The 50 Great Days of Easter
Easter is a festival season of fifty days whose first day is Easter Day, the Sunday of the Resurrection, and whose last day is the Day of Pentecost. Easter begins after sundown on Holy Saturday. The celebration of Easter is initiated with the Easter Vigil, which can be observed after sundown but ideally is kept just before sunrise, so that the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection comes with the dawn of the new day. The Easter season includes the events of Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
Easter Day is the principal feast of the church year. The word “Easter” comes from Eostre, a Teutonic goddess whose name is associated with springtime, growth, and fertility. In most languages the name of the day is Pascha, which means “Passover.” The resurrection means that Christ has overcome death and in his victory has opened to us everlasting life. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). The Lord’s new life in which we share is the message of this season.
As the sacrament of new life, baptism is an Easter theme; as baptized Christians we take time during Easter to ponder the meaning of membership in Christ’s body, the church. We look at events in the church’s life, the sacraments, the accounts of resurrection and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to discover their meaning and what they tell us about how we as a community are to live the life of the Risen Lord.
Like the two who walked the Emmaus road with Jesus, we can know Christ in the sharing of the word and in the breaking of bread at the Eucharist.
The Great Fifty Days of Easter are the time when those who have reaffirmed their baptismal vows or have been baptized at the Easter Vigil reflect on the meaning of their baptism. Through the lectionary texts they explore the “mysteries” of their faith. The early church called this period of the process mystagogia. Today the whole church enters into this period of uncovering anew the mysteries of faith expressed in sacrament, word, and life lived for others. Each time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist using Eucharistic Prayer A, we say these words:
We proclaim the mystery of faith:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. (BCP 363)
From The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education, © Sharon Ely Pearson & Robyn Szoke, (2009: Church Publishing)