Easter season spreads joy and mystery
Easter, like Christmas, is often thought of as a one-day event. Most are mindful that Advent and Lent proceed these events. But the idea that Christmas and Easter both have entire seasons dedicated to these events is often overlooked.
The Christmas season is relative short, this year beginning on Christmas Eve and ending with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 12. And this year’s Easter season begins on Holy Saturday Night (April 19) and extends out fifty days to Pentecost, June 8.
The question can be raised as to why we have such an extended time in the Easter season. The answer is simple; the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection are so rich in meaning, symbolism, and mystery that we human beings cannot take in the mystery in a single day. We need an entire season to savor the paschal mysteries.
In the Catholic tradition, the Easter season also has a dual function for the newly initiated (baptized and confirmed at the Holy Saturday night vigil) that is called Mystigogia. For the newly initiated Christians, this is a period of time when the mysteries of the faith are further explained.
Going back to the young and persecuted church, it made sense to not fully explain the faith until one was fully initiated for fear that the central mysteries of the faith may be sent on to those who opposed our Christianity.
In the Catholic tradition in the northern hemisphere, this is a wonderful time of the year. Winter is thawing and the land is coming back to life. Animals are emerging from their dens and the snow is retreating. It is during this time that we celebrate First Communions (usually age 8) and Confirmations (usually age 17).
We are lifted from the dead of winter and the severity of Lent, into bright light that the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings to the world.
Christmas and Easter are joined at the hip. Without Christmas, where the word was made flesh, our world would be deprived of its savior and redeemer. Without Easter and the resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ would be only one more in a long string of holy preachers who cured those who were ill.
The Easter event is filled with many intriguing mysteries. One of which is that most accounts of the resurrection, those encountering the risen Christ, even his closest friends, do not immediately recognize him. This may give an insight that at the end of time, our risen bodies will somehow be transformed so that recognition does not come immediately but the essence of who we are remain intact, as eventually the risen Christ was recognized.
So, let’s not leave Easter on the night of April 20 but soak in that joy and the sense of peace that comes from knowing that the death and resurrection of the Lord has saved us.