Liturgical Year
Part 3 Easter

Chapter y38 Easter

Preliminary Questions



Contemporary Pastoral Issues

Spirituality of the Seasons

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Which do you experience as the bigger feast? Christmas of Easter? Why?

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Mertz, Mary Ann. "A Cantor's View: 'How can I get through Lent and Easter?'" Liturgical Musics News, Lent/Easter 1996, p. 6.

Vatican II. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Paul VI. Poenitemini. Apostolic Letter of February 17, 1966.

Adrian Nocent.  The Liturgical Year.  (4 vols. paper).  1977.  The Liturgical Press.  $35.00.  ISBN:  0-8146-0963-5.

To see a very fine PowerPoint presentation on the meaning of Easter, given by Br. Brendan Moss, O.S.B. at Saint Meinrad School of Theology on November 14, 2000, click here.  To move through the slides, press your "enter' key or the right arrow key. 

This link gives the date of Easter in any given year from 326 to 4099 AD

A good website for Jerusalem's Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at

 Reflections on the Collects for Sunday in Easter can be found at

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At the 2015 Center for Action and Contemplation conference, Ilia Delio said, "The resurrection recapitulates the whole evolutionary emergent creation as a forward movement to become something new, a new heaven and a new earth. What took place in Christ is intended for the whole cosmos, union and transformation in the divine embrace of love!" ... "The resurrection of Jesus undergirds the fact that life creates the universe, not the other way round. Every act of physical death is an act of new life in the universe. The resurrection of Jesus speaks to us of this new life." (Ilia Delio, The Francis Factor: How Saint Francis and Pope Francis are changing the world (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), MP4 video.

Name: Easter, Spring goddess. Name of a pagan vernal festival. Almost coincident in date with the paschal festival of the Church. Easter: dawn goddess, vernal equinox.

Date: First Sunday after the date of the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21 (the vernal equinox).

Set by the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.

Now: Easter can be celebrated between March 22 and April 25.

Proposed: First Sunday after the second Saturday of April.


Acts of the Apostles--How the early Christians lived, finding roots. Mystagogia: honeymoon period for the neophytes. Acts: What happened in the early community now happens to us. Easter continues in us. We are the empty tomb for our world today. Christ must rise in us. Thomas must touch our wounded hands.

Resurrection accounts, then Gospel of John


Sunday is the original Christian feast. It is the Eucharist that makes the day Sunday, the Lord's Day, and not vice-versa.

Good statement: Easter is the Great Sunday.

Poor statement: Sunday is a little Easter.


Coming back to life

Passing through death. Resurrection, not resuscitation.

Easter leads to Advent.


Easter is the Great Sunday--the most joyful of all Sunday. The liturgy should show that this day is SPECIAL. Everyone in church should know that this is THE Day of the Lord. Pull out all the stops.

Cannot be done in 24 hours. Therefore, fifty days OF Easter. (Not AFTER Easter.)


Easter candle


Easter lily--Easter flowers (real or plastic)

Easter water

Easter egg

Easter breads

Easter rabbit

Easter bells

Purple and yellow

Easter clothes

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Contemporary Pastoral Issues

Few Catholics celebrate the vigil and Easter both. The experience of the pastor is very different from the experience of the parish. Often even seminarians wonder: If I go to the vigil why do I need to go to Easter Mass? What percent of the "solid parishioners" go to Mass on Easter?

On the other hand--how can we deal with the number of unchurched and/or inactive Catholics who are present for eucharist on Easter. On this greatest of days we need to do some very basic evangelization and catechesis. For example: on the day when we would want to do our "fanciest" music, we might have to do our most "basic" music.

HISTORICISM: Sun rise service, waiting for Jesus to come from the tomb? How is this related to the Easter liturgy? In what ways can it be a positive relation?

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Spirituality of the Season

[Reprinted from: Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Spirituality of the Seasons: The Great 50 Days of Easter," St. Anthony Messenger, 102:12 (May, 1995) p 56.]

What is it that really makes you "you"? How would you describe "who you are"? Questions of identity are important to us, especially during times of transition and change. Many people feel that both the Church and society in general are currently undergoing a time of major change.

During a transition, it is important to know where we came from so that we can better understand where we are now and where we are going. I think this is one of the reasons for the tremendous popularity of the television series "Roots" and why so many individual families are finding their own "roots" by tracing their family tree.

