Christianity was founded in what is today modern day Israel and Palestine around 2000 years ago. It is based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, known as Christ. This means 'the anointed one', and Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God. Christians see themselves as following in the way of Jesus who revealed the forgiving love of God for all people and God's concern for human beings.
At the centre of Christian belief is Jesus who is regarded as the revelation of God. For many Christians this revelation is such that he is understood to be the very incarnation of God. In Jesus, Christians come to know something of the nature of God who is seen as loving and forgiving. Christians believe that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus has transformed human nature so that it need no longer follow its sinful inclinations but rather lead a life of love and service. Their experience of God in Jesus has led them to see God as a community of three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, called the Trinity. Christians believe that the world was created by God and will be brought to its fulfilment at the end of time. In the mean time they believe in the presence and support of God's Spirit, present among all.
The Christian holy book is called the Bible. The first part of the Bible, known by Christians as the Old Testament, is largely identical with the Jewish or Hebrew Bible. The second is the New Testament, which contains the Gospels (records of Jesus' life and his teachings), the Acts of the Apostles, the writings of St Paul and some other works.
Customs and Practices
Individuals are admitted into the Christian Church through baptism which can take place in childhood or as a profession of faith in adulthood. The central ritual of much Christian worship is Holy Communion, also called the Mass or the Eucharist, which is a sharing of bread and wine in memory of Jesus' last supper with his disciples. This action unites Christians in a symbolic or sacramental way with the death and resurrection of Jesus and with one another. Private prayer and meditation, and reading the Bible and/or other devotional texts, are important to Christians in their daily lives.
Places of Worship
Public worship usually takes place on a Sunday when congregations gather in churches to worship and/or celebrate Holy Communion. In the Catholic and Episcopalian traditions, Mass/Communion takes place weekly and even daily while in some Protestant denominations it takes place less frequently. For instance, most Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) congregations celebrate Communion about four to six times a year.
Important dates include Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birth and Easter, which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus. The forty days before Easter are known as Lent and it is common for many Christians to make a sacrifice at this time such as fasting or going without something for this period. It is also a time for increased prayer and helping others. Pentecost, which celebrates the coming of God's Spirit, and is thought of as the birth of the church, is also an important festival.
Food and Diet
All food is seen as a gift from God. No food is seen as unclean but everything is to be enjoyed in moderation and gratitude. Fasting on particular days and at particular times of the year is also common.
Click here for useful links to the Christian faith and church-based interfaith organisations in Scotland.
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