For many years the Sundays after Easter Day were referred to as “Sundays after Easter”, as if Easter were but one day. Once the final note of brass faded and the last lily was sent to a shut-in, it might be difficult to remember that Easter had ever happened. Easter brunch might be the final act of the festival for many, apart from those still enjoying their Easter candy.
An older understanding, however, saw Easter as a season, a period of rejoicing that extended beyond just one day. In the ancient church those baptized at Easter and clothed in the white garments of the newly baptized wore them throughout the week and returned in them on the Sunday following (Dominica in albis: “White Garment Sunday”). No doubt they were washed and put away by the altar guild for use the next year!
In recent times the emphasis has been on a season of fifty days, from Easter Day until the Feast of Pentecost, the final day of the Easter season. These fifty days, sometimes called “the Great Fifty Days”, also encompassed the Feast of the Ascension on the fortieth day of the season, the day when (according to St. Luke’s chronology) Jesus ascended into heaven. Again, according to that chronology, the disciples waited in Jerusalem until the Jewish feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who were assembled for the feast.
Our theological convictions about the momentous events of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ argue strongly for this more extensive celebration. One day can scarcely contain the joy of the Easter Feast! This year surprise your priest by wishing him or her “Happy Easter” as you return during the season. All of nature is conspiring to keep new life before our eyes, as we move ever more surely into spring. Jesus’ Resurrection means new life for us, life triumphant over death, and that is worth the celebration.
– Bishop John