremism, pure and simple. Whether in Pakistan, Africa, Europe or the United States, the one thing these attacks have in common is maiming and death for people who are trying to mind their own business or for those, such as the aforementioned Salman Taseer, who are trying to bring their societies into the 21st century.
We can continue to be as accepting and welcoming as we like. It will not make a difference to those who wish to attack us and our values. So, there is no need for soul-searching, asking ourselves whether we are doing enough. We are.
Pope Francis displays a remarkably consistent disparagement of Western Christians.
Again and again, he tells them how lacking they are in charity and compassion.
Year after year, he refuses to acknowledge them even on Maundy Thursday, one of the holiest and most solemn days of the Church calendar. Instead, he goes to wash the feet of non-Christians who have no cognisance of Christ’s reasons for washing those of His apostles. This happened again on March 24, 2016. At least there were some Christians, including Copts, in that group, which is an improvement on his first year when all nearly all were Muslim prison inmates. The Christian prisoner had to explain to them what was happening. The others giggled.
His Urbi et Orbi speeches pursue the same theme. Westerners are bad people, caring nothing for anyone but themselves. On Easter Day, March 27, 2016, he once again told them to take in more refugees and migrants. After all, they, too, are only looking for a better life:
The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity, echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice. All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance.
Le Monde‘s readers gave him short shrift indeed, and rightly so. Excerpts of their comments follow, translation mine:
Never has Europe taken in so many migrants as in the past few decades … For a long time now the overriding narrative has been that this is a ‘chance for France and for Europe’; today with the decline and serious problems linked to this evolution, the majority of people no longer believe it and will tune it out whether it comes from the EU or the Pope.
The Pope is aware that Europe is becoming areligious … The Vatican insists that Islam be present everywhere and supported by public powers … Religions have become interdependent on one another for their long-term survival, regardless of their compatibility.
The Pope’s position on migrants seems absurd: never has Europe been so open and seen its population change at such high speed. It would be better to appeal for aid in situ, in refugee camps … But the Church, in its historic global collaboration with the system must support the basic interests of the globalist oligarchy.
It’s staggering that the Pope advocates breaking the law: illegal immigration. Yet, would one expect anything less from him?
The Sunday after Easter is of historical importance to the Church. Find out more about the newly baptised and the old Latin liturgy which gave rise to its old name of Quasimodo Sunday.
This is also the Sunday when the gospel reading concerns the apostle Thomas’s encounter with Jesus one week after He rose from the dead:
Forbidden Bible Verses returns next week.
The Cineworld site describes Risen‘s plot as follows:
Peter Firth stars as Pontius Pilate in this unofficial follow-up to The Passion of the Christ.
In 33AD, Christ has already resurrected from his death on the crucifix. Now, in order to quell an imminent uprising, a member of the Roman army, Clavius, is charged by Roman prefect Pontius Pilate to locate the missing body of Jesus. It is Pilate’s job to not only locate the corpse of Christ but to arrest those disciples who snatched his body. The mission becomes a learning experience for Pilate as his discovers who Jesus really was… Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld) returns to the director’s chair after an absence of ten years with this unique take on the Greatest Story Ever Told.
Spooks star Peter Firth takes on the role of Pontius Pilate, with Tom Felton (Harry Potter) as Lucius and Joseph Fiennes as Clavius.
The review I read said the film had:
nothing of interest to secularists.
That’s a good sign, indicating that the story is respectfully told. The reviewer gave it two stars.
So did The Guardian. That said, you find out more about the story and the implications of Christ’s resurrection on the political and religious establishments.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
A very good film – not Hollywoodish at all – the actor who played Jesus (actually a Maori New Zealander) didn’t even have to say much to get his heart across. Moving and memorable. I’m ready to see it again.
The trailer, at any rate, looks excellent:
It is only showing in a handful of British cinemas, and none is near where I live. All being well, it will be shown on television at some point.
If anyone reading this has seen it, please do feel free to comment below.
As we are in Easter Week, recalling in joyful hope Christ’s rising from the dead, let’s remember Resurrection theology, which keeps our minds on eternal life.
Most of the following posts excerpt the sermons of Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries. He is a proponent of exploring the deeper meaning of the Resurrection and asking how we view it in our lives as Christians.
May you find these sermons and reflections uplifting in your Christian journey!
Please read it in full. Excerpts follow below.
(Image credit: Padre Steve)
The text is Mark 16:1-8 (KJV):
Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Emphases in bold mine below, apart from the Scripture verses and title.
