Which season is longer, Christmas or Easter? Well, Easter Sunday is just one day, while there are 12 days of Christmas, right? Well, yes and no.

The Christmas season actually lasts 40 days, from Christmas Day until Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation, on February 2. The 12 days of Christmas refer to the most festive part of the season, from Christmas Day untilEpiphany.

Similarly, the period from Easter Sunday through Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter Sunday), also known as the Octave (or eighth day) of Easter, is an especially joyful time. But the Easter season doesn't end there: Because Easter is the most important feast in the Christian calendar—even more important than Christmas—the Easter season continues on for 50 days, through the Ascension of Our Lord toPentecost Sunday. (Indeed, for the purpose of fulfilling our Easter Duty, the Easter season extends until Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost!)

As St. John Chrysostom reminds us in his famous Easter homily, read in Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches on Easter, Christ has destroyed death, and now is the "feast of faith."

 

Easter is the greatest feast in the Christian calendar. On this Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of 40 days ofprayer, fasting, and almsgiving known as Lent. Through spiritual struggle and self-denial, we have prepared ourselves to die spiritually with Christ on Good Friday, the day of His Crucifixion, so that we can rise again with Him in new life on Easter.

The Fulfillment of Our Faith

Easter is a day of celebration because it represents the fulfillment of our faith as Christians. St. Paul wrote that, unless Christ rose from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:17). Through his death, Christ saved mankind from bondage to sin, and He destroyed the hold that death has on all of us; but it is His Resurrection that gives us the promise of new life, both in this world and the next.

The Coming of the Kingdom

That new life began on Easter Sunday. In the Our Father, we pray that "Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven." And Christ told His disciples that some of them would not die until they saw the Kingdom of God "coming in power" (Mark 9:1). The early Christian Fathers saw Easter as the fulfillment of that promise. With the resurrection of Christ, God's Kingdom is established on earth, in the form of the Church.

 

New Life in Christ

That is why people who are converting to Catholicism traditionally are baptized at the Easter Vigil service, which takes place