“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
—Pope John Paul II
Roman Catholics are taught that we are an “Easter people,” meaning that no matter the date we focus on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and God’s promise of eternal life in Christ. At no time in the liturgical year is this focus more apparent than during Eastertide, which begins on Easter Sunday and continues for 50 days until Pentecost.
For the faithful, these seven weeks are celebrated as a single feast called the “great Lord’s Day.” Indeed, Paschal Time is a season of joy in Jesus’s glorified life and victory over death; during this time, the ‘Alleluia’ appears as an independent antiphon and is added to all the antiphons, responses and versicles (short verses said or sung by the celebrant and followed by the congregants’ response.)
Yet keeping Easter feelings of joy alive for all 50 days can be challenging for even the most devout. What are some ways we can rededicate ourselves as Easter people during 50 days of celebration?
“Families can discuss the ways each member can share the hope of Jesus Christ with others,” suggests Michael Donaldson, director of the Office of Pastoral Care for Families in All Stages. “For instance, is there an elderly neighbor whose day would be brightened by a batch of Resurrection Cookies? Is there someone the family could pick up for church or include in Easter dinner?”
Just as it is important for us to make Easter Sunday more than a secular celebration, so we must be careful not to fall back into our old habits or sins after Easter, notes CatholicCulture.org in a recent article.
“The family will find its joy as much as possible in those actions which show fraternal charity – in visiting with relatives and friends, including the shut-ins and handicapped,” write Emerson and Arlene Hynes. “There is no pressure to do anything in particular; it is a ‘free’ day. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”
Donaldson notes that we can use the Easter season to commit to our personal rebirth. “Instead of using Easter as a time to return to things we gave up during Lent, we can evaluate the permanent changes we want to make in our lives. If we gave up junk food for Lent it doesn’t mean we need to commit to a life of fried-food celibacy, but that we can try to make a commitment to eating more healthily.”
We can use Easter to jump-start our intentions for happiness, Donaldson says. “Think of the ways that the sacrifices we made during Lent can become part of our everyday life. Even if you didn’t give up anything for Lent, use Easter as a day to give yourself a new start.”
The Paschal Season provides the perfect time, Donaldson adds, to make a commitment to healthier living, to being a better person, and to focusing more fully on how your actions relate to your well being and your own personal spiritual journey.
In the early days of the Church, notes Catholic Digest, the newly baptized wore their white baptismal garments all during the Octave of the Easter Season – the eight days from Easter Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday. After Christians gained power, the week became a legal holiday in many parts of the Roman Empire.
Granted, it can be difficult for us to sustain the Easter spirit for 50 days, but the season is filled with great meaning. “It’s the time when we are meant to experience what it means when we say Christ is Risen,” notes writer Dan Collins in Catholic Digest. “It’s the season when we hear and ponder the beginnings of our Church, the gifts of the Spirit, and the meaning and mission of discipleship, on what joining in the Eucharist commits us to be and do. For no matter how glorious this 50-day taste of the heavenly banquet is meant to be, God eventually calls us out of the celebration and reminds us to move on and live what we’ve celebrated in all the moments of our lives.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Easter’ comes from the Old English, meaning ‘the East.’ As Catholics, we believe that the sun rising in the east brings light, warmth and hope and is a symbol for the rising Christ, who is the light of the world.