Easter is a season, not a day. The same goes for Christmas. There I said it. I find it utterly confounding at times that so many Christians, Catholic or not, treat Advent and Lent as seasons, as well they should, yet seem to apparently celebrate Easter and Christmas as only one day festivities. Whole seasons of penitential waiting followed by blink of an eye celebrations that quickly pass? It just doesn’t make sense, and it certainly isn’t how the Church does it.
Part of this may be chalked up to the apparent fact that in an instant-gratification rampant culture, the joys of Christmas end up celebrated full throttle during Advent, and I suppose, to some extent, the same can be said for Easter celebrated prematurely during Lent, though I much more rarely see people celebrating Easter in the weeks leading up to it. Just what all is behind this enigma I cannot say.
One of the great mercies of the Church is the sometimes forgotten fact that the season of Easter is longer than the Lenten penitential season of preparation for Easter. The Easter season runs for 50 days, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. In reference to what St. Athanasius once said, this period is known as “One Great Sunday”, a phrase quoted both in The Catechism Of The Catholic Church and in the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar.
It should be mentioned here that the high holy days of the Church’s liturgical calendar each year are the Easter Triduum of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection beginning Holy Thursday Evening, continuing on through our Lord’s Passion and Death on Good Friday, and ending with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. As Sunday is the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection in the course of each week, so the Easter Triduum thus figures so preeminently in the course of the whole liturgical year. In summary, it is a big deal.
It should also be remarked that the first 8 days of the Easter Season comprise an “octave”, eight high holy days, or solemnities beginning on Easter Sunday and ending on the 2nd Sunday of Easter, or as it is now so wonderfully called, Divine Mercy Sunday.
During the Easter season (which begins on Easter Sunday-Please note that Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday remain penitential days) eat, drink, and be merry, in moderation of course! Perhaps the merriness need not to be done in moderation. We should always be filled with Christian joy. While we focus on what we are giving up for Lent, perhaps the question for Easter should be: How am I going to be authentically joyful during the Easter Season? How am I going to continue fostering the changes that God’s graces during Lent (hopefully) brought about in my soul? How am I really going to authentically celebrate the Easter Season?
One perspective on what to do with the Easter Season is this: Take care of yourself and slow down. Though it could truly have been a Lenten penance to slow down and simplify, perhaps amidst the joys of the Easter Season we can find ways to indulge our souls in holy, happy, healthy ways. Really loving ourselves means a whole lot more than merely surviving. How many of us are really thriving? Find means to truly relax and rejoice in the Easter Season. Consider whether you are over complicating your life and giving worry power to trump who God calls you to be. Are Satan and your own lack of trust in God stealing your joy? One of the most marvelous things to do during the Easter Season is to make a habit of going to daily Mass. With our churches so bedecked in Easter white, and the fragrance of Easter lilies and other flowers wafting through the aisles setting the tone for this season that so much seems a foretaste of the life to come, the fact that every Mass is Heaven on Earth seems particularly palpable this time of year. Yes I know, some of you are pollen allergy sufferers and a trip to Mass during the Easter Season means taking allergy medications in advance. Sneezes or not, some of my greatest memories are of daily Masses during the Octave of Easter, and receiving the Eucharist during this marvelous liturgical season that is 50 days long.
On a more material level, at least in the first few days of Easter, each day I slowly consume a Cadbury Crème Easter Egg. No, I have not made this a gluttonous thing. Oh and by the way, yay for “after Easter” candy sales at our local stores, so I can stock up on Cadbury Eggs after Easter Sunday at a steep discount. No one told the big box stores that Easter is just beginning. I have actually turned it into somewhat of a ritual where the taste of those “eggs” is for me wrapped in the very happiness of celebrating our Lord’s Resurrection. For some people, eating these would be a penance, but not for me. But I digress. You are not enthralled with the idea of eating Cadbury eggs you say? Instead of spending so much time on social media, why not give 30-60 minutes a day, or at least a few days a week, to pleasure reading that you used to enjoy so much? Why not go make an appointment for that massage you have been putting off? Pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary On that note, you can also do what are called the Stations of the Resurrection during your prayer time. Go for nature walks as spring emerges. Take time to plant flowers and a vegetable garden. Invite friends and family over for dinner, or if the spring weather allows, have outdoor barbeques. We seem to so often be doing things we are addicted to, like checking our smartphones 200 times a day, channel surfing, or mindlessly scrolling through social media newsfeeds instead of immersing ourselves in our hobbies, and favorite pastimes, or what used to be our favorite wholesome leisure activities. Whatever fitting activity you choose to do to celebrate, keep the center of your rejoicing on the fact that Christ is indeed risen from the dead and that the joys of eternity can begin now, in advance, for we place our hopes and trust in Jesus, the King of Mercy who promises to bring us to our home where the season of Easter never ceases.