Down through the ages, before the eventual birth of Jesus Christ, there were stories foretold about the coming of a Saviour- one who was to save the people of Israel from slavery. However, the questions were; how and when? Consequently, when Jesus Christ (The New Adam) came forth from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (The New Eve) as was the plan of God right from the fall of humankind to sin, they failed to recognize and acknowledge Him as the long expected Savior. In the biblical account, the book of Genesis records that God created the universe and all that is in it by spoken words and later, St. John posits that this Word who existed from the very beginning of creation was in due time made flesh in Jesus Christ (cf Gen 1; Jn.1:1ff). Jesus Christ who is true God and true man, the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets, took the nature of man in all things but sin.
He humbled Himself even to the shameful death on a Cross. These excruciating pains, sufferings and disgrace he endured without complaint because He wanted to redeem humankind created in His own image and likeness. Now, the questions are: Why did God have to send His Son to die in such an ignoble way, instead of just destroying Satan and all His agents? Did Jesus really resurrect from the dead? Of what relevance is Christ’s resurrection to humankind especially the Christian community? How is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ the foundation of Christianity? Basically, the word ‘Christianity’ simply means the religion based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The word Christianity originated with the ministry of Christ and so, focuses its faith tradition on the figure of Christ. Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God, the creator who suffered in endurance without threatening and violent actions the rejection, torments, spitting, crucifixion and death in the hands of His own creatures. Although Pilate (the lawful governor) didn’t find any fault in Jesus Christ, he condemned Him for love of money and position.
He suffered in severe agony the burden of knowing his betrayer and the hour of his death. He carried the heavy burden of the Cross to Golgotha with blood dripping from his head into his eyes and faced, spitted upon and meeting his mother on the way. He was stripped off his clothes by the soldiers who later casted lots on whose possession it shall be. He was crucified hands and feet on a wooden cross with big nails driven in with a hammer. He was raised on the cross with the inscription “The King of the Jews”. He was mocked by the soldiers, thieves and all who despised Him that He wants to bring down the temple which took them years to build and build it back in three days but He cannot save Himself and come down from the cross. He was fed with bitter gall and vinegar soaked in hyssop when he asked for water. He was pierced at the side with a lance despite he was already dead. And just before He died, he spoke words of forgiveness, total dependence on God and consolation (not curses) on all perpetrators of the evil act.
After His death, His lifeless body was taken down from the cross into the hands of Mary and later, covered with linen clothes, balmed with myrrh, placed in a borrowed tomb and closed with a big rocky stone by a secret disciple- Joseph of Arimathea. It is also important to underline that before this eventual unjust suffering, the death of Jesus Christ was long foreshadowed. In Abel he was slain; in Isaac he was bound; in Jacob he was a stranger; in Joseph he was sold into slavery; in Moses he was exposed; in David he was persecuted; in the prophets he was dishonored. However, all of this happened according to the will of God which was to bruise Him and offer his own blood as an unblemished sacrifice in the Sanctuary once and for all as against the usual sacrifices of the bloods of rams and bulls. In other words, Jesus Christ is the silent Lamb of God dragged away to the slaughter-house and slain for the redemption of mankind; in the evening he was sacrificed, and at night he was buried.
Therefore, the death of Jesus Christ is one solely aimed at bringing humankind back from the estrangement caused by man’s disobedience (sin) into communion with God; hence, recovering the adoption (as God’s sons and daughters) of former times enjoyed by Adam and Eve. With Jesus’ death on the cross, the world was conditioned to a mode of extremely great silence and stillness, death was destroyed and the underworld trembled until His resurrection. Easter called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday is a Christian festival and holiday commemorating in celebration the triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ from the chains of death after lying three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. In the words of Craig Lounsbrough, Easter is a time when God turned the inevitability of death into the invincibility of life. According to the Roman Catholic Rite, before the Easter celebration commences, there is a period of forty (40) days set aside for the preparation towards the celebration of this great feast.
