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Easter Season Symbols
EASTER SEASON SYMBOLS
Today, the second Sunday of Easter, is the final day of the Easter octave. These eight days are important in the church calendar and rank more highly than solemnities in the table of liturgical days. In the early Church, the newly initiated wore their white baptismal garments in public for the entire time. In Tertullian’s community they even abstained for a whole week from their daily bath!
It is helpful to think of the season of Easter as part of ninety-three days which lie at the heart of the liturgical year. This period consists of forty days of preparation for Easter during Lent, the three-day Easter Triduum and fifty days continuing celebration in the Easter season.
Eastertime is the ideal time for parishes to hold confirmations, first communions, infant baptisms (which ideally have been held over from Lent), rites of commissioning for liturgical ministers and the anointing of the sick. These ceremonies celebrate our Lenten conversion, unfold the wonders of Easter, and show in practice our belief that Jesus is truly risen and present with us.
The unity of the Easter season and its link with the Easter Vigil is seen in the worship environment. Banners, hangings and other artistic creations for the Vigil remain in place until Pentecost. The central symbols of water and light are used throughout the fifty days. The paschal candle is placed near the ambo or altar until Pentecost and is lighted during liturgical celebrations to remind us that Christ is indeed our light. It may be processed to the font for baptisms and then returned to its stand. After Pentecost evening prayer, it is placed next to the font for the rest of the year.
The use of the rite of sprinkling is very appropriate in the Easter season as it powerfully and tangibly reminds us of the Vigil and initiation. The baptismal font may be highlighted by placing it near the entry into the worship space or in the centre of the assembly, if moveable, or by decorating it with greenery if not.
The document on the liturgical year says that the fifty days of the Easter season are “the days for the singing of the Alleluia”. Eastertime presents us with great reasons to greet the gospel with special joy in song. If ever eucharistic acclamations were to be shouts of joy, it is now! The hymns of the Easter season liturgies are filled with alleluia and praise as the church proclaims the hope of resurrection.
Early Christians called Eastertime “the Sunday of the year” as it is to the whole year what Sunday is to the week, that is, one-seventh. It is a time for celebrating our new life in Christ and our participation in the paschal mystery. It is fifty days, but it is really one day – the Great Sunday.