Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Solemnity of Solemnities—Easter Sunday

[Station at St. Mary Major’s.]

Eastertide begins with the Mass of the Easter Vigil and ends on the Saturday after Pentecost. It is a time of uninterrupted joy and Feasts, during which we celebrate the Mysteries of the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles and His Church. The date of Easter, from which the date of all movable feasts is determined, is fixed according to the Jewish method and may vary between March 22 and April 25.

In the Liturgy of Eastertide, we commemorate the various appearances of Our Lord, during which He instructed His Apostles and prepared them for the Descent of the Holy Ghost and His own Ascension.

The triumph and joy of Eastertide is reflected in the decoration of the sanctuary and the priest’s use of white vestments, symbolizing joy and purity. The Asperges me is supplanted by the Vidi aquam, which refers to the waters of Baptism. Every year at Easter the Church rejoices for a double reason: Christ is risen, and many of her children are redeemed.

Until Ascension Day, the paschal candle shines in the sanctuary as a symbol of the visible presence of Our Lord upon earth, and white vestments are used. The joyful repetition of “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,” which was omitted since Septuagesima, follows every Introit, Antiphon, Verse, and Response as a sign of joy and peace.

In many modern languages the name given to this Feast comes from a Hebraic word Pasch or Passover, which means Passage through the Red Sea: Pascha in Latin, Pâques in French, Pasg in Welsh, Pasen in Dutch or Flemish. The English word Easter is derived from Eostre, the name of a pagan Saxon goddess, and a spring festival in her honour was Christianized so that the word became the English equivalent of the Pasch. The Mass is full of allusions to the Resurrection of our Lord and to Baptism, which is a spiritual resurrection. The Sequence or Prose is a survival of a rich literature. It is one of the most beautiful of all and contains in a few simple lines all the elements of the Mystery: it gives the details of Jesus’ immolation; Jesus triumphs on the cross and He comes forth triumphant from the sepulchre. Alleluia!

“This is the day which the Lord had made; let us celebrate it with transports of joy.” (Office of the Church)

Jesus confounded all His enemies by clothing in glory and splendour that body which had been the Victim of the cruelty of man. Christ’s triumph over Death is the most conclusive proof of His Divinity and the foundation of our faith, “If Christ be not risen again your faith is vain.” (1 Cor 15)

And “God hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ—He hath raised us up together with Christ and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places.” (St. Paul).


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