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The Season of Easter

Easter is the main feast in the Christian calendar. Easter Sunday is the day that Jesus rose from the dead.

Easter is a joyful feast and in the Mass and the Divine Office, we see the return of the “alleluia” which is not used throughout Lent and the Church is once again decorated with flowers. Each Mass during Eastertide concludes with the double alleluia at the dismissal. The Paschal Candle, which is blessed during the Easter Vigil, is lit at every Mass until Ascension, when Jesus, “the Light of the World” left us to return to the Father.

When is Easter Sunday?
Easter is a “movable feast” – which means it falls on a different date each year. The earliest Easter Day can fall is 22nd March and the latest it can fall is 25th April.

What is Eastertide?
This is the period of fifty days from Easter Sunday until the Feast of Pentecost. The first week of Eastertide is known as the Easter Octave – during this time, the church celebrates Easter Day every day.

The liturgical colour for Eastertide is white (or gold). White represents eternal light, purity and joy – all of which are associated with Easter.

Throughout the Easter Season, the Marian chant we sing is the “Regina Coeli”.

Feasts that occur during Eastertide

There are a number of feasts which fall during Eastertide. These include:

Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter).

In revelations to St Faustina, Jesus asked that the Sunday after Easter should be dedicated to his Divine Mercy. This feast was instituted by Pope St John Paul II at the Canonisation of St Faustina in the Great Jubilee Year 2000, in a decree dated 23rd May 2000, which states that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.” During the nine days leading up to the Feast, the Novena to Divine Mercy is prayed in the parish after each weekday Mass.

The Ascension of Our Lord

This feast is traditionally celebrated 40 days after Easter Sunday, although currently in England and Wales, the Bishops’ Conference exercises the right to move this feast to the nearest Sunday. The Bible tells us that Jesus appeared on earth over a period of 40 days following his resurrection on Easter Sunday. At the end of that time, he was taken up into heaven, to take his place at the right hand of the Father.

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told the disciples to return to Jerusalem and pray as they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These nine days of prayer from Ascension (Thursday) to Pentecost form the oldest novena (the word Novena means ‘nine’), made at the direction of Our Lord himself. Until recently, this was the only novena officially prescribed by the Church, although now it is joined by the Novena to Divine Mercy.

Pentecost

‘Pentecost’ means the ‘fiftieth day’ and thus this feast falls fifty days after Easter and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and Our Lady as they prayed together in the Upper Room. Because of this, Pentecost is often called ‘the birthday of the Church’.