The Easter Season flows from the Easter Vigil and concludes fifty days later on Pentecost Sunday. It is a joyous season in which we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and ascension, as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church. This is a time of rejoicing, when Alleluia should be sung with heartfelt emotion.
Every Sunday during the year the Church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. However, St. Athanasius regarded the fifty days of the Easter season as “the Great Sunday.” Reflecting this view, the Sundays of the Easter season are not called Sundays after Easter, but Sundays of Easter. For example, the Sunday that follows Easter is the Second Sunday of Easter.
Themes in Prayer and Scripture
On Easter Sunday the gospel is John’s account of finding the empty tomb, although the gospel texts from the Easter vigil may also be read.
The gospel selections until the third Sunday of Easter recount the appearances of the risen Christ. On the Fourth Sunday of Easter the gospel reading speaks of the Good Shepherd. The gospels for the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Sundays of Easter present the teaching and prayer of Christ at the last supper.
During the Easter Season, the first reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles instead of a selection from the Old Testament, in accord with an ancient custom. The life, growth, and witness of the early Church are presented every year of the three year cycle. The selections for each year present a parallel and progressive presentation.
On Easter, the second reading from Paul speaks of living out the paschal mystery in the Church. For the following Sundays of Easter, the selections for the second reading come from a different apostle for each cycle. For the years of Cycle A, the writings are read from the First Letter of Peter. For the years of Cycle B, they are from the First Letter of John. For the years of Cycle C, they come from the Book of Revelation. These texts reflect the joyful faith and confident hope of the Easter season.
The solemnity of the Ascension is celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter. In those dioceses where this is not a holy day of obligation, the solemnity is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
Pentecost Sunday, the last day of the Easter season, celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles recounts the great events of Pentecost day. The second reading comes from the writings of Paul and speaks of the effect of the Spirit on the life of the Church. The gospel tells of Jesus bestowing his Spirit on the disciples on the evening of Easter day.
The birth of Jesus, observed on Christmas Day, and his life, death and resurrection, celebrated on Easter, are the two most important events during the liturgical year. Because of this, the Church extends the celebration of these solemnities to cover a period of eight days. This period is known as an octave, which comes from the Latin octavus, which means “eighth.”
The octave of Easter consists of the first eight days of the Easter season, which are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord. The gospel readings during the Easter Octave recount the appearances of the Lord. After the octave, the gospels readings from John primarily speak of the teaching and prayer of Jesus after the Last Supper.
The weekdays after the Ascension until the Saturday before Pentecost are a preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The color used during the Easter season is white, signifying the joy of Christ’s resurrection. The last day of the Easter season is Pentecost Sunday, on which we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. On this day red is the liturgical color, representing the fire of the Holy Spirit.
A Symbol for Easter
The Paschal Candle and water represent the light and new life of Christ’s resurrection and the water of our baptism and rebirth.