How we worship God during Easter

2015-04-05 15:00

Zinhle Mapumulo speaks to South Africans of different religions to see how they celebrate over Easter

Sanelisiwe Mkhize (Christianity) 

Ever since Sanelisiwe Mkhize can remember, she has spent the Easter holidays in Hammarsdale in KwaZulu-Natal with her parents and siblings, celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

These Easter holidays were not that different, but she stayed in Edenvale, Johannesburg, with her husband, Nsikelelo Mkhize, who is also Catholic.

As per Catholic doctrine, the Mkhizes began their spiritual journey, which ends today, 40 days ago. Over this period, known as Lent, they fasted, prayed and participated in almsgiving.

On Thursday night, they took part in Holy Communion, remembering when Jesus ate his final Passover meal with his disciples, breaking bread and drinking wine.

On Friday morning, they attended mass at the Roman Catholic Church in Pimville, Soweto, where they commemorated the death of Jesus by crucifixion.

Mkhize explained that Good Friday was a day of introspection in the life of a Christian, as “we remember Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross and what this means to our faith”.

“We mourn and meditate on the 12 Stations of the Cross – which is a journey portraying Jesus being condemned to death until the time he dies on the cross. This is a dark night for us, as we reflect on the fact that Christ died for our sins,” she said.

Fortunately, the Holy Saturday vigil – which encompasses the Service of Light, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of Baptism and Liturgy of the Eucharist – brings some comfort after Good Friday.

The atmosphere in the church is different in the assembly during the Service of Light. Holy water fonts are drained; all the lights are out except for the Paschal candle, which is passed on to other candles, culminating in the lighting of candles held by the entire congregation. The candle circulates around the church, with the deacon lifting the candle at three different times, singing The Light of Christ.

Mkhize said the vigil usually lasted throughout the night and she always looked forward to it as she waited for Jesus to rise from the dead.

“It’s an exciting time, as we move from darkness to light, symbolising the story of Jesus rising from the dead,” she said.

To celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, Mkhize said she and her relatives were planning to have lunch in Pimville. “We’re all going to bring whatever we can and share with each other. My husband and I are looking forward to eating meat, which we haven’t done in 40 days.”

Ahmed Akoob (Islam)

Every year, thousands of Muslims hold a mass gathering known as Ijtima over the Easter weekend. This year they converged on the small town of Roshnee in Vereeniging, where they are participating in intense prayer and meditation while learning about the Deen (religion) of Allah.

During the Ijtima, senior Islamic scholars address gatherings to encourage self-reformation and adherence to an Islamic way of life, as espoused by the Prophet Muhammad.

This year, Ahmed Akoob, a frequent patron, was not able to attend. But he said his spirit was with his fellow Muslims.

Akoob works for community-based not-for-profit organisation the Sultan Bahu Centre in Mayfair, Joburg. He said work commitments had not allowed him be attend. While he couldn’t go to Roshnee, he said he was consoled by the fact that he was doing something for the good of the community.

“The fair we are having from Friday to Monday is aimed at raising funds for our social outreach programmes. We are involved in a number of community projects, including drug rehabilitation and Sabera’s Dialysis Foundation, a programme intended to give less fortunate people a chance at dialysis,” he said.

“Many less privileged people die from renal failure because they cannot access treatment due to the long waiting list for dialysis in the public healthcare sector.

“At the Sultan Bahu Centre, we try to bridge that gap by sponsoring patients who are unable to afford dialysis.

“But to do that, we need funds, which is why we decided to hold a fundraising fair for the good of the community this year.

“We could have chosen to do other things this long weekend, like attend the Ijtima, but we thought it would be best use our time and resources to better humanity,” said Akoob.

Ari Kievman (Judaism)

On Friday evening, Jews around the world celebrated the first night of Passover with a traditional meal called the Seder. During the Seder, they observe various traditions, such as eating matzos – an unleavened cracker – with horseradish and roast lamb, and drinking four cups of wine.

The rituals are a reminder of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt more than 3?400 years ago.

Among those who celebrated the Passover was Rabbi Ari Kievman of Chabad House, Johannesburg. But he celebrated in a different way.

Instead of attending the local synagogue for Passover prayers and enjoying Seder at home, Kievman and his family – his wife and three children – joined hundreds of Jews from across Africa for an eight-day Passover retreat at a game reserve in Magaliesberg, less than an hour’s drive from Johannesburg.

He said, although it might sound as if he and his family enjoyed themselves in the outdoors, the retreat was not all about that. “We observed the same rituals we would have at home when celebrating Passover. A central theme of this holiday is asking questions and providing relevant answers so children will understand the significance of the Pesach celebration – our ancestors’ miraculous escape from oppression to freedom has served as a source of inspiration for many generations and will do for many more to come.”

“In every generation, a person must feel as if he or she was liberated from Egypt. In other words, we have a responsibility to make an ancient experience important to us in modern times. We achieve this by recognising that the imprisonment from which the ancient Hebrews sought emancipation is conceptually still present.”

He explained that slavery found many forms and took on various appearances. “In days of old, it was depicted by a whip-toting taskmaster hovering over a slave with a chain wrapped around his ankle. Today, bondage is often found in our jobs, relationships and attitudes where we find ourselves addicted to a certain negative trait and find it excruciatingly difficult to ‘break free’.”

Munyadziwa Mungani (Zion Christian Church)

Munyadziwa Mungani from Tshilidzini in Venda could not contain his excitement on Thursday as he spoke about his planned trip to the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) headquarters in Moria, Limpopo, as part of the big annual pilgrimage.

He said this was one of the holidays he always looked forward to each year.

“A person who’s not a ZCC member will never understand why we’re so passionate about our church and always take time to go to Moria during the Easter holidays and in September.

“For us it is about spiritual upliftment and witnessing miracles – like healing taking place in front of us,” he said.

He is one of the thousands of ZCC members who were expected to travel to Moria on Friday for the annual pilgrimage. More than 600 buses were reportedly hired by the church from the Putco bus company to transport members from throughout South Africa.

Although Mungani was looking forward to spiritual upliftment and witnessing miracles, he said the festivities around Moria during the four days of Easter were what made members return to Zion City each year.

Asked to explain the festivities, Mungani said the church advised them not to “talk about those things”.

However, he did explain: “We start a typical day with a prayer between 7.30 and 8.30 every morning.”

“In the afternoon, we have another one-hour prayer session from 4.30 to 5.30.

“A lot of activities take place during the day, with people mediating, praying and singing. But it’s the Sunday service we all look forward to with the bishop – where he heals the sick,” explained Mungani.

He mentioned there were also midnight prayer services during the four days when members were woken up by the sounds of trumpets summoning them to prayer.

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