Easter Day is the opening day of this season which spans a period of eight Sundays, or 50 days to be exact. Endorsed by the late second- and early third-century Latin theologian Tertullian, the 50 days of the Easter season is a period of great joy and gladness, for the explosive force of the Lord’s resurrection is too vast to be contained within a celebration of just one day.
Indeed, Easter’s 50 days are based on the great Jewish festival of 50 days that began with the opening of the harvest season, two days after the start of Passover when Israel rejoiced in the spring harvest. In the same way, the Church rejoices in the resurrection for 50 days, starting two days after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Paschal Lamb, on the cross. The Great 50 Days extend until their culmination on the Day of Pentecost.
As the church runs the course of the 50 days, it moves towards a fuller understanding of what the Lord’s resurrection means. Easter is not one closing day at the end of the 40 days of Lent. Rather, Easter is one extended rejoicing in the resurrection that surpasses the length of the Lenten disciplines.
To heighten this awareness, the subsequent Sundays after Easter Day are designated as “Second (Third through Seventh) Sunday of Easter.” This change in terminology cannot be undervalued, because Easter is perceived as an extended season and not as having lasted only one day.
Liturgically, white and gold are traditional colours for the Easter season and basic visual symbols such as the cross, the Lord’s Table, and baptismal font can be enhanced by using brightly-coloured cloths with elegant textiles to reflect the joy of the season.
As for the lectionary readings in the Service of the Word, the first reading of the Old Testament is replaced by the reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles. Starting from Easter Sunday, the first reading throughout the Easter season focuses on the events of the early Church as God’s people, as the Easter people preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
While the season of Lent is characterised as a season for reflection and contemplation, the observance of the entire Easter season is a time for both discovery and reconsideration. For the newly baptised, this is a time for them to reflect on the import of their new faith in Christ and to discover their new identities within the community of faith.
For more mature Christians, this is a time to review the basics of their faith in the Risen One and to look for deeper meaning in their union with Christ both in the participation of His death and of His resurrection (Rom 6:4-5). Ultimately, the season of Easter should be for every congregation a time of unapologetic affirmation of essential Christian faith.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
1 Martin Connell, Eternity Today: On the Liturgical Year, Volume 2 (New York, N.Y.: Continuum, 2006), 158.
2 Laurence Hull Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 55.
3 Ibid., 56.
4 Hoyt L. Hickman, The New Handbook of the Christian Year: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 213.