The Great Fifty Days of Easter
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Easter Day is only the beginning!
A great fifty day feast kicks off on Easter Sunday. In the Church Year, this is quite literally fifty days of feasting.
Easter is the high point of the Church Year. So it makes sense that we would party for so long. After all, the main point of the whole gospel is to prepare us for an eternal celebration and feast.
This is reflected in the fact that our Lenten fast only lasts forty days (not including Sundays), while Easter is fifty days. Fasting will pass away, as Jesus said, but the Great Feast of the Lamb will last for ages of ages (a Hebrew into Greek idiom for eternity!).
So let the feasting begin!
Why fifty days?
Its actually quite simple. After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty days on earth before he ascended, and then there were ten more days after that before the Day of Pentecost.
Luke writes in the first chapter of Acts that Jesus “presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”
In chapter two, we find the followers of Jesus gathered for the Day of Pentecost, which actually means “fifty.” It happened during the Hebrew feast of Shavuot, which is why the followers of Jesus were gathering. The Hebrew festival was originally a harvest first fruits celebration, and later it had evolved into a commemoration of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
So the Great Fifty Days are a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ and all that means for us, leading to the launching of the Christian Church and its mission on Pentecost.
How do Christians Celebrate the Great Fifty Days?
Easter Vigil, held sometime after dark on Holy Saturday evening, kicks off Easter. Easter Day Celebrations take place on Easter Day. The Lectionary readings (Sunday Scriptures) during the Sundays of Easter explore the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, and also the promise of a future resurrection.
We go back to a closed room in which Jesus suddenly appears…but Thomas isn’t there. He doubts. Jesus later appears to him. Poor Thomas, forever cast as “doubting” even though his doubts were a helpful thing that eventually led him to worship Jesus and say, “My Lord, and My God.”
Then we have breakfast with Jesus and Peter. Peter had denied Jesus three times and, after the Resurrection, had returned to fishing. Jesus restores him and gives him a mission: “Feed my Sheep” and “Follow me.” (He also prophecies that Peter will be arrested and martyred. Tough breakfast conversation).
We revisit Jesus’ teaching on himself and his mission as well. He is preparing his disciples, and us, to take the power of his Resurrection to the world.
Ascension Day falls on the 40th day, which always falls on a Thursday. Because this is a weekday, some churches observe or focus on the Ascension that following Sunday, the Seventh Sunday of Easter. In this we hear Jesus give us the Great Commission, our true Mission Statement.
What is the “Greeting” for Easter?
We say “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Christmas!” but what about Easter? Does it have a greeting?
Yes, there is an ancient and universal greeting of celebration for Easter:
Greeting: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Response: The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
This is called the Paschal Greeting, or the Easter Acclamation. One of the reasons that we don’t say “Alleluia” in Lent is so that the impact of this acclamation will be that much greater.
So: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
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