Celebrating Easter Sunday


Today is Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection. For liturgy planners and liturgical ministers, Easter Sunday can seem something of an anti-climax after the Vigil with its dramatic service of light and adult initiations. However, we should never lose sight of the fact that Easter Sunday is the ‘Big Sunday’, the highpoint and model for every Sunday of the year. It is also the time when many ‘occasional Catholics’ come to church, so it is important that the celebration be vibrant, inclusive and engaging.

The readings and prayers for Easter Sunday are the same every year; they do not vary with the 3-year cycle of Gospel readings.

The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles, as the first reading will be every Sunday for the entire Easter season. We hear a sermon that Peter delivered in the house of Cornelius in which he spells out the core of Christian belief and proclaims the message of the resurrection loud and clear. Peter says that the prophets testified that Jesus would rise from the dead and it is now the task of all believers to testify to the risen Christ through their preaching.

The psalm for Easter Sunday is an acclamation of joy proclaiming this day as the day the Lord has made. Through the use of the present tense, ‘This is the day the Lord has made’, the psalm moves the celebration of Easter beyond a mere historical remembrance and reminds us that we celebrate because the risen Lord is present with us today.

There are two choices for the second reading today. The passage from Colossians speaks of how Jesus’ resurrection has implications for the behaviour of believers. In the alternative reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we hear a comparison between the celebrations of the resurrection and of Passover. The Gospel reading is John’s account of the resurrection.

Easter Sunday is one of only two celebrations during the year when there is an obligatory sequence (Pentecost is the other). A ‘sequence’ (from the Latin sequor, ‘to follow’) is a long hymn text that appears after the second reading and before the Gospel acclamation. It is a challenge to liturgy planners to ensure that the sequence is a joyful expression rather that a long ‘dead’ time. One way of doing this is to sing or recite the sequence during the Gospel procession as the book is carried through the assembly in solemn fashion accompanied by candles and incense, culminating in the acclamation.

At Mass today, as at the Easter Vigil, the recitation of the Creed is replaced by the renewal of baptismal promises. The assembly proclaims its faith by responding to questions about their beliefs in the same way as in the rite of baptism. This profession of faith is followed by the sprinkling of all present with holy water. The water is drawn from the baptismal font which was blessed at the Vigil.

The celebration concludes with a solemn three-part blessing over the people. The priest’s words of dismissal and the people’s response today, and every day throughout the Easter octave, have the acclamation ‘Alleluia, alleluia’ added. With these words we are sent forth as Easter people to bring joy, freedom and hope to the world.

Happy Easter! Alleluia! Alleluia!


Elizabeth Harrington