The Easter Season
By Father Michael Van Sloun
The Easter Season is fifty days, not forty days, like Lent, or four weeks or slightly less, like Advent. The Easter Season extends from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. It is sometimes known as the “Festival of Weeks,” seven weeks of seven days (49 days), plus one, the fiftieth day, Pentecost.
The Octave of Easter. The first eight days of the Easter Season are known as the Octave of Easter. Easter is the greatest Christian feast, so great, in fact, that it cannot be celebrated adequately on a single one day. All eight days from Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday of Easter are considered solemnities, the Church’s highest ranking feast, and each day is celebrated with festivity and joy.
The Easter Novena
The last nine days of the Easter Season extend from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost Sunday, a novem, Latin for “nine.” Jesus instructed his disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait … [because] in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4,5). The nine days from Ascension to Pentecost are a novena, a period of prayer before the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Easter Liturgical Color
The liturgical color for the Easter Season is white. Gold is not a liturgical color, but it may be used to accent the white. Together, they are symbols of joy and glory, as well as the Resurrection.
The Easter Liturgical Word
The special word for the Easter Season is Alleluia. It is used for the dismissal from Mass, and it is added to the antiphons and responses for the Liturgy of the Hours. It is only found in the Book of Revelation (19:1,3,4,6), and it is an exclamation of great joy that means “Praise God!” the sentiment of the Easter Season.
The Major Easter Symbol
The foremost symbol of Easter is the Christ Candle, also known as the Easter Candle or the Paschal Candle. It represents the Risen Christ who is the Light of the World (Jn 8:12; see also 1:4-5,9 and 12:46). The candle is given a prominent location during the Easter Season, usually in the sanctuary or somewhere in the front of the church, and after Pentecost it is moved back to its usual place.
The Easter Sacraments
The Easter Sacraments are the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation. Because these sacraments are celebrated at the Easter Vigil when catechumens and candidates are welcomed into the Church, they are also featured throughout the Easter Season. It is the preferred season to celebrate Baptisms within Sunday Mass, and the ideal time to celebrate First Holy Communion as well as Confirmation.
Easter Scripture Texts
The gospels of the Easter Season focus on the appearances of Jesus after his Resurrection, near his tomb, in the Upper Room, on the road to Emmaus, and along the Sea of Galilee. The featured New Testament book throughout the Easter Season for both the first reading on Sundays and every weekday is the Acts of the Apostles, a powerful statement that the risen Christ remains alive and well within the Christian Community. The second readings on the Sundays of Easter are taken from the first letter of Peter in Year A, the first letter of John in Year B, and the Book of Revelation in Year C.