Holy days are occasions that stand out from the regular course of the calendar. The first holy day was established by God Himself: on the seventh day, He rested from all His works. Most church holy days commemorate significant events in salvation history. In order for believers to receive the special blessing associated with each of these holy days, they are to observe these events with reverence and gratitude. Thereby they recall the original divine act of salvation on which the event is founded, and keep these days holy.
The Christian holy days in the church year of the New Apostolic Church are:
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Passion Week. This festive day reminds us of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the occasion of the Jewish feast of Passover: in fulfilment of a prophecy by Zechariah, the Lord entered the city riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He was triumphantly received by the people, who professed that Jesus was the Messiah and Saviour by shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9).
On Good Friday, we commemorate the crucifixion and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Since His sacrifice, suffering, and death are of central importance to the history of salvation, several languages also refer to this day as “Holy Friday”. Through His sacrificial death, the Son of God broke Satan’s power and overcame death (Hebrews 2:14). Being without sin, He took mankind’s sin upon Himself and, through His blood, obtained the merit by which all sin and guilt can be paid. There is no clearer proof of God’s love for mankind than Jesus’ sacrifice (1 John 4:9–10). The events of Good Friday marked a turning point in God’s plan of salvation: the old covenant was concluded and the new covenant began. When the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn in two at Christ’s death, it became clear that God had now granted mankind salvation and fellowship with Himself.
This feast is a commemoration of the fact that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ took place on the first day of the week, on Sunday. Therefore the early Christians celebrated Holy Communion in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection on the first day of every week. Later on, a specific Sunday—in the Western Church the first Sunday following the first full moon in spring—was chosen to mark the annual celebration of the feast of Easter.
Jesus’ resurrection took place without any human witnesses. It is a miracle and a mystery. The Bible, however, gives account of many who saw the Risen One. Immediately after His resurrection, He appeared to Mary Magdalene and other women, to the Apostles Peter and John, and to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. Jesus also came and stood in the company of His Apostles. Additionally, Apostle Paul spoke of over five hundred people who had seen the Risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed in the teaching of the Apostles right from the start as the core element of the gospel. It is the foundation of hope for life eternal. Jesus Christ made it possible to undo mankind’s separation from God. Belief in the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the basis for our belief in the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of the living upon His return.
Jesus Christ referred to His return to the Father in various ways (John 3:13; John 16:28; John 20:17). On the fortieth day after Easter, He, together with His Apostles, went to Mount Olivet and gave them instructions for their mission. Then “He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
The Apostles received the promise from two angels: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:3-11). This promise is also reflected in the New Apostolic Creed: “I believe that the Lord Jesus will return as surely as He ascended to heaven.”
On Pentecost we commemorate the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out. We also speak of Pentecost as the day when the Holy Spirit was revealed and as the “birthday of the church of Christ”. The sending of the Holy Spirit – fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection – had been promised by Jesus to His Apostles in His farewell discourses. A large number of believing men and women had contact with the Apostles in Jerusalem. The miracle of Pentecost – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – is recorded in Acts 2:1-2.
The Apostles and the believers gathered with them were filled with the Holy Spirit. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Apostle Peter, the leader appointed by Jesus Christ, preached a powerful sermon which centred on the crucified and risen Christ, who had ascended into heaven. At that time some 3,000 people were added to the church. Accordingly, Pentecost is also a model for sermons inspired by the Spirit and for the growth of the church through the activity of the Apostles. Moreover, Pentecost is a feast of joy over the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity in the church.
On one Sunday of the year – Thanksgiving Sunday – a divine service is held in which gratitude is especially focused on God’s faithfulness to His creation. On this occasion, believers are invited to bring a special offering of thanks. Thanksgiving is celebrated at different times around the globe and in many congregations a special fruit and vegetable display is laid around the altar.
Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and refers to one of the central events in the history of salvation: Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born by the virgin Mary. Through the appearance of Christ on earth, God humbled Himself by taking on flesh in the form of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). The multiple promises in the Old Testament in reference to the expected Messiah were thereby fulfilled. Our commemoration of this miracle of the first coming of the Son of God, the magnitude of which cannot be grasped by our human intellect, also reinforces our belief in His imminent return.