The Season of Easter

 

What is Easter?

  • The Sunday Jesus was raised from the dead, and
  • The 50-day celebration of his resurrection.

When is Easter?

  • Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox.
  • This was decided by the council of Nicaea in ad 325 when Christianity had become legal and there was a desire for a uniform practice throughout the empire.
  • March 21st is used as the date of the vernal equinox, so Easter can fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25
  • (Eastern Orthodox Christians, however, still use the Julian calendar in which March 21 falls on April 3. Therefore, Orthodox Easter is normally celebrated on a different date.)
  • Easter Season begins on Easter Sunday and concludes 7 Sundays later (50 days) with the Feast of Pentecost.

Why 50 days?

  • Jesus continued to show himself to his followers in the days after his resurrection.
  • Jesus was crucified at Passover and the next big festival in Jerusalem came 50 days later.
  • The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts (Volumes 1 & 2 of the Jesus story by Luke) relates:
    • Jesus continued to appear to his followers for a period of 40 days.
    • At the end of the 40 days, Jesus ascended to the right hand of God.
    • Before ascending he told his followers to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit
    • The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.

Why white and gold?

  • The color white is used for Easter and all festivals celebrating events in the life of Jesus.
  • Gold is also used at Easter, especially on Easter Sunday
  • Jesus robes were “dazzling white” at the transfiguration and in the vision in Revelation 1 Jesus has a golden sash.
  • White or radiant light is the common description for heavenly messengers.

What happens in Easter

  • Every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection, so worship in Easter is much like every Sunday, except that it tends to be somewhat richer and fuller.
  • The greeting “Christ is risen” / “He is risen indeed” continues to echo through the season.
  • The spirit of the season is joyful.

Special days in the Easter Season

  • Nearly every Sunday in Easter has some special significance, but two days have special importance.

Ascension Day

  • Ascension Day is 40 days after Easter, on the Thursday following the 6th Sunday of Easter.
  • This comes from the Gospel of Luke where the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples for 40 days before ascending to the right hand of God.
  • The right hand of God is a metaphor for Christ governing all life.

Pentecost

  • Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter and is the culmination of the Easter Season
  • It celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit as described in Acts 2 and the beginning of the mission of Jesus’ followers.

Other traditions in the Easter Season

The Second Sunday of Easter / Easter Octave

  • The second Sunday of Easter each year reads the story of Jesus’ appearance to “Doubting Thomas”
  • An “octave” is the 8th day, and is celebrated as a kind of echo and conclusion of the original festival.

Good Shepherd Sunday

  • The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday
  • Each year on this Sunday we read from the tenth chapter of John where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

  • The last Sunday in Easter reads from what is called “the High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. It is Jesus prayer for the disciples on the night of his arrest as recorded in John 17.