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The Easter Season
Today, the second Sunday of Easter, marks the final day of the Octave of Easter. According to the table of liturgical days, no solemnity or commemoration can take precedence over these eight days. That is why the Anzac Mass could not be celebrated last Tuesday.
The prayers and readings provided for Anzac Day had to give way to those of Easter Tuesday. These Easter texts however are appropriate for the spirit of Anzac Day. The Anzac commemoration can be suitably recognised in the choice of hymns, the homily and the intercessions of the day’s Mass.
During the fifty days of the Easter Season, which runs from Easter Sunday until Pentecost, we hear again and again these words which are part of every preface:
We praise you with greater joy than ever in this Easter season, when Christ became our paschal sacrifice.
The Roman document on the liturgical year says that these fifty days “are celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better as one great Sunday”.
Perhaps the best way to understand the Easter season is to consider it as an overflow of the Vigil and a time for unfolding the Easter mysteries. During the fifty days the Church continues to instruct the newly initiated about the faith which they have embraced. For these people it is the period of mystagogy when the “spiritual and heavenly mysteries of the Church are explained”. At the same time all members of the community are called to reflect on the meaning of their own baptism and to celebrate the conversion which has happened during Lent. Together we focus on living our faith, on the meaning of the eucharist and the power of the Spirit in our lives, the challenge to respond to ministry in the Church and our responsibility to witness to the risen Lord in the world.
The continuity between the Easter Vigil and Eastertime 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. The use of the rite of sprinkling is a powerful and tangible reminder of the Vigil and initiation. Celebrating confirmation, first communion and infant baptism during the Easter season unfolds the wonders of Easter and gives witness to our belief that Jesus is risen and present among us.
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 present 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 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.