Easter for (50) Days
Easter is an amazing event. The most important event in the history of the world. No matter how you understand it theologically, or even if you deny it even happened, no one can doubt its impact on human history. From the perspective of a church leader, I like to compare Holy Week and Easter to the World Series-- or, since the Dallas Stars are currently in the playoffs and the Rangers are not, the Stanley Cup finals. Holy Week, like those playoffs, lasts a week. Think marathon, not sprint. But here's the deal: even at the end of Holy Week, when Easter Sunday arrives, it's not over when the closing blessing is offered. It's only the beginning.
Easter is a season in the Church Year. Often called the Great Fifty Days, Easter is the seven weeks, or fifty days, between Easter Day and Pentecost: this year, April 21 - June 8. According to the late Rev Dr Laurence Hull Stookey, church historian and author of many books on worship, a better term for the most important Christian occasion is "Pasch," from the Greek word for Passover. Paul refers to Christ as our "paschal lamb" (1 Corinthians 5:7). We created a Paschal Candle and lit it Saturday night and Sunday morning as part of our Easter observances:
It will remain on the altar table throughout the Great Fifty Days.
In his book Calendar: Christ's Time in the Church, Dr Stookey says this:
The recovery of Easter as 'the Great Fifty Days' of the year can move the church toward a fuller understanding of what the resurrection of its Lord implies. Easter is not one closing day at the end of a lengthy period of Lent. Easter is one extended rejoicing in the resurrection that more than exceeds in length the Lenten disciplines. The first day of the season, Easter Day, is the opening of a protracted celebration, even as the Resurrection is itself the opening to a vast new reality.
So throughout the Great Fifty Days, I invite you to a new spiritual practice: seek evidence, or signs, of resurrection and celebrate them. One obvious one is enjoying the rebirth of creation around us during the brief weeks of Spring. Spend extra time outside. Walk at Fairview Park for half an hour. But look elsewhere as well: the recovery of a friend who has been struggling; signs of peace and reconciliation in the face of war and conflict; justice and well being coming to the poor in spite of the greed of a consumer-driven economy. Where will you see resurrection between now and June 8? Make a list and share it on the Grace Facebook page.
I am grateful to everyone who made our Holy Week and Easter Day observances so meaningful. So many people contributed behind the scenes so that you could be blessed by this miracle. But the celebrations are not over; they are just beginning.
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!