Eastertide is the period of 50 days, spanning from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. It is celebrated as a single joyful feast, called the “great Lord’s Day”. Each Sunday of the season is treated as a Sunday of Easter, and, after the Sunday of the Resurrection
they are named Second Sunday of Easter, Third Sunday of Easter, etc. up to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, concluding with Pentecost Sunday. I read the article below which was written by Rich Villoda, the pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens, N.Y. It is a good reminder that the Easter Celebration is not over.
One of the most unfortunate realities of our culture is how easily we move from one thing to the next. In a matter of days or even hours, our focus and attention is diverted with surprising speed. Our society has been conditioned to live in a “perpetual state of inattention.”
We see this on the news every day. It’s possible to hear news about devastating attacks one minute and two minutes later, hear about celebrity gossip. We have been discipled in a culture that rejects contemplation, meaningful reflection and thoughtful engagement.
This is exactly why the season of Eastertide is important for the Church. For centuries, many in the Church have recognized that Easter is not a one day event that we anticipate, and then just like that, vanishes. The Church has affirmed that the power of the resurrection is more than a transient moment, but deserves sustained reflection.
It was Fr. Ron Rolheiser who first unpacked for me the shift of attention and focus in our culture. He writes, “We celebrate feasts differently than we used to. Formerly, there was generally a long fast leading up to a feast, and then a joyous celebration afterwards. Today, usually, there is a long celebration leading up to the feast, and a fast afterwards.”
In a more succinct manner, he captures our dilemma, writing, “We know how to anticipate an event, but we don’t know how to sustain it.”
In a culture easily swayed by the latest breaking news story, Eastertide is a welcome shift to our hurried and distracted lives. In this season we are invited to celebrate the good news that Jesus is alive and is making all things new. This news is worthy of celebration beyond a two-hour church service.
Eastertide is to lead us to a life of feasting. Lent is 40 days long. Eastertide is 50 days long. The feast is better than the fast! Therefore, we are called to refocus our attention in at least three ways.
I. Eastertide reminds us that through the resurrection Jesus is victorious over the powers of death.
The resurrection of Jesus is God’s word of judgment on the powers of death. And this resurrection power is available to those who choose to follow Jesus. In a world that is increasingly aware of the powers of death, whether through terrorism, nuclear threats, gun violence, or xenophobia, Eastertide reminds us of the reverberation of the resurrection.
The Church needs a sustained reflection on Easter because the gravitational pull of the powers of death is very real. It’s very possible to sing about Jesus conquering the grave and the next day be complicit in systems, structures and habits that bring glory to the powers of death.
II. Eastertide reminds us that God’s future life is available to us to enjoy and express to the world.
In the resurrection, Jesus anticipates the glory creation will experience when all things are made new. In the meantime, those who belong to Christ are given access to a quality of life the world can’t offer. Eastertide is an opportunity to imagine what the world will look like when Christ fully and finally reigns, and by faith, work to see glimpses of that coming reality in our present lives.
There’s probably no better time to pray for the healing of the sick because the resurrection is a reminder that one day there will be no sick. There’s probably no better time to work for peace, because the resurrection is a reminder that one day there will be no war. There’s probably no better time to celebrate and feast, because the resurrection is a reminder that we are headed to a banquet.
Christians, like our Lord, are to live from the future. Our communities and individual lives point to what’s coming.
III. Eastertide calls us to life that cultivates joy.
Jesus is alive! There is reason to celebrate and cultivate joy. In a world that tries to manufacture happiness, Eastertide reminds that joy is a gift to be received.
What does Easter joy look like? It begins with a cultivation of delight. If Lent calls us to abstain from certain things for the sake of communion with God, Eastertide gives us permission to attach our lives to things that bring us joy for the sake of communion with God.
Here’s an Eastertide reflection to consider: “What practices, people or places give me life?” In these dire days, full of turmoil and dysfunction, the cultivation of joy for the sake of life is profoundly necessary.
The cultivation of joy flows from the communities and table fellowship we pursue. As David Fitch has said in his book, Faithful Presence, “Jesus’ presence historically has been uniquely real and recognizable around the table.” This is the message in the post-resurrection Emmaus Road story.
When we follow Jesus in the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, we see Jesus making his disciples breakfast and breaking bread with strangers. In one of my favorite post-resurrection scenes, Jesus’ disciples don’t believe he is flesh and blood. His way of settling this issue? Eating before them. Luke writes in chapter 24:40-42:
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
Time and time again we see Jesus eating, feasting, rejoicing. If there’s anytime when we have the responsibility to do the same, it’s in this season.
What if at the end of history, the question God asks us is not whether we abstained from sin. What if the question is “Did you enter into the joy that was available to you?”
That’s the invitation of Eastertide. Jesus is risen! So then, let us eat, drink and be merry!