Easter Sunday is the greatest feast on the Church’s calendar. On that day we proclaim: Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen! The Lenten focus on penance is transformed into the joy of the resurrection, conquering sin and death and redeeming us.
We celebrate with family dinners of ham or lamb, baskets of candy, the blessing of tables filled with food, and much more. What a shame it’s only one day.
Except it’s not!
Easter is not just a day, but an entire season of the liturgical year. Just as Lent lasts 40 days, the Easter season lasts 50 days, until the great feast of Pentecost, where we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the “birth” of the Church.
There are many reasons that we ought not to limit our Easter joy to one day a year. But how do we remain mindful of this the whole year through? The saints show us how to do this.
St. Paul, the great apostle and missionary, reminds us that Easter ought to live in our hearts always. He put it starkly to the church in Corinth: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
To be a Christian is to believe that Christ has risen from the dead. We cannot simply believe Jesus was a good moral teacher but doubt his resurrection. This is a central part of Jesus’ own message: that because Christ has been raised, we will be, too. He is “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
Because Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, we can receive forgiveness of sins, be born as new creatures in Christ through Baptism, and have communion with God, inchoately here on earth and perfectly in heaven. This truth should be at the center of our lives and animate everything that we do.
This mindset was summarized well by St. Augustine, the great 4th-century bishop and Doctor of the Church. He is credited with the famous phrase, echoed by Pope St. John Paul II: “We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song.”
The great song of rejoicing of the Jewish people, hallelujah, “Praise to God!,” is carried on by Christians who extol God’s glory for His greatest work. As Christians, we should define ourselves as those who believe in the Easter mystery and our transformed by our participation in it through the sacraments—most especially, the Eucharist.
This was illustrated well by St. Justin Martyr, a philosopher turned Christian apologist. In the year 150, St. Justin wrote a defense of Christianity addressed to the Roman emperor, Antoninus Pius, and the whole Roman senate. At the end of his text, St. Justin informs his imperial audience that Christians gather for worship on “the first day of the Week, after Saturn’s day”—that is, Sunday—because “Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”
Every Sunday is “the Lord’s day,” a commemoration of the resurrection. Every Mass is a commemoration of Jesus’ Passion, death, and resurrection. Every Sunday is a “mini-Easter.”
Don’t pack away the Easter joy
So, when the Easter baskets are put away, don’t put your Easter joy away with them. Let it live the whole year through.
Remember that your faith is in Jesus, who rose to die no more.
Remember that you belong to the People of God, who profess that Easter faith and praise God for it.
Remember that every Sunday recalls the Easter miracle, and that every Mass is a participation in it. Christ is risen, alleluia!