Easter: Christians commemorate Good Friday

By Ukamaka Okafor, Abuja

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 As Christians in Nigeria join the rest of the world to mark 2021 Good Friday to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ on the cross,

A Cleric from Abuja, Nigeria, Reverend Timothy Ejeh, spoke on the Significance of the Day. “This day is very important to all Christians all over the world because by His death He won the victory over sin, over death, and over Satan. What looks like a defeat was actually a victory on the cross because after three days when He died on the cross, He rose again, and faith of Christians is strengthened by that action”.

And as preparations are geared towards 2021 Easter Celebration, Reverend Ejeh also called on the Nigerian government to take the issue of security seriously. He stressed the need “for the government to set up Security Forces for those who traveled within the town and those who traveled along the roads in Nigeria so that when people travel they are assured of safety”

He also tasked the government on setting up security apparatus as well as collaborates with the Traditional Rulers to curb the banditry, kidnapping, and abduction of school children across the country. He said “Traditional Rulers should be engaged in the fight against insecurity because they know how best to follow up with issues like this since the banditry takes place more in the villages. And so they need to go to those villages and all villages across the country see how they can set up security all over so that people who live in those places are secured.

How is 2021 Easter celebrated being celebrated in Nigeria despite the ravaging effects of the COVID 19 Pandemic across the globe?

Majority of Christians are now  marking this year’s Easter in an unusual way from the usual congregational in churches by strictly adhering to social distancing,  one of the protocols by the nation’s Presidential Task Force on COVID 19.

Also in response to the challenges orchestrated by COVID 19 Pandemic, the church has adopted measures to curb the spread of the scourge by spreading its Service from one to several Services.

And in the continuous fight against the COVID-19 virus, across the continent, the Director-General of West Africa World Health Organisation, WAHO, Professor Stanley Okolo, says the medical supplies worth over $18 million will be distributed to 15 West African countries including Nigeria.
It should be recalled that since the outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic in 2020, there was lockdown orchestrated by the pandemic with restrictions on Worship places which made the usual congregational celebration of Easter activities impossible last year.

In line with this, relaxation of restriction on places of worship was based on guidelines issued by the PTF, on COVID 19 and protocols agreed by the State government to contain the spread of the virus.

The Presidential Task Force in Nigeria, PTF, apart from working with the Economic Development, Secondary and Social Cohesiveness perspectives were also working closely with professional bodies, Civil Social Organisation, Labour sector, Trade Union Association, Religious and Traditional Leaders.

As Christians in Nigeria are joining their counterpart across the globe to mark the 2021 Easter celebration, Correspondent sought to know Reverend Ejeh’s stand with the introduction of a Vaccine in the country, and he reminded the faithful that covid-19 is still ravaging hence the need for them to avail themselves of the opportunity to be vaccinated as well as continue to observe the non-pharmaceutical health measures. Describing it as a welcomed idea,  he said “It is not today Vaccines started coming out, growing out as a child, we had the Polio Vaccines, different Vaccines that we had taken and this is not new, Vaccine is not a new technology, it is to fight infectious and different diseases. And so Scientists have come up with this Vaccine in order to help fight the COVID 19. So it is not a new idea, something that has always been there when there is an epidemic, Vaccines come out in order to save people.

Also the Resident Priest at Saint John Paul II, Kubwa Abuja, Nigeria also stated that the benefits of the Vaccine outweigh the side effects. According to Him, “Peoples safety is guaranteed if they are able to get their hygiene right and adhere to COVID 19 protocol as they celebrate”.

 

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja further described the Cross as the symbol of victory “The good news is that when Jesus ascended the cross on Golgotha, He changed the meaning of the cross. The cross became a life-giving tree; a symbol of victory; a symbol of joy and above all, a symbol of salvation for all who believe. And that is why we are not afraid or ashamed to identify with the cross of Jesus.

The cross was the instrument of torture that the Roman Empire used in ancient times to frighten its enemies. It was the device of execution. Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution on which slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, convicted criminals and enemies of Rome was hung and killed.

Jesus transformed the cross, a symbol of shame, to become the altar to establish The Kingdom of God. The cross, the most horrifying instrument of torture became for us the perfect instrument and fountain from which the riches of God’s mercy flow. It reveals and testifies to the love beyond all measure that God has for every human being.

Many Christians including preachers are slow to preach the cross or are ashamed of the cross of Jesus. We Catholics however wear the cross, install it in our Churches and begin our prayers with it so as not to easily forget that through the cross Christ has redeemed the world. In some quarters, the message of the cross has no popular appeal. People want to hear that they are not going to suffer, that they are not going to be poor, that they are not even going to fall sick or die. And this is why some few Catholics find it extremely difficult to remain stable in the Catholic Church and make progress in their spiritual journey or knowledge of God. They become “nomadic” Catholics, looking for a cheap Christianity, Christianity without the cross and so prefer to go where there is undue emphasis on miracles, prophecy and prosperity. I urge those Catholics to be careful of those who are not too keen on acknowledging the cross of Jesus Christ. Any Gospel that emphasizes personal gain and closes its eye to the truth of the cross is questionable.

According to St. Paul, the message about Christ’s death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost, but for those who are being saved it is God’s power” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Paul addressed this message to the Jews who see the cross as a burden for criminals and suffering as punishment for sinners (Deuteronomy 21:20-23).

The second chapter of the book of Sirach admonishes those who wish to serve the Lord to be prepared for temptations (2:1). Trials are inevitable paths towards the attainment of salvation and victory. Jesus emphasised this fact clearly to the hearing of his followers when he said, “If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny self, carry his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

                                                         

The cross is at the heart of our faith and life as Christians and it is what dominates our reflection, prayers and celebration on this Good Friday.

We Catholics begin our prayers with the sign of the Cross to recall the mystery of the Trinity that in one God there are three Persons and to also remind us that the cross is a sign of Jesus’ victory over sin and death”

 

The Holy week has been a week of activities from Palm Sunday, with  Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday referred to as Easter Tridium culminating into Easter proper.

Highlights of Good Friday’s activities are Stations of the Cross, and veneration of the Cross as well as other Special Prayers.

 

Good Friday ends the season of Lent kicked off on Ash Wednesday with 40 days of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

 

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