The Meaning of the Season
Alleluia! He is Risen! The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost
are celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better, as one
“great Sunday.” With Easter Sunday, we began Fifty Days of rejoicing.
During these Fifty Days, the Church continues to instruct the neophytes
(the newly baptized) about the new life they have embraced. In the
process, all of us are called to reflect on the meaning of our baptism
and on what living the baptized life looks like. What does it mean to
live the resurrected life of Christ? What does it mean to be Church?
How do we live our lives now that we have died and been raised up?
The neophytes spend their time in post-baptismal formation (which is also
referred to as mystagogical catechesis). It is an opportunity to unpack
their experience of Easter and to reflect on what it all means for their
life now as members of the Church. Like the early Church, we are a
people shaped by the resurrection, a people called to share our joy
and the good news with others, a people freed from sin and filled with
the life of the Holy Spirit, a people who constantly give thanks for all
God’s gifts, a people who have risen from the font to a whole new way of
Fifty Days of Celebration
Part of the challenge of Easter is learning how to celebrate the
fifty-day feast! Perhaps, as Catholics, we find it easier to do
penance than to celebrate; we find it easier to observe the
forty days of Lent than the fifty days of Easter. Part of the
problem lies with our stress on Lent as the religious period for Catholics.
Easter Sunday is not just the endpoint of Lent. It is
the beginning of a sustained conversion of heart and mind to Jesus Christ.
The truth is, however, that we are called to maintain the festivity and
celebration throughout the entire fifty-day period as one joyful feast.
Easter, Ascension and Pentecost are not three separate, independent
feast days, each with its own themes. Rather, they are all part of one
continuous Easter celebration.
continuous Easter celebration.
The Structure of the Season
The Easter season is composed of three phases, but these internal
variations in rhythm never should eclipse its central unity as the great Fifty Days.
The first eight days are celebrated almost as one exuberant festival, with
each day celebrated as a Solemnity. The tradition of mystagogical catechesis
during this time influenced the selection of the scriptural passages.
2.The 31 Middle Days:
The Gospels of the Sundays of the Easter season give focus to the season
of Easter time. The first three Sundays of Easter relate post-resurrection
appearances. The Fourth Sunday always focuses on the powerful image
of the Good Shepherd. The next three Sundays of the season (and many
of the weekdays nearby) draw from what has come to be known as the
“farewell discourse” or “high-priestly prayer” in the Gospel of John. While this
paschal season can include references and hymns to Mary, the paschal
references and overall unity of the Fifty Days should not be compromised
by excess attention to May as “Mary’s month.”
3.The Final Days:
The season does not end on Ascension Thursday! Over the following nine
days (the original novena!) and then on Pentecost day itself, we are invited in
to intense prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Easter time ends at the
conclusion of Pentecost Sunday.