Along with Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), her Visitation to Elizabeth (1:39-56), and Jesus' birth and infancy (2:7,16; Matthew 2:11), one other biblical scene depicting the mother of Jesus is especially prominent in the history of Christian ...
Only in the Holy Land can you celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection in the place where it happened. The fourth-century pilgrim Egeria described the Holy Week services in Jerusalem: "What I admire and value most is that all the hymns and antiphons and readings, and all the prayers that the bishops say, are always relevant to the day which is being observed and to the place in which they are used." Today, much like in Egeria's era, thousands of Christians observe Good Friday by following the "Via Dolorosa"—the traditional route Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion—from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The route and rituals have changed over the centuries, but the devotion has not. Jerusalem Christians' celebration of Easter influenced Christian worship around the world. The practice of following the "stations of the cross" is one example.
As Christians from all branches of the church today rediscover the ancient traditions of Christian spirituality, the literature of early Christian monasticism is a welcome voice in our conversation with the saints. Many sources are now available in accessible English translations, so enter into the world of men and women who forsook the expectations of their society to pray in the deserts of Palestine and Egypt. Primary sources predominate on the list below, but each translation is accompanied by useful introductions and commentaries by top scholars. Enjoy!
Take the quiz ... then explore the history. In addition to the Holidays section of our archives, you can find Easter-related content in several past issues of Christian History & Biography: Issue 97: The Holy Land, Issue 83: Mary in the Imagination of the Church, and Issue 59: The Life & Times of Jesus of Nazareth
December 12, 1189: King Richard I "the Lion Hearted" leaves England on the Third Crusade to retake Jerusalem, which had fallen to Muslim general Saladin in 1187 (see issue 40: The Crusades).
December 12, 1582: Spanish General Fernando Alvarez de Toledo (also known as the Duke of Alva) dies. The duke had been sent, along with 10,000 troops, by King Philip II of Spain to quell the Reformation in Holland. The duke's "Council of Blood" was responsible for some 18,000 deaths.
December 12, 1667: The Council of Moscow deposes Russian Orthodox Patriarch Nikon. A "man of great ability and sincerity but of autocratic temper," according to one historian, his calls for liturgical reform grew into a fight over the relationship between church and state. Though deposed at the council, banished, and imprisoned for 14 years, his liturgical reforms were sanctioned. In 1681, he was recalled to Moscow by the new tsar, but he died on the way. He was buried with patriarchal honors and all decrees against him were revoked (see issue 18: Russian Christianity).
December 12, 1712: The colony of South Carolina requires "all persons whatsoever" to attend church each Sunday and refrain from skilled labor and travel. Violators of the "Sunday Law" could be fined 10 shillings or locked in the stocks for two hours.
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
—John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople; sermon, ca. 400