Saturday, April 23, 2011
Easter: The Feast of Feasts
Easter has, from the early days of the church, been the feast of feasts when the church celebrates the resurrection of our Lord the first day of every week. That first day, often referred to as “The Lord’s Day,” is therefore, considered the great festival day of the Church Year.
This festival day begins the season of Easter, but it is not the end of the Lenten season, the time of repentance and penance. This misunderstanding leads to decreased attendance at worship and participation in the mission and witness of the church. Many have the idea that the big day is over and it is time to get back to the ordinary, less arduous way of life in the church. What needs to be understood is that Easter is the foundation and the center of faith when the church celebrates and recalls the supreme act of God in raising Christ from death for the salvation of humankind, and that the celebration of the Easter season must be a time of great acts of faith leading to the Day of Pentecost.
There is a serious and almost desperate need to recover the authentic understanding of Easter as faithful Christians gather to celebrate the Resurrection so that the meaning of Easter may be renewed for the life of faith, the living out of baptism.
Easter is a time for rejoicing. It is the great day of the church. The Lenten fast is ended, and there is rejoicing not only for a return to ordinary meals, but also to a new meal variously called Holy Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion. In that meal the church proclaims the great mystery of faith, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
Easter also means eternal life for the believer in Christ. The risen Christ is a new being with a glorified body as the exalted Christ, the eternal not touched by death.
Easter brings hope to those who are dying and to those whose loved ones have died. It also offers hope for the life of the world. The Resurrection brings assurance that the faithful will live with Christ for eternity with all the saints in the Church Triumphant.
Finally, Easter is the victory of Christ over the worst evil facing humankind, the power of death. In the power of God Christ has come forth from the grave in triumph. The church expresses joy in Christ’s victory and participates in the victory by faith. Christ now reigns over all of God’s creation expressed in the old hymn “The strife is o’er, the battle won. Now the Victor’s triumph won.”
The church gathers on Easter day, the Feast of Feasts, to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, and should do so with great joy and expectation that God will do mighty acts in the midst of his people, who greet one another with a great acclamation of Easter, “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Thanks be to God!
Richard Hammond Price, OCC
© April 2011
(Liturgies for the Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Day are available at firstname.lastname@example.org)