The Lesson Where Jesus Is Absent
KJV Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
This Gospel lesson is so important in considering the meaning of the empty tomb. Instead of featuring Jesus, His works and statements, this lesson emphasizes the absence of Jesus, because the women went to honor His body and He was not there to be honored. This is the only Gospel lesson I can recall where Jesus is absent.
For that reason, we should consider all that we do and think, because we carry so many burdens, like the women carrying their spices. That was a burden, as everyone knows who has trudged along, carrying one thing or another. Yesterday I needed to take a bag of rocks and a large bag of birdseed to the backyard, from the truck of the car. The first thing I thought of was – how can I make this easier? I used the two garbage cans on wheels as my wheelbarrow, and lightened the burden.
Imagine that over a long distance and wondering too, how will I manage to get this burden inside, since the tomb is sealed? And yet all that work, anxiety, and labor, though filled with good intentions, meant nothing.
This lesson teaches us that the Gospel message itself is everything, not our works, merit, not even what our anxieties, concerns, and sins are that we drag along with us.
2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
Their conflict came from the issue of the tomb itself. As most graphics show, the door was not an enormous round boulder, which would be extremely difficult for a group of men to move, but a stone lid that rolled in a groove. The lid could be shoved to the side in that groove, or even flattened to the ground, by several men. Unless the women were EMT bodybuilders, the shoulder strength required was entirely lacking for the very job they came to do. But in faith they busied themselves with the job anyway and arrived early.
So it was that the Jewish traditions and the timing of the crucifixion coincided to make them the first witnesses of the empty tomb, so that nothingness became the most important visible symbol of the resurrection of Christ.
3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
The question they finally asked is one that continues to bedevil our rationalistic society. They assumed Jesus was dead and sealed in His tomb. For many people today, that is their estimation of the Bible and the Christian Faith. That is probably the most significant question to ask an ordained pastor or theologian. “Did Jesus rise bodily from the dead?” One must qualify rise because some would say yes, meaning in a spiritual or mythological sense. I asked a future Unitarian minister that question, plus the Virgin birth, and she said, “Those are not important questions to ask.” The same response came from ELCA seminaries when I wrote to them to ask if anyone on their faculty taught the actual bodily resurrection of Christ and the Virgin Birth. One seminary (out of nine) said that yes, one faculty member published that the resurrection of Christ “probably happened.” That seminary is now merging into a college because of its financial and enrollment problems (Berkeley) …
It is not surprising that Christians have problems finding a good church. A few of my readers are in that situation. Some like to talk to the clergy before they become members. Dr Jackson’s question is an excellent one for them to ask:
Did Jesus rise bodily from the dead?
The answer could determine whether they join or keep searching for another congregation.
I also liked Dr Jackson’s exploration of burdens, which often overcome us in our daily lives. We can take an example from these women who had sustaining faith. Even faced with the weighty obstacle of moving the stone to the tomb:
in faith they busied themselves with the job anyway …
Dr Jackson offers this gem of wisdom:
Luther says in one of his Easter sermons that God salts and stretches our hides so we will pay attention to His Word. Our external and internal sufferings remind us of our need for comfort in the Gospel.
A lot of Christians in the West are suffering physically or mentally. It is interesting to note from the blogosphere that, among them, those who read the Bible, pray a lot and worship regularly are coping with their trials better than those who refuse to read the New Testament, also eschewing church and prayer.
How can we have more faith if we do not pray for more grace? How can we find comfort, if we do not read and reread the Gospel message?
Eastertide is a time of renewed hope and new life. May we use this time to increase our faith through divine grace.
American readers will know that Andrew Napolitano is Fox News Channel’s Senior Judicial Analyst. Prior to that he served a distinguished eight-year term as Judge of the New Jersey Superior Court and pursued a writing, teaching and television career.
Last week, he wrote a thoughtful article on the meaning of Easter for Fox. He explains the meaning of the events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter with concise clarity. Parents, Sunday School teachers and anyone working with converts may find the following excerpts useful. Emphases mine below:
On the first Holy Thursday, Jesus attended a traditional Jewish Passover Seder. Catholics believe that at His last supper, Jesus performed two miracles so that we could stay united to Him. He transformed ordinary bread and wine into His own body, blood, soul and divinity, and He empowered His disciples and their successors to do the same.
