"WHAT SUNDAY is to the week, the solemnity of Easter Is to the liturgical year." Thus, the official Introduction to the Roman Calendar. "The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost," the Calendar goes on, "are celebrated as one feast day, sometimes called "the great Sunday."
We know that Easter was the original feast, and from it all the other celebrations of the Church flow because it is the dying and rising of the Lord which gives meaning to our lives as Christians.
From the early days of the Church, the joy of Easter day itself spilled over into a great 50 day celebration of the resurrection, ending with the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the birthday of the Church at Pentecost, when the apostles went out Into the world to spread the good news of Jesus risen from the dead.
We have prepared to celebrate Easter during the forty days of Lent, now In the Easter season. we concentrated on deepening our faith so that we too can go out into the world to spread the good news of Jesus risen from the dead. Jesus, the Lord of history.
Although It has not been too apparent in recent liturgical practice, the season of Easter has been celebrated as one feast over the fifty days and there is a venerable tradition for this. In one of the ancient, Missals we have the prayer: "Lord God, you desired the paschal mystery to be celebrated for fifty days . .."
Now this is really possible. For the first eight days, only the Mass of the day may be said. They are "solemnities" and take precedence over all other feasts. Similarly the Sundays of Easter may not be displaced by any other celebration, and proper Masses are provided in the Missal for each of the days of Easter.
In addition, the Calendar has changed the titles of the Sundays: "To have the fifty days of the Easter season appear as one day or the Great Sunday as St Athanius called It, the Sundays of the Easter Season will no longer be called Sundays after Easter, but Sundays of Easter.
Thus Low Sunday becomes the Second Sunday of Easter, and the other the Third, Fourth etc. Sundays of Easter."
(Official Commentary of the Roman Calendar).
It Is important that Easter Is seen as ending with the Solemnity of Pentecost, since it was the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles which gave them the courage to go out and bear witness to the resurrection, even to the point
of giving up their lives. As the official commentary puts it: ". . . this season has always been celebrated as one feast, "the time of Pentecost" and "the seven weeks of Pentecost."
The oriental rites conclude the Easter season late in the evening on Pentecost Sunday, and this custom in the Roman liturgy can be traced to the time of St Leo the Great. In the seventh century, when the feast of Pentecost came to be celebrated solely as the ann)rersar, of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, its vital connection with the Easter season was forgotten, and it was even given its own octave.
"In our time a careful study of the paschal mystery has been made which has brought out theclose relationship between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection and ascension of the Lord ..."
In the new calendar, greater Importance is given to the nine days from Ascension day to Pentecost, and the Church urges parishes to come together each day In a novena to the Holy Spirit, in preparation for the celebration of Pentecost.
This, you may think is alright in theory, bnt how is it to be put Into practice? Tirst, all parishes should not finish the celebration of Easter Day with a sigh, and think that it is all over for another year! Over the Sundays of Easter, the liturgy should be celebrated In a particularly joyful and splendid way. "Alleluia" is a particular characteristic of this season, and as "Easter People" we should be singing that song in every Mass.
It also means that those responsible for the planning and celebration of the liturgy, especially the musicians, should ensure that throughout the season it is the message of Easter which predominates in the liturgy. No other popular devotions should distract from the celebration of Easter In the liturgy.
Throughout the should be showing how central Easter is to our faith and in this the celebration of the liturgy Sunday by Sunday has a crucial part to play.
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you have revealed to the nations your saving power and filled all ages with the words of a new song, Hear the echo of this hymn. Give us voice to sing your praise thoughout this season of joy.
(Alternative Opening Prayer, 5th Sunday of Easter). season we