The period of Lent is a commemoration of Jesus Christ’s forty days in the wilderness and so, it is marked by fasting from some earthly pleasures, prayer, penance and alms giving. Similarly, the week before Easter is referred to as Holy Week. It begins with the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, while the last three days (Holy or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) before Easter is called Easter Triduum. Right from its official inception and proclamation as a solemnity, the dates chosen as Easter Sunday have constantly diferred instead of remaining the same; however, always falling between March 22 and April 25. These dates vary simply because choosing its dates actually depends solely on the moon. It is chosen to coincide with the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, the first full moon after the vernal equinox (The Jewish Passover) which also varies because is tied to the solar and lunar cycles. Thus, Easter becomes the greatest symbol of hope, the triumph of light and truth, the renewal of grace and the abundance of new life, because in His resurrection was the complete fulfilment of all that was spoken by the prophets.
Furthermore, the story of Easter (a period of fifty days) is the story of God’s wonderful window of divine surprise. During this period of Easter are relevant feasts and solemnities of: Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy (Sunday after Easter), Ascension (Forty days after Easter) and Pentecost (Fifty days after Easter), as well as such memorials like St. Joseph, Good Shepherd Sunday, St. Catherine of Siena, Our Lady Queen of Africa, Ss. Philip and James, St. Matthias etc. The octave of Easter is an eight day celebration where the readings are always Gospels passages related to the various appearances of the Risen Jesus. Divine Mercy Sunday is the day that marks the end of the Easter Octave. It is called Divine Mercy Sunday because it was the day St. Pope John Paul II canonized St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the year 2000. For St. Pope John Paul II, mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; the Easter gift the Church receives from the risen Christ and in turn offers to humanity.
Ascension is the Solemnity that commemorates the day Jesus Christ, having conquered death and finished His earthly mission, ascended into heaven body and soul so as to prepare a place for mankind. Just before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised not to leave the disciples orphans, and Pentecost is the day He fulfilled this promise; hence, it is often referred to as the birthday of the Christian church and the start of the church’s mission to the world. On this day of festival, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (The Comforter) on the Apostles and it descended like a tongue of fire on their heads such that they began to speak and every one could understand them in their various languages. The other memorials of Apostles and Saints during the Eastertide are signs of respect attributed to persons who did ordinary things in extra-ordinary ways and also encourage the militant church to lead righteous lives.
Liturgical directions for Easter
The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better as one “great Sunday”. These above all others are the days for the singing of the Alleluia.– General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, #22 Eastertide is a period of 50 days, spanning from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. It is celebrated as a single joyful feast, called the “great Lord’s Day”. Each Sunday of the season is treated as a Sunday of Easter. Easter Sunday and Pentecost correspond to pre-existing Jewish feasts: The first day of Pesach and the holiday of Shavu’ot. In the Jewish tradition, the 49 days between these holidays are known as Counting of the Omer .
The first eight days constitute the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord. Since 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter is also called Divine Mercy Sunday. Paschal Tide is a season of joy. The colour for the Office de tempore is white; the Te Deum and Gloria are recited every day. On Sundays the “Asperges” is replaced by the “Vidi Aquam” which recalls the solemn Easter: The foundation of… baptism of Easter eve. Prayers and the Litany are said standing, not kneeling. Instead of the “Angelus” the “Regina Caeli” is recited. At Mass the Alleluia is added to the Introit, Offertory and Communion. The celebration of the Easter Vigil is the beginning of the season of Easter. The Vigil is the Christian feast par excellence, the feast of new birth, new beginnings, salvation renewed, and humanity restored to the Lord. While the Vigil marks the end of the paschal fast, the end of the celebration of Holy Week, and the end of repentance and conversion for which Lent prepared the community, it is much more a beginning. It is the beginning of a new season of grace and a time of joy and thanksgiving, for Easter is not one day or one solemnity—it is a fifty day celebration, and the fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday together comprise what the General Instruction terms “the great Sunday”.