On the first Good Friday, the government executed Jesus because it was convinced that by claiming to be the Son of God, He might foment a revolution against it. He did foment a revolution, but it was in the hearts of men and women. The Roman government had not heard of a revolution of the heart, so it condemned Him to death by crucifixion.
Jesus had the freedom to reject this horrific event, but He exercised His free will so that we might know the truth. The truth is that He would rise from the dead.
On Easter, three days after He died, that manifestation was completed when He did rise from the dead. By doing that, He demonstrated to us that while living, we can liberate our souls from the slavery of sin … and after death, we can rise to be with Him.
Easter — which manifests our own immortality — is the linchpin of human existence. With it, life is worth living, no matter its costs or pains. Without it, life is meaningless, no matter its fleeting joys or triumphs. Easter has a meaning that is both incomprehensible and simple. It is incomprehensible that a human being had the freedom to rise from the dead. It is simple because that human being was and is God.
Jesus is the hypostatic union — not half God and half man and not just a godly good man but truly and fully God and, at the same time, truly and fully man …
What does Easter mean? Easter means that there’s hope for the dead. If there’s hope for the dead, there’s hope for the living …
The last three paragraphs really express the meaning of Easter. I spent a goodly amount of time yesterday — Easter Day — giving thanks for our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection in hope and peace. It was a beautiful day in every way.
As we are in Easter Week, may we continue to reflect on the meaning of hope and salvation through Christ Jesus.
I hope that those who have Easter Monday as a holiday are enjoying it! We in Britain are.
Yesterday’s post had as a source a sermon by John MacArthur about Acts 10:34-43.
‘The Why, Who and How of the Resurrection’, which he gave in 1996, begins with a summary of articles about Jesus which appeared in Easter editions of Time, Newsweek and US News and World Report.
I won’t go into their vile, false stories, which you can read for yourselves in the sermon.
This is MacArthur’s explanation for such falsehoods (emphases mine):
… they do not like the Jesus of the New Testament because He confronts their sin and He threatens judgment. And consequently, they, wanting to hold to their sin, invent a Jesus more to their liking.
A lot of Christians — especially clergy — do this, too. We have liberation theologians, social gospel proponents and others who say that Jesus came to change the temporal world.
As MacArthur points out:
The historical Jesus reached a living end and because He lives we can live also and escape hell with our sins forgiven. The only thing that sends sinners to hell is their sins and God says I’ll forgive them if you’ll believe in Jesus Christ. What a gift.
I’ll tell you one thing, if you miss the real Jesus and His salvation, life will be a dead end.
It will indeed.
I hope and pray that we remember Christ’s resurrection from the dead not only at Easter but every day with thanks to God.
Happy Easter to all my readers!
He is risen!
Those who would like more information about the significance of Easter might find the following posts helpful:
The significance of Easter to the Church (various questions answered)
Easter, the egg and the hare (one of the fullest accounts about Easter symbolism)
Mary Magdalene and the legend of the egg (Christian — not pagan!)
One of the suggested epistles for Easter in Year C of the three-year Lectionary, which Catholics and mainline Protestants use, is Acts 10:34-43:
10:34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.
10:37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:
10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
10:39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;
10:40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,
10:41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Before discussing this reading, may I recommend the Book of Acts to those who have not yet read it. It features miracles, conversions, martyrdom and persecution. It is the story of the earliest days of the Church. The miracles and conversions the apostles wrought helped the Church to greatly expand. It is a blessing to us that they are recorded in Acts.
I mention that, because one year in Catholic school we read the epistles in Friday’s religion classes for the upcoming Sundays. I found Acts incredibly perplexing and somewhat boring. Everything we read seemed out of context to me. Decades later, I think there are possibly two reasons for this: one, the nun did not explain the background to what we were going to read and, two, the awe-inspiring verses, which I didn’t know about at the time, were never in the epistle readings.
Therefore, putting Acts 10 into context will demonstrate why it is a must read.
Acts 10 tells the story of Cornelius, a pagan Roman centurion who nonetheless had a deep awe of God. Cornelius was so devout — yet still unsaved — that he used to give alms to the Jews. One morning, an angel appeared and told him that God had accepted his offerings and prayers. Cornelius addressed the angel as ‘Lord’. The angel instructed Cornelius to send men to Joppa to find the apostle Peter and bring him to the centurion’s home.
