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Easter Sunday today concludes the celebration of the Triduum and begins the great fifty days of the Easter season. After 40 days of fast we have 50 days of feast.
The first reading for the Mass of the Day on Easter Sunday comes from the Acts of the Apostles, as it will every Sunday for the entire season. Today we hear a catechetical sermon that Peter delivered in the house of Cornelius. Peter spells out the core of Christian belief and the message of the resurrection is proclaimed 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 peaching.
The psalm for today is a seasonal 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 to one of present participation.
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 today 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. Originally these musical components extended the Alleluia and served to embellish and prolong the Gospel procession on high feast days.
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: “Alleluia, alleluia! Christ has become our paschal sacrifice; let us feast with joy in the Lord. Alleluia!”
At Mass today, as at the Easter Vigil last night, the recitation of the Creed is replaced by the renewal of baptismal promises. This gives everybody the opportunity to state their belief in the form of responses to questions about their faith in the same way that it is done in the celebration 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.
Because Easter is, according to the liturgy documents, ‘the culmination of the entire liturgical year’, 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, has the words ‘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!