The warmer air, tulips blooming, sunny and clear blue skies of late spring provide the most fitting scenery after a long winter to observe Easter Sunday - the day on which we celebrate the new life won for us by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead!
The celebration of Easter, or as it is referred to in other languages and rites as Pascha (referring to the Paschal Mystery), is preceded by Holy Week. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, which commemorates Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and continues by encompassing the Holy Triduum. The Triduum is an official Church season and marks the end of lent and the beginning of Christ’s passion on Holy Thursday evening until the Easter Vigil. The last supper, Christ’s passion and death on Good Friday are remembered and solemnly meditated upon during this time. These events, although necessary for God’s plan of salvation, are the apex of the sorrowful contemplation brought on by the Lenten season, intensifying the cause for rejoicing in the coming resurrection.
On the morning of Easter, Alleluia can finally be proclaimed after the word’s prohibition during the preceding penitential season as Christ has risen from the dead - and the tomb found empty! Easter Sunday is so much greater than the chocolate bunnies in baskets or colorful eggs that secular culture proposes. Easter celebrates not only the spiritual reality, but the historical and physical reality that Jesus of Nazareth, the man born of Mary, truly died and rose again on the third day. The resurrection is the fundamental basis of Christian faith. As St. Paul writes, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain.” (1 Col 15:14). We rejoice as Jesus validates Himself truly as God and gives true weight to the good news that God has redeemed man fully by His son’s atonement for our sins. The cross which was once a terrifying image of Roman authority and an instrument for men to retain their worldly power has now become an icon of Jesus’ opening of the gates of heaven for all those who believe in Him. (John 3:16)
Easter is one of only two solemnities in the church which have their own octave, or eight day period of observance, with the other being Christmas. To mark, celebrate and preserve this solemnity’s importance, the octave includes accounts of the resurrection for the Gospel reading during each daily mass, the special liturgical color white is used throughout (continues through all of Easter season) and depending on the parish, easter lilies may adorn the altar or other parts of the church. The second Sunday of Easter presents the gospel account of the resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples and is also marked as Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy Sunday brings to a close the Easter Octave, however the Easter season continues until the celebration of Pentecost.
As we come to the celebration of Easter and the rejoicing in the resurrection of our Lord, we should be filled with confidence and hope, that in cooperation with God’s grace and a submission to His holy will, we may be admitted to the kingdom of Heaven, of which the doors have been opened to us by our Risen Lord! Alleluia!