Where Christians can find Easter celebration films

From Pope Francis to Cecil B. DeMille, Easter brings with it moments of pageantry, reflection and inspiration for our troubled century.

A rotunda in Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, called the Anastasis ("Resurrection"), which contains the remains of a rock-cut room that Helena and Macarius identified as the burial site of Jesus. (Via Wikipedia entry on the Resurrection. GNU license 1.2)

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2016 – Just in case you forgot that tomorrow is Easter Sunday, we’re here to remind you about the special Easter programming that’s televised during the Easter season: the one time of the year when media types are actually eager to attract Christian viewers.

Fortunately, Easter programming has become more immediate and vital in recent years, adding an appropriate dose of realism to the timeless Christian Resurrection narrative and making this inspirational story feel, perhaps, more immediate for today’s more secularized and skeptical modern audience.

Here are highlights of some of this Easter weekend’s best choices for religiously-oriented programming. If you’re seriously worried about the moral state of U.S. and world affairs in general, you may very well find genuine, much-needed hope and inspiration anew by viewing one or more of these programs, films or series.

Better yet, celebrate Easter with friends and families at your local house of worship.

Today, March 26, 2016, is Holy Saturday. The Latin Times reminds us that as a day of mourning, Holy Saturday carries many traditions and recommendations.  Latin Times reminds us that:

  • On this day the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of Mass and the celebration of marriages is forbidden, as is the celebration of other sacraments.
  • While Holy Saturday is a day of mourning, some families take their Easter food to be blessed at Church in preparation for Sunday’s feast.
  • Before that, a morning prayer is highly recommended, as well as fasting, which is also encouraged as an act of devotion suited to the mystery celebrated this day, but not required.
  • Those who are sick or in danger of death are allowed to celebrate certain sacraments such as Baptism.
  • Easter Vigil is the ceremony held the evening before Easter (the full meaning of Vigil being to await for the coming of the Lord). The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday.
Bernini's magnificently ornate altar canopy in the Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City. (Via Wikipedia entry on St. Peter's Basilica, CC 2.0)
Bernini’s magnificently ornate altar canopy in the Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City. (Via Wikipedia entry on St. Peter’s Basilica, CC 2.0)

Easter Vigil Mass celebrated by Pope Francis (click link for full schedule)

Cable channel EWTN offers a full day of celebrations and religious remembrances starting today, Saturday, and ending with the ancient ritual Easter Vigil Mass broadcast from St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City where Pope Francis will celebrate this elaborate Mass and its preceding but integral ceremonies commemorating the Resurrection and the Light.

For Catholics who’ve lost touch with their pre-Vatican II religious heritage, this lengthy, comprehensive liturgy takes participants on the difficult but spiritually inspiring journey that begins with the sorrow of Christ’s death on the cross and concludes with the glory of his Resurrection. Length of broadcast varies each year depending on chosen readings and music, but be sure to reserve at least two hours.

Given that the Vatican is in a European time zone, several hours ahead of ours, the live broadcast will air Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, and will be re-broadcast at midnight, Easter Sunday, March 27.

“The Ten Commandments”

Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” (Paramount) will air once again on ABC this Saturday, March 26, 2016, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. This enduring epic film, starring Charlton Heston as Moses, has been aired regularly by the network over Easter weekend since 1973.

The film’s running time is three hours and 40 minutes. Allowing for commercials, viewing this 1956 classic can be a major undertaking requiring a bit of advance planning. TV dinners, anyone?

“Tyler Perry’s The Passion”

“The Passion” is a contemporary musical retelling of Christ’s last hours, starring Jencarlos Canela as Jesus, Chris Daughtry as Judas, Seal as Pontius Pilate and Trisha Yearwood as Mary. The show that originally aired earlier this month can be seen at online at Fox Now.

Promo Poster: Icon Entertainment, Newmarket Films, Equinox Films, 20th Century Fox.
Promo Poster: Icon Entertainment, Newmarket Films, Equinox Films, 20th Century Fox.

“The Passion of the Christ”

Controversial Mel Gibson’s equally controversial 2004 drama follows the last 12 hours in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. Jim Caviezel — familiar most recently to TV viewers for his role in the late, lamented series “Person of Interest” — stars as Jesus, and Mel Gibson directs.

“The Passion Of The Christ” follows the last twelve hours of Jesus’s life from his emotional turmoil in the Garden of Gethsemane until the final moments of the crucifixion. Director Gibson brings the struggle and sacrifice of Jesus to life like nothing ever seen in the cinema before. Viewers must be cautioned that due to the graphic violence displayed, depicting the horrific death Jesus endured for us, this film is rated TV-MA-V. Definitely alarming for the little ones.

Cable channel TBN broadcasted the film on Sunday, March 3, 2016 and will replay it on Sunday April 10, 2016 from 7-9:30 p.m. Eastern. It’s also available on streaming video via Netflix.

“Killing Jesus”

No doubt to the surprise and astonishment of the mainstream media, “Killing Jesus” set ratings records for the National Geographic Channel (NatGeo) during its earlier airing. Adapted from Bill O’Reilly’s eponymous book, the movie can be viewed on demand here.

Click full screen or connect to your television monitor for a better movie experience.

Killing Jesus Full Feature – National Geographic by ghazwanmattoka

“A.D.: The Bible Continues”

This multi-episode series is, alas, hard to find this Easter, thought not impossible.

History Channel buffs will remember that the cable channel’s original Downey and Burnett miniseries “The Bible” was a huge Nielsen success when it was first broadcast in 2013. Sensing eyeballs and profits, NBC managed to ink the series sequel. But that was a good thing, as the established network could attract a larger viewership for the new series than the smaller History Channel. This, in turn was (and is) a good thing for spreading the Word.

Unfortunately, this is one isn’t available for broadcast or download free of charge, save from a few dicey-seeming sites that may either not be on the level or could contain malicious or intrusive code.

Several sites and/or apps offer the series via pay-per-view or subscription, including Apple’s iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu. Links to current services/apps where you can obtain episodes of this series can easily be accessed via TVGuide.com. NBC offers the series in streaming format as well, but you’ll need and app or subscription. NBC details here via linked Q&A screens.

“The Bible’s” producers were disappointed by NBC’s decision last summer to cancel the “AD” series after one season, as they had planned additional seasons. But after the sequel series aired in 2015, NBC was reportedly disappointed it didn’t garner the profits they’d hoped for and backed out of further seasons. Several sources speculate that the series producers may go ahead with new episodes via their own site, but no confirmation is available as of this date.

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