Easter celebrations begin in state

SHILLONG/TURA: Christians across the state began Easter celebrations with midnight Mass and special prayers. Midnight services, with special readings from the Gospel, were held in several churches in the state.
On the eve of Easter on Saturday, Archbishop Dominic Jala in his short Easter message said, “Easter is new life and transformation and this cannot be achieved without the cross”.
Another aspect is that Jesus died on the cross not to show off. The purpose of dying on the cross and the resurrection was for the transformation and glory of others, the said. Likewise, according to the Archbishop, the Easter message is that ‘we should not bask in our glory but our acts should be for the transformation of others’.
The Archbishop conveyed the same message through his homily during the midnight Mass at Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, Laitumkhrah.
Easter marks the culmination of Holy Week that began with Palm Sunday. The faithful also observed Maundy Thursday and Good Friday during the week.
At the opening of the Easter Vigil a “new fire” was lit and blessed.  The Paschal candle is the first candle to be lit with a flame from this sacred fire, representing the light of Christ coming into the world.
This represents the risen Christ, as a symbol of light (life) dispelling darkness (death).
Though during most of the day there was heavy rain in Shillong, this did not dampen the spirit of the Catholic faithful who turned out in large numbers to attend Easter Vigil masses in their respective parishes and local churches.
In Shillong this year’s Easter vigil Mass was held at 9 pm. The church service included, in sequence, service of light, the liturgy of the word, the liturgy of baptism and the liturgy of the Eucharist.
Outside the church, in the Grotto Chapel at the Mary Help of Christian Cathedral Church, Laitumkhrah, the service began with the lighting of the fire and blessed by the presiding priest, Fr Gilbert Choondal.
This was followed with the preparation of the Paschal Candle and the utterance of the sacred words, “Christ yesterday and today,” marked on the vertical arm of the cross on the candle, “the Beginning and the End,”on the horizontal arm of the cross, “the Alpha,” above the cross, and the “Omega,” below the cross.
Soon after, the priest lit the candle from the new fire, saying: “ May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”.
The candle was then processed through the church, with the priest lifting the candle at three different times.
Everyone lights candle from the Easter candle and continues in procession. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World.
Next follows the glorious Easter song of the Catholic Church: the Exsultet (Easter proclamation).
Earlier, prayers, fasting and special church services led the observance of Good Friday across the state. Thousands of Christians representing various denominations commemorated the event that unfolded over two thousand years ago.
In Garo Hills, Bishop of Tura, Andrew R Marak led the Catholic faithful in prayers on Good Friday at the Sacred Heart Shrine in Tura, while at the Tura Baptist Church, Fr Stafford K Sangma narrated to the devotees the events that took place centuries ago. Bishop Andrew in his homily spoke of the sufferings that Lord Jesus endured and having to die on the cross to save mankind from sin.
“By giving his life for all of us, Christ proved to the world his love for humanity,” said the Bishop. He called upon Christians to follow the teachings of Christ so that the world becomes a better place for everyone.
Thousands of Catholic faithful, both young and old, took part in the religious tradition of kissing the feet of Jesus and also joined the enactment of the 14 Stations of the Cross which retrace the steps taken by Jesus carrying his cross to Mount Calvary and his crucifixion.
Many faithful fasted on Good Friday and special church services were held at various churches in Williamnagar, Baghmara, Ampati, Dadenggre, Resubelpara, Mendipather and even remote Siju and Rongara in the extreme southern part of Garo Hills bordering Bangladesh.