Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Khmer New Year - Chol Chnam Thmey

The Khmers celebrate their new year, Chol Chnam Thmey, according to the lunar calendar. Quite clearly, it is also linked with the Spring Equinox, and is scheduled every year about April 13th, (quite often timed to coincide with the weekend). The New Year is spread over 3 days, called Moha Songkran, Wanabat and Tanai Lieang Saka.

The ancient Khmer civilization, like many other cultures had a fixation on the rising of the sun. The Angkor Wat was also constructed with the various solar alignments in mind. It is thought that King Suryavarman (protected by the sun) II, the visionary king who started work on the Angkor Wat was crowned on the Spring Equinox. Apparently the sun rose over the central tower then.

Excerpted from Kaladarshan Arts
At 6:35 a.m., the sun can be seen rising dead-center over the top of the central tower of the temple - about 500 m. away - when observed from the top of the first northern staircase of the western causeway. Three days later, the sun can be seen rising over the central tower for the second and last time, from the center of the western causeway at a point just a few meters south of the first observation position. We know that the Khmers celebrated their new year for three days. The new year began on the spring equinox, but the first day of the new year in an actual count did not begin until three days after the equinox. This three-day new year period is both reflected and corroborated in these two consecutive spring equinox alignments that occur just after entering Angkor Wat."

As I read these, I couldn't help wondering about the sunrise services that many churches organize in association with their celebration of Easter. A bit misplaced, I thought. True, we want to remember His resurrection. But honouring the rising of the sun smacks too much of a failure to disconnect our faith from past practices associated with sun worship. In any case, our faith is and should be more vitally linked with the work Jesus did on the cross for us. He is after all, our Passover Lamb, whose work was 'finished' on the cross. To me, the resurrection was a wonderful demonstration of His divinity and sovereignty over death and life, but does not and should not occupy any position of centrality in our redemptive faith.

Ephesians 1:4-14
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

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