Meanwhile, back in Joppa, Peter was deep in prayer and very hungry. Whilst his meal was being prepared, he had a vision of a huge sheet coming down from the sky with all manner of animals, including birds, descending to earth. He heard a voice say, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat’ (verse 13). Peter answered, ‘By no means, Lord’, insisting he could not eat what was unclean. The voice said, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common’ (verse 15). He had the vision twice more, at which point the sheet of animals returned to heaven.
Peter was deeply troubled in contemplating what he had just experienced when the Holy Spirit spoke to him and told him to go and meet the three men that had just arrived where he was lodging. Furthermore, he was to accompany them to Caesarea. He did as instructed.
The four men left the following day for Cornelius’s home, which brings us to our reading — Peter’s first sermon to Cornelius and his household. Afterwards, the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Peter baptised all and stayed there for several days.
Peter began his sermon by saying that God is no respecter of persons: He loves and welcomes all, Jew and Gentile alike (verses 34, 35).
Peter briefly summarised Jesus’s ministry because he knew that Cornelius and those living with him, just like everyone else, knew it well (verses 37, 38).
It is important to note that he introduced this by stating that Jesus, the one of whom they had heard so much, is indeed Lord of all (verse 36).
The apostle spoke of His crucifixion, which was common knowledge. Given that Cornelius was a centurion, he might have been privy to even more details (verse 39).
Peter confirmed that God raised Jesus up from the dead. He appeared to His disciples (verse 40) and shared a meal with them after His resurrection (verse 41).
Matthew Henry explains that it was important for Peter to relay these facts, especially that of the resurrection, because (emphases, except for the Greek, are mine):
Probably, they had heard at Cesarea some talk of his having risen from the dead but the talk of it was soon silenced by that vile suggestion of the Jews, that his disciples came by night and stole him away. And therefore Peter insists upon this as the main support of that word which preacheth peace by Jesus Christ. 1. The power by which he arose is incontestably divine (Acts 10:40): Him God raised up the third day, which not only disproved all the calumnies and accusations he was laid under by men, but effectually proved God’s acceptance of the satisfaction he made for the sin of man by the blood of his cross. He did not break prison, but had a legal discharge. God raised him up. 2. The proofs of his resurrection were incontestably clear for God showed him openly. He gave him to be made manifest—edoken auton emphane genesthai, to be visible, evidently so so he appears, as that it appears beyond contradiction to be him, and not another. It was such a showing of him as amounted to a demonstration of the truth of his resurrection. He showed him not publicly indeed (it was not open in this sense), but evidently not to all the people, who had been the witnesses of his death. By resisting all the evidences he had given them of his divine mission in his miracles, they had forfeited the favour of being eye-witnesses of this great proof of it. Those who immediately forged and promoted that lie of his being stolen away were justly given up to strong delusions to believe it, and not suffered to be undeceived by his being shown to all the people and so much the greater shall be the blessedness of those who have not seen, and yet have believed …
Therefore, Peter was saying that many people saw the risen Jesus but, because they did not believe He was their Saviour during His ministry, their eyes had been blinded to the truth of the resurrection.
John MacArthur says:
Do you know that after the resurrection Jesus was seen by over 500 people over a period of 400…er, 40 days, but only His own people? Why? I think Jesus said it in Luke 16:31. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not believe though one be raised from the dead,” remember that? It might have been a curiosity, but that’s all it would have been. It might have produced in Pilate terrible fear. It might have produced in Caiaphas and Annas terror, but that’s all it would have produced. Because if they wouldn’t believe the Scripture, they couldn’t be saved. They would find another way to explain it away. And this is one pearl God won’t cast before swine. He appears only to His own, to strengthen them, to confirm the resurrection so they can preach the resurrection.
“He appears…verse 41…visibly to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” They sat down at table, proof positive, a real, literal resurrection. No phantom here, no hallucination here. We were eyewitnesses. We saw Him, we ate with Him, we drank with Him, we talked with Him.
