April is a busy month

The card companies are missing out if they are not in tune with all of the religious celebrations going on this month.

As I was going over the world religion calendar, I was amazed by all of the activity that the month of April holds. There is the Theravadin New Year, Passover, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israeli Independence Day, the birthday of a monkey god in the Hindu religion and a commemoration of the 12-day period in which Baha'u'llah of the Baha'i religion declared that he was God's messenger.

In Christian circles, this is the month of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and, of course, Easter. Easter is the most important celebration in the Christian faith.

As one who grew up in a Protestant denomination, Easter, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Christmas all meant celebration for me and my family. These days were also celebrated at church. Later on there was more emphasis was placed on Maundy Thursday and family communion became an important part of that day.

Because of my background, I am continually intrigued by all of the different celebrations that people of other Christian traditions celebrate on any given Sunday. To a Protestant whose church does not follow the liturgical calendar, Sunday is a day for church. To our Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters around the world who follow liturgy, most Sundays celebrate some aspect of the life of Jesus or are a day to celebrate the life of someone who followed Jesus.

In the April calendar we see that Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate the resurrection of Mary and Martha's brother on "Lazarus Saturday" on the eve of Orthodox Easter. Other Christians will celebrate St. George's Day Thursday, April 23. St. George was a calvaryman who died a martyr's death at the hand of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He is associated with a knight overcoming a dragon--a symbol of victory in Christianity over paganism.

But why does this matter?

As I grow in my faith and study various Christian practices, I see that it is important for people of faith to remember that from which they came. It's all about community.

Days of remembrance are important in establishing community because those stories and experiences link us to Scripture and to fellow believers of the past. It reminds us that we are part of a big picture. When we spend time focusing on different people and events, we gain a better perspective on our own lives. We learn to cultivate traits such as courage, patience, compassion and self-control.

For example, spending time reflecting on the life of Mother Teresa might move me toward a more in-depth prayer life. Reflecting on the resurrection of Lazarus shows me that Jesus can handle any situation at any time and in every way. Thinking about the martyrdom of St. James the Great on April 30 may spur me fearlessly on toward greater works.

Celebrating different events and people, quite frankly, keeps church from becoming a dull, weekly obligation.

Common experiences also link Christians to one another. The other day I was at the Presbyterian Church Variety Show/Youth Fund raiser called "Structured Chaos." At the end of the program everyone joined in singing "Amazing Grace." When the group reached the last verse that sense of community washed over me:

When we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun. We've no less days to sing God's praise then when we first begun.

This common bond expressed in song between at least two, maybe even several, different denominations that were represented at the event, reminded me that we are all living the Christian life together and that someday we will be in heaven worshipping God together. Whatever petty differences there are should be laid aside as we reflect on what beliefs and traditions are common among us.