The Easter season, the great Fifty Days, is a time to look again at our Christian roots. The spirituality of the Easter season is shaped by the Acts of the Apostles. Each day at Mass, both Sundays and weekdays, we read from the Acts. (The Scripture readings for a season are the key to understanding the spirituality of that season. One of the best descriptions of the Liturgical Year that I have ever found is simply this: "The Liturgical Year is the way we read Scripture.") The Acts of the Apostles help us rediscover our Christian identity.

What gives us our Christian identity? What makes a Christian different from anyone else? We do not dress differently from our neighbors. We do not use a special language. We are aware that other religions can lead men and women to God. What is it that makes us Christian? "The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 638) At the heart of our Christian identity is the belief that God has radically changed the universe in the birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

This radical transformation -- salvation -- is the focus of our Easter celebration. Easter is so important that we cannot even begin to celebrate it adequately in one day -- it takes a week; it takes a week of weeks (7 x 7); it takes fifty days, a Pentecost (pent 'konta, Greek for 50). Each day of these Fifty Days is Easter. (Notice that we speak of the Sundays of Easter, not the Sundays after Easter.)

At the Easter Vigil we received new members into our community through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Before their initiation, the neophytes learned about the sacraments "from the outside" as it were; now that they are practicing, celebrating members of our community, they experience the sacraments "from within" the community. We call these Fifty Days, this Pentecost, the time of mystagogy (from the Greek word for the one who leads neophytes through the mysteries/sacraments.) For the newly baptized the time of mystagogy is something like the "honeymoon" period in a marriage.

Picture the newlyweds visiting grandmother's home for the first time. Grandmother gets out the family Photo Album and begins showing the new bride pictures of her husband's family: pictures of her husband as a baby and as a teenager with his friends; pictures of his parents and what they looked like growing up; pictures of Aunt Sue who ran a farm all by herself; and even a picture of cousin Mike (before he went to prison). When you marry someone you get more than just a wife or husband; through them, and in them, you receive a whole family history and family system.

So it is with the newly baptized. They have not only "put on Christ" they have put on his Body, the Church. And they (and we) take time during these Fifty Days to learn who that family, that "Church" is. We see the picture of the birth and early growth of our Church in the Acts of the Apostles.

The Acts of the Apostles forms one literary unit with the Gospel according to Luke. (This fact might be obscured because in your Bible the Gospel according to John is placed in the middle of Luke/Acts.) Notice how Luke begins the two books: Luke's Gospel begins: "Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us...I too have write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received." (Luke 1:1-4. Read on January 22.) Acts begins: "In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. (Acts 1:1-2. Read on May 25, Ascension Thursday.)

Luke/Acts is a very special form of writing. The author wants to show how the life and deeds of Jesus are continued in the life and deeds of the first disciples and are to be continued in the Church of our day. In the Gospel we see Jesus healing the sick; in Acts we see Peter doing the same (reading for April 23). In the Gospel we see Jesus brought before the high priest to be interrogated; in Acts we see the same thing happening to Peter (reading for April 30). The death of Stephen, the first martyr, (reading for May 28) parallels the death of Jesus. Stephen prays: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:60) as Jesus had prayed "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) Stephen raises his eyes to heaven and says: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59) as Jesus died with the words "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

A good way to enter into the spirit of this season is to read the whole of the Acts of the Apostles on your own. If you begin at Easter and read but 3 chapters a week -- about a page a day -- you will complete the entire book during the Easter season.

Luke sets out to show us that what Jesus did during his lifetime, the first disciples did during theirs, and we -- today's disciples -- are to do during ours! And as we read the Acts of the Apostles and hear the book proclaimed at each Mass during this season, we ask ourselves: Is this our Church? Are we a healing Church? Are we a forgiving Church? Do we struggle to follow the inspiration of the Spirit to adapt the message of Jesus to the needs of our day?

This is the message of the Great fifty days. We are to find our roots; but more than that, we are to continue that great heritage into our own day. We read Acts not merely to be proud of our past, but to be challenged by the present. The bottom line is not: Does our Church have the most members? Does our Church have the most money? Does our Church have the most elaborate rituals? The bottom line is: Does our Church continue the saving, healing, redeeming work of Jesus Christ? That is the challenge of the Great Fifty Days and the key to the spirituality of this liturgical season. The stories we read in Acts are not simply stories of long ago, not simply pictures in the family photo album. They are our story, they are our picture. Today, Jesus must rise in us. Today, Jesus heals and reconciles through us. Today, we must keep the story alive!

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To Think About

1. How is Easter different from the celebration of "Spring"?

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 11/08/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at