Peter went on to testify to Cornelius and his people that Jesus commanded His apostles to preach that He alone is ordained by God to judge the living and the dead (verse 42). Peter was referring to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Peter exhorted Cornelius to be saved. All who believe in Jesus Christ receive forgiveness of sins, as the prophets of the Bible foretold (verse 43). Cornelius and his household had heard and possibly marvelled at hearing of His many miracles and discourses, but they did not yet believe. Henry has this analysis, which surmises that, although a Gentile, Cornelius was familiar with Scripture from his associations with the Jews:
his praying and his giving alms were very well, but one thing he lacked, he must believe in Christ. Observe,
1. Why he must believe in him. Faith has reference to a testimony, and the Christian faith is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, it is built upon the testimony given by them. (1.) By the apostles. Peter as foreman speaks for the rest, that God commanded them, and gave them in charge, to preach to the people, and to testify concerning Christ so that their testimony was not only credible, but authentic, and what we may venture upon. Their testimony is God’s testimony and they are his witnesses to the world. They do not only say it as matter of news, but testify it as matter of record, by which men must be judged. (2.) By the prophets of the Old Testament, whose testimony beforehand, not only concerning his sufferings, but concerning the design and intention of them, very much corroborates the apostles’ testimony concerning them (Acts 10:43): To him give all the prophets witness. We have reason to think that Cornelius and his friends were no strangers to the writings of the prophets. Out of the mouth of these two clouds of witnesses, so exactly agreeing, this word is established.
Peter knew it was essential for Cornelius and his household to believe in Christ Jesus or be judged on the Last Day. MacArthur explains:
You preach, Jesus said to them, go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature…you tell them that the Christ that was crucified has risen and is now their judge. According to John chapter 5 He’s going to judge every individual…all judgment has been committed to Him by the Father. He is the criterion, He is the standard for judgment. He will judge every man. So you tell those sinners that the One who was crucified and the One who rose again is their judge. They’re not His judge. They don’t render a verdict on Him, He renders one on them. You tell them that. That’s a warning part of the gospel. That’s the fear part of the gospel that this Jesus whom you killed is now alive. He’s ascended to the Father. He is now your judge and the judge of everyone living and dead.
This puts paid to the notion that Jesus’s story ended with His burial. Unfortunately, that is what little children are being taught at some of Britain’s crèches. I knew a woman whose three-year-old son was taught that. That took place ten years ago. He cried and cried, even when he got home that afternoon. It is sad that she, although raised as a Christian, did not have the knowledge to tell him that Jesus died for everyone’s sins — and that God raised Him to life on the third day, promising that we would be with Him one day forever and ever. That would have dried the little mite’s tears, especially if she had the nous to explain that Jesus is alive and loves him more than he can imagine. She could have mentioned heaven in simple terms. But, no, that didn’t happen. I wonder what he believes now as a 13-year-old. Keep this lad and others like him in your prayers, please.
What can lapsed or lukewarm believers do at Easter? Some may want to have more faith but think they are so far ‘gone’ that it is impossible. Nothing is impossible with God and with the risen Christ as our only Mediator and Advocate.
John MacArthur says:
If you say, “I’d like to believe, I’m struggling.” Pray the prayer the man in the New Testament prayed, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” By the way, Cornelius and his whole household believed that day two thousand years ago. How about you?
Pray. Pray a lot throughout the day, conversationally. Christ Jesus hears us and answers our needs. He welcomes us as His brothers and sisters. May all who come to believe in Him share newness of life on Easter Day.
On Holy Saturday, the last day of Holy Week, Catholics and Protestants look forward to celebrating our Lord’s resurrection and preparing a feast for family and friends.
You might find my past posts about Holy Saturday helpful in understanding its significance:
Last week, I summarised the first part of English food journalist Mary Berry’s look at Easter food traditions in various countries and denominations, encompassing those in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland.
The second, concluding part of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 aired this week. Berry’s enthusiasm for Easter as both a religious and gastronomic feast matches mine, which is part of what made the programme so enjoyable.
Christians make special breads at this time of year to recall Jesus as the Bread of Life. Lamb is also popular, as He is the Lamb of God, the once perfect sacrifice for our sins. As the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd John Sentamu explained, ‘Easter is the Passover of the Lord’.
Greece – tsoureki
Berry visited St Sophia’s Cathedral in London, a breathtakingly beautiful Greek Orthodox church.
Fr Savas, the priest who gave her a tour of the cathedral, said that 1,000 faithful normally attend Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday. Everyone takes a lit candle home and blesses their home with the light of the Resurrection.
Fr Savas’s cousin Katarina made the traditional Easter bread — tsoureki — for Berry. It is a plaited (braided) bread with a red coloured hard boiled egg at the top. The three plaits symbolise the Holy Trinity. The egg symbolises Jesus Christ, and the red colour represents His blood that He shed for our redemption.
Tsoureki dough is an enriched one, resembling a brioche. It is flavoured with two spices: one, mastiha, which comes from tree resin and the other, mahlepi, from ground cherry stones which gives it an almond flavour.
