Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the “feast of feasts,” the “solemnity of solemnities.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1169
During our liturgical year, God re-lives with us the events of Jesus’ life. Because the Resurrection of Jesus is the central mystery of our faith, the Catholic Church sets aside 50 days of joyful celebration. These 50 days from Easter to Pentecost are celebrated as one feast day, sometimes called The Great Sunday!
The word Easter has probable roots in the Norse term Eostur, for the season of the rising sun, the time of the new birth of spring.
Our symbolism of light as the sign of the risen Christ recognizes this time of renewal of the earth.
Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring.
Holy Week and the Triduum
Although Easter Season begins with the Resurrection, Holy Week is the connection between Lent, the time of preparation, and the great celebration on Easter Sunday. During Holy Week we participate in the suffering and death of Jesus beginning with His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and ending on Holy Saturday.
The Triduum, the three sacred days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are set aside as a special time. They are our “Passover” celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as the Jews celebrate every year their Passover from slavery in Egypt to freedom as God’s chosen people.
- Holy Thursday Mass is our re-living Christ’s Passover meal with His apostles. He gave them His body and His blood to eat and drink and instituted the sacrament of Eucharist. It is the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
- Good Friday service with veneration of the Cross joins us with Christ, sharing in His passion and His death.
- Holy Saturday is a time of waiting. Christ is in the tomb; it is like the earth holds its breath for the joy of His rising.
- Easter Sunday services are the summit of celebrations of our faith. Jesus has conquered death. He is risen!
During the Easter season, the vestments and other altar items are white. This signifies purity, joy and eternal life.
Ascension of the Lord
Ascension of the Lord occurs 40 days after Easter. Christ, in His appearances to His apostles, extends His peace and promises to send the Advocate to strengthen them. Then He ascends into Heaven, body and soul. But the apostles, in fear of the Romans, go into hiding in the upper room, not sure what will happen now that Jesus is gone.
The last 10 days of the Easter Season, from Ascension through Pentecost, focus on Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit to the apostles.
On Pentecost, wind and flame appear in the upper room where the apostles are gathered. They are filled with the Holy Spirit and go out to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem from around the Empire. Their preaching and conviction convert thousands that day. After that, they begin the spread of Christianity despite all obstacles. So, too, we are called to share God’s word and love as evangelists to the whole world.