MOUNT VERNON — For Christians around the world, Easter is the most celebrated time of year as it commemorates the life, death, and, most important, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The holy week leading up to Easter Day is the pinnacle of festivity; each day is filled with songs, prayers and fellowship for many churches in the community.
Churches throughout Knox County will host worship services filled with joy and reflection.
At St. Luke Catholic Church in Danville, services are held throughout the week, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday are considered the most holiest of times. This holy time begins on Thursday night with the Mass of the Last Supper.
“At this Mass we have the washing of the feet,” said the Rev. Richard Snoke. “And then we go on with the Mass, during which we have the glory and ringing of bells. This is the last time the bells will ring until Easter Saturday night, when Christ rises from the dead.”
The service continues in the community center with the placement of the blessed sacrament within the tabernacle, and repose and prayer continues until late into the night.
“Friday is our more sacred time because this is when Jesus died on the cross,” said Snoke. “The significance of the two days so far is it’s leading up to our redemption.”
Today’s gatherings take place at noon followed by a luncheon, prayers and a service at 3 p.m. that includes Holy Communion. Tonight the youth of the church will perform the story of the last day of Jesus’ judgment and crucifixion.
Easter vigil is held on Saturday night. The church will be completely dark until the Christ candle, or Easter candle, is lit from a small fire outside. Candles are also lit for the people present at the service. The service then continues with prayers, songs and readings from the Bible.
“If we have new people, we baptize during this time, and we do have one new person this year,” said Snoke. “After the Holy Communion and Mass has ended, we have an Easter party in the community center. And on Easter Sunday we continue with the theme of Easter ... and all of it is to remind us that Jesus died on the cross, and if it wasn’t for the cross, we couldn’t have the resurrection.
“This is a very important time,” said Snoke, “and it’s really reliving what happened long ago.”
The Easter message is the same, but churches have a variety of ways to honor the message.
“Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said Larry Hall, pastor at Lakeholm Church of the Nazarene. “It is the biggest day in the Christian calendar, and is the reason for who we are. He is risen.”
Lakeholm has a service on Maundy Thursday, with communion, as well as a Sunday service in commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice.
“We start on Sunday morning with a sunrise service, and for the last several years our teenagers have been in charge of that service. Then we follow with a continental breakfast, and then a big worship celebration with a lot of music, choir, orchestra, preaching and congregational singing,” said Hall.
Easter is also a time for families to gather in fellowship and eat of the Easter meal.
“After the service, we dismiss for the rest of the day to give people time to celebrate with their families,” said Hall.
Easter is the pinnacle of the year for honoring the resurrection of Christ, said Hall, although the resurrection is something that is celebrated each Sunday.
The day Easter is celebrated changes from year to year, depending on the moon cycle and a formula the church uses to calculate the exact day.
“Sometimes it can be in early March or it can be later in April,” said Hall. “It’s not like Christmas, where it’s the 25th each year; this one takes place on a Sunday and falls in different times.”
“For us, Easter is the celebration of the risen Lord Jesus,” said John Eger, associate pastor at Newlife Community Church of Fredericktown. “We usually do a baptism service on Easter Sunday because it’s a good reflection of what it means to live the resurrection. Jesus was resurrected physically, and we do baptisms on Easter Sunday to represent our spiritual resurrection and new life in Jesus through baptism. Baptism then becomes an outward profession, a declaration of our choice to follow Jesus. Also, we have music and a message to represent and call us to live the resurrection life.”
Newlife also holds a Good Friday service, which includes communion, to focus on the meaning of the cross.
“We set up our room to have the physical cross as the focal point so that everyone is facing the same thing. And we walk through the last hours of Jesus’ life before he was nailed to the cross, by reading the Bible, and we have a devotional that reflects on Jesus’ death and what it means. Our goal is to allow people to have that time to reflect on what Jesus has done at the cross and to prepare us for Easter Sunday.”