From apostolic times the feasts of Easter and Pentecost were primary, and the paschal mystery was the first celebration to have both a time before the feast of preparation and a time afterwards for the extension and completing the celebration. In the new Sacramentary and Lectionary the Sundays following Easter are no longer termed “after” for they are “of ” Easter, since they do not follow a solemnity, but they are to be taken as a unity to form one season of solemnity and exaltation at the triumph of Jesus over sin and death. In the former understanding of the season the feast of the Pentecost was set off because it had its own octave. In the reformed calendar this situation is remedied for the solemnity of the Ascension does not end the season of Easter; it is one special day within an entire special season. The Easter candle is no longer extinguished on the Ascension for it should remain in prominence in the sanctuary until Pentecost and then be placed in the baptistry. It can be used at funerals and at the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.
The feast of Pentecost now concludes the Easter season and the week between Ascension and Pentecost should be a time of preparation and expectation for the coming of the Spirit. The major principle of the calendar reform called for at the Vatican Council—that the paschal mystery be the center of the Christian year—is made obvious in the new Sacramentary because of the emphasis on Easter as the great feast of fifty days. The Easter candle, lighted for the first time from the new fire of the Easter Vigil, is placed in a prominent place in the sanctuary between Easter and Pentecost and should be lighted for all liturgical services in this season and should be incensed whenever incense is used in the fifty days. The color for the season is white. Liturgical hangings or banners should be made of white and contrasting colors and should reflect the season of new life, fulfillment, rejoicing and joy at the season. All penitential elements in the eucharist should be eliminated in this season of sung Alleluias, water, candles and lights. Every day in the Octave of Easter is so important that it is treated as a continuation of Easter Sunday itself. For that reason, no fasting is allowed during the Octave of Easter (since fasting has always been forbidden on Sundays), and on the Friday after Easter, the normal obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays is waived. But the Easter season doesn’t end after the Octave of Easter: Because Easter is the most important feast in the Christian calendar, even more important than Christmas, the Easter season continues on for 50 days, through the Ascension of Our Lord to Pentecost Sunday, seven full weeks after Easter Sunday! So even after Easter Sunday has passed, and the Octave of Easter has passed, keep on celebrating and wishing your friends a happy Easter. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us in his famous Easter homily, read in Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches on Easter, Christ has destroyed death, and now is the “feast of faith.”
Final notes: Because he lives, I can face tomorrow!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is both the foundation and culmination of Christian faith because it is only after His resurrection that his disciples (as instructed) taught with authority all he had taught them. In the same vein, it was after his resurrection that many people believed he was indeed the Son of God and later, founded the church under the leadership of Peter. And so, the Christian Society celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead to prove that Jesus Christ was indeed the son of God as proclaimed by the Centurion. It also goes to show that Jesus is a Divine creature who could and can never be contained within space and time. Thus, with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Cross became a pulpit which teaches the virtues of humility, endurance, gentleness, patience, love, perseverance, righteousness, peace, justice, meekness etc.
Similarly, the Easter celebrations remind Christians that there is always a Sunday after a Friday, a gain after a pain and a crown after enduring the suffering of a cross. The Paschal Mystery of Easter is the central concept of the Christian faith as it relates to the history of salvation accomplished through and in Jesus Christ. It is therefore a journey of Christian hope. It is a period of joy, rejoicing and thanksgiving when the Christian community appreciates the gift of the mercy of God, freely bestowed on the church and humanity at large for sanctification. Finally, Easter is the most important time of the year for Christians. Christians all over the world celebrate this great mission of salvation because at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the shameful death of Jesus Christ on the Cross soon became a victorious crown; the pain of the Cross which Jesus Christ suffered soon became a gain for His creatures. And so, in this year’s Easter season celebrated under the shadow of the Covid -19, humanity is specially called to die with Christ in his death so as to resurrect with him because as it is written: “Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it will not germinate and bring forth fruits.
” The individual human person is called to die to the frail works of human flesh; the vices of immoral lifestyle, sin, anger, procrastination, racism, tribalism, unholy quest for prestige and positions, and so on. Easter is a season of hope, and a season of expectation of utter deliverance. Because of Christ’s victory, we can say, “This too shall pass away!” to all our problems in our country especially political crises, economic downturn and unprecedented insecurity, and the rest…that by the power of the Resurrection, evil shall not have the last laugh. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow… We pray that through the resurrection of Christ, God may in His infinite love and mercy draw us closer to Himself so that the graces of this Easter season will be abundant for us and the whole world.