The Solemnity of Easter
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” (New American Bible, Mark 16: 1 – 6)
Easter, without a doubt, is the most important and joyous day (& season) in the liturgical year. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it in this manner: “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of solemnities’” (#1169). It goes on to say that “… the mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him.”(#1169)
What is the Church celebrating during the Easter season? On Easter Sunday and throughout the fifty days of the Easter season, the Church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus. Yes, by the way, the Easter Season lasts for fifty days until Pentecost.
Why is Easter so important to the Church? Easter is important to the Church because the Resurrection of Jesus is the central mystery, belief and teaching of the Church; it has been believed AND preached from the earliest days of the Church: Peter, on Pentecost says, “…God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”(New American Bible, Acts of the Apostles 2:24) Peter says later in Acts, “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.” (New American Bible, Acts of the Apostles 2:32)
St. Paul states in his letter to the Romans:
“Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned – for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.” (New American Bible, Romans 5:15-17)
So all Christians celebrate Easter, why then do some Christians celebrate it on different days? Yes, all Christians celebrate Easter. As I mentioned above, the Resurrection of Jesus is the central mystery, belief and teaching of the Church. The celebration on different days is a religious calendar issue.
What do you mean by “a religious calendar issue”? Don’t all Christians use the same calendar? No, for religious celebrations we actually don’t. This goes all the way back to the early days of the Church. At the first ecumenical council of Nicea in 325 AD, one of the issues discussed was the date for the celebration of Easter. It seems certain Christian groups celebrated Easter on a different date. The Quarterdecimanists, for example, celebrated Easter on what was the 14th day of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, no matter the day of the week on which it occurred. At Nicea the Church decided that Easter would be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
Now throw in the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar was the civil calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in the 1st Century BC; as a religious calendar, many of the Eastern Churches use this. The Gregorian calendar was the civil calendar introduced in the 16th Century AD to adjust for the differences that had occurred to the Julian calendar over fifteen hundred years; as a religious calendar, this is used by most Western Churches. As of 2016, there is a difference of 13 days between the two calendars which can make the celebrations off by up to six weeks or so. In recent years there have been inter-religious dialogues concerning the celebration of the central mystery of our common faith on the same day but nothing definitive, as far as I know, has been agreed to.
What does the Resurrection of Jesus mean for me, why is it important? It can and should mean so many things:
- Jesus’ Resurrection means that I have been liberated from sin and a new way of life has been opened to me. (CCC,#654)
- Jesus’ Resurrection means that I have been justified in my relationship with God; my offenses, my sins, have been remediated and I can now really be called a child of God. There is no longer an obstacle in place, besides my own self – centered attitude, sin, that can overcome this. (CCC, #1995)
- Jesus’ Resurrection means that I can achieve eternal life in the Kingdom as long as my actions and attitudes are in accordance, in agreement, with God’s will, with God’s plan, with what God wants for me, for others and for the rest of creation. (CCC, #655)
What can I do to make Easter a more meaningful season for me?
- Try to use the season to reflect upon the Resurrection and its importance in my life.
- Make an effort to do some spiritual or Scriptural reading over the course of the season.
- Try to figure out how I can take the message of the Resurrection and actually live it; not in a showy, pretentious or ostentatious way but in a sincere, humble and faith-filled manner.
- Attempt to spend time with family. Visit a relative you may not have seen for a while, visit a relative that lives in a nursing home or retirement facility.
- Attend a parish or community event occurring in conjunction with Easter. Are there any Easter egg hunts happening in the neighborhood? If so, bring the kids.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002. Web. 18 March.2016 < http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM>
The New American Bible. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002. Web. 13 March.2014 <http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM>