Introduction to Easter time
First Week of Easter Time
This first week has a special solemnity. Every day, the Gloria is sung there and the preface speaks of “the day when Christ our Passover was sacrificed.” The reference: “Go into the peace of Christ” is doubled with joyful Hallelujah.
Formerly the baptized of the Paschal Night participated in the Eucharist every day, clothed in their white garments; Hence the name “week in albis” (in white) formerly given to this more festive week. The ancient liturgy was addressed, of course, to the neophytes, but also to the faithful who had come to the city for the festivities - a prolonged celebration which was facilitated by the civil law that considered this week as a holiday.
A community that has received adults through baptism, in Easter Night, will, as much as possible, stand to mark the whole week through a daily encounter with its new members. Both to prolong the thanksgiving with them and also not to leave them to themselves, to surround them and to become aware of the new ties woven by faith and love.
The Christian, sensitized to the liturgy, will find a way to take up this week by participating in one or the other Eucharist, or by rereading the admirable liturgies he has just celebrated and which he must now live: Let us be penetrated by Thy Spirit of Charity, that we may be united by Thy Love Lord (last prayer of the Easter Vigil). This is THE way to celebrate the Passover in righteousness and truth (Easter Day, communion).
Normally the second Sunday of Easter has its place here as the closing of the great Paschal Week. For practical reasons it is arranged in the suite of Easter Sundays.
Easter Time - Time of the Holy Spirit
It would be a grave mistake and a regrettable impoverishment to reserve the celebration of the Holy Spirit for the Feast of Pentecost. Even though in our western liturgy the mention of the Spirit is not always explicit during this Paschal Time, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent.
Jesus was resurrected by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11).
Jesus is now “spiritual”, not spiritualized in the sense of evaporated.
He is in the Holy Spirit. His humanity has been transformed by the Spirit: the body of misery, subject to our limits (fatigue, suffering, localization ...) now escapes the laws of biology, times and places. It is different. We use the biblical word: glorious. The description of the Christ of glory is impossible, for all our data are earthly, whereas it is celestial. But what is important is to know that He is present, close, and especially in the Church in such a way that whoever accepts this truth in faith receives Him in His entirety. This is the work of the Spirit.
On the evening of Easter, Jesus gives His Spirit to the disciples (Jn 20:22).
So we too are already, at the Resurrection of Jesus, in the time of the Spirit. If Pentecost is the day when the Spirit descended into tongues of fire upon the apostles, it means that the Spirit, already received at Easter, then manifests itself in such a brilliant manner as through the tempest, the fire and the gift of the languages which are some of His signs. What was, at Easter, in the bud now bursts into the fruit.
It is during this Paschal time that the meaning of the Holy Spirit can be reborn in our Christian communities. Poor parent of the Latin spirituality, He is omnipresent in this central period of the liturgical year. If the octave of Pentecost has been suppressed, it is certainly not to diminish yet the already weak impact of the devotion to the Holy Spirit - it is, on the contrary, to make grasp that all the Pascal Time is His time.
Easter time - Fifty days of celebration
One day would not be enough to celebrate the capital event of the Resurrection. The Church quickly Christianized the Jewish custom of celebrating the fiftieth day after Easter, Pentecost. Then she united these fifty days in one great day of celebration. The ancient Fathers speak with joy of “a week’s week” (Saint Hilary), “a single feast day” (Tertullian) which “has the same importance as Sunday” (Saint Irenaeus) - in short, a “great Sunday” (Athanase).
Thus the liturgy does not speak of Sundays after Easter, but of the eight Sundays of Easter (the eighth being the Feast of Pentecost).
The first week, however, assumes a special solemnity by its attention to the newly baptized. The last, a few days before Pentecost, enriches the desire of Easter joy.
A rich, glorious, exultant tapestry extends its joyful colors over these eight weeks. The Resurrection of Jesus is evidently the main melody of this grandiose partition. A Resurrection that we take time to realize. Like the disciples of Emmaus, we are slow to believe and we must pass from Christ “according to the flesh” to Christ “according to the Spirit.” Then our hearts begin to be set ablaze.
This paschal melody resonates all its harmonics. The Church, born at Easter, tries her first steps; We listen to the first “sermons” of the apostles and we see the rapid expansion of the Gospel. Short and moving flashes illuminate the life of the first Christians of Jerusalem; The service structures are put in place. Everything is first, new. This Church of the first days stands before us in the person of the neophytes, the baptized of the Paschal Night, to whom the liturgy devotes special attention.
It is the time of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that, for God’s sake ... we must not wait when all is over. Does not Jesus give His Spirit the evening of Easter? The word Pentecost: fifty days, does it not say, in its own way, that during this time we are in the Feast of the Spirit? This Spirit works our hearts in a more intensive way for fifty days. Let us not wait for the latter to become aware of it.