Easter joy extends throughout 50-day season

| Father Michael Van Sloun for The Catholic Spirit | April 9, 2013 | 0 Comments

RisenChristGreatest of Christian feasts can’t be adequately observed in a single day

The Easter season is the “Great Fifty Days” from Easter to Pentecost. It is a week of weeks — seven sevens, 49 days, plus a 50th. The first 40 days commemorate the time between Jesus’ resurrection and the ascension (see Acts 1:3), and the last 10 days commemorate the time from the ascension to the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles on the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

The first week after Easter is called the Octave of Easter.  It is the eight-day period from Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday of Easter. Each day is considered a solemnity, and all eight are celebrated together as a unity as if it were one great day.

The resurrection is the single greatest Christian feast, and our entire faith hinges on this mystery as St. Paul so eloquently explained: “If Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

But Jesus has been raised! This makes Easter our preeminent time of jubilant exultation — so tremendous that it cannot be adequately observed in a single day.

The octave is a time of intense rejoicing, followed by six more weeks of continuing festivity.

Symbols of Easter

The Easter, Paschal or Christ candle is moved to a prominent place in the church for the entire Easter season, usually somewhere in the sanctuary, as a sign of the risen Christ. The vestments are white, sometimes accented with gold trim, symbols of victory and joy. The Gloria or Glory to God and the Gospel Alleluia, which were suspended during Lent, are restored.

The Creed may be replaced with the renewal of baptismal promises. There may be a sprinkling rite to recall the sacrament of baptism. A double Alleluia is added to the dismissal for Easter Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter and Pentecost.

Baptism and Eucharist are the featured sacraments of the Easter season. Infant baptisms are encouraged within the Sunday Masses of the Easter season. It is also the preferred time to celebrate first holy Communion. Parishes that have movable or portable baptismal fonts may transfer the font to a more conspicuous location.

The first reading for every Sunday and weekday Mass throughout the Easter season is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, a forceful statement that Jesus, raised and ascended to heaven, continues to be present and is powerfully active within the community of believers.

The second reading on Easter Sundays is taken from the New Testament, in Year A from the First Letter of Peter, in Year B from the First Letter of John and in Year C from the Book of Revelation. All of the Gospel texts for the Easter Season are taken from John except for the Third Sunday of Years A and B, and the Ascension.

Time to rejoice

The Lenten fast is over, so rejoice with special meals or treats. The purple or violet of Lent is replaced by the white and gold of Easter, so wear brightly colored clothing to show your joyful spirit, and decorate with lilies and other flowers.

The somber readings of Lent that dwell on penance and the Passion are over, so rejoice by reading the scriptural accounts of the resurrection and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, as well as the founding of the early Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles.

Those who were candidates for the Easter sacraments have been welcomed into the Church, so maintain contact with them and help them strengthen their bond with the parish community.

Jesus demonstrated in his post-resurrection appearances at Emmaus (Luke 24:30) and along the Sea of Galilee (John 21:9,13) that he is present in the breaking of the bread, so in order to experience the risen Christ we should attend Mass each Sunday, and if possible, some weekdays, too, to receive our risen Lord in the Eucharist.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka.


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Category: The Lesson Plan