Before baking, the tsoureki is glazed with egg wash and topped with sesame seeds. My Little Expat Kitchen has a recipe that looks like the one Katarina used.
The Netherlands – Easter Men
With the help of her grandchildren, Berry showed us the Dutch Easter Men recipe that she makes every year.
She saw them many years ago on a trip to Holland around Easter and was intrigued.
Berry likes the simplicity of the one-rise bread dough used to make this charming little bread of a man holding an egg — the risen Christ — in his arms.
Once the dough is risen, Berry portions it out and cuts into each one to shape the head, the arms and the legs. She secures a raw egg in the folded arms and decorates the heads with raisins or blackcurrants for simple facial features. She glazes the men with egg wash and bakes them for 25 minutes. The egg cooks as the bread bakes.
This is a simple, straightforward recipe that children will enjoy. They can help shape the limbs, once cut, and decorate the faces.
The Philippines – lechon
Berry visitied a Catholic Filipina, May, who made her a roast pork dish called lechon, an Easter staple in the Philippines.
May explained that, traditionally, lechon is a whole hog roast. Her father used to roast several hogs at Easter when she was growing up in the Philippines. Friends, neighbours and family would then join in for a massive Easter feast.
For home cooks, May recommends pork belly. She brined one with thyme, crushed lemongrass and bay leaves. After several hours, she removed the pork belly from the brine and patted it completely dry, enabling it to crisp when baking.
May laid it out flat, skin side down, and, in the centre, placed a few stems of crushed lemongrass, several spring onions cut lengthwise in half and added a lot of crushed garlic on top before seasoning well with salt and pepper. She then rolled the pork belly tightly and tied it well with butcher’s string.
Once roasted, the lechon had a glossy, dark outer skin. Inside, the meat was moist and tender. The belly fat had cooked out, with some going into the meat. As this recipe has no crackling — the outer skin is too hard to eat — it might be suitable for cooks who prefer less fatty, yet succulent, pork.
May explained that the Spanish introduced lechon to the Philippines centuries ago.
The dish is also popular in Cuba.
England – roast lamb
Berry went to York to watch the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu — a political prisoner from Idi Amin’s Uganda who moved to England 42 years ago — make her own recipe for roast lamb.
Sentamu and his wife Elizabeth both talked about how important Easter was for their large families in Africa. Sentamu’s mother taught him and his siblings how to cook. His father insisted not only on roast lamb on Easter but also curried goat and curried chicken.
He and Elizabeth have been using Berry’s lamb recipe ever since they saw it on television years ago. Berry confessed that she’d long forgotten about it, but it looks very tasty, especially with the touches the Sentamus have added over the years.
The Archbishop cut the main bone out of the leg of lamb. He took several thin slices of deli ham, spread a herb (predominantly rosemary leaves) and garlic mix over each slice and layered them neatly one on top of the other. He rolled the layered ham neatly and inserted it into the middle of the lamb.
He layered his roasting tray generously with tarragon and placed the lamb on top. Around it he put several onion halves. He took a bottle of white wine and poured it until it just covered the onions.
Once the roast was resting, he strained the juices from the roasting pan and made a sumptuous gravy. My mouth was watering. The Sentamu family must surely look forward to lunch on Easter!
Italy – Easter dove bread
Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian bread made in a dove mould, although it can be made in a round one.
The dove symbolises Christ, the Prince of Peace.
To see it made, Berry visited Maria, who cooks for the priests and visiting clergy at St Peter’s Italian Church in London’s Little Italy.
The dough is enriched, as for a brioche, and contains currants and orange peel. It requires a 12-hour rise.
Maria placed the dough into a dove-shaped mould and topped it with whole almonds and crushed sugar. This recipe, which includes a picture, resembles Maria’s. The sugar bakes into the top of the bread leaving an appetising topping.
I wished I’d been with the two very happy priests when she served it to them. They tucked in with gusto.
Nearly all of the show’s participants and their families gathered at Berry’s parish church in the Home Counties not far from London for a sumptuous Easter feast.
They brought their special dishes and Berry brought hers. If you can see the hour-long episode, you’ll agree with me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable occasion. I would love to have been there.
Everyone got along famously and tried to learn each other’s language. It was a beautiful sight as many promised to keep in touch with each other.
I hope that everyone’s Easter feast is as special as Mary Berry’s.
As we eat, may we remember the risen Christ and give thanks for His resurrection from the dead and His promise to us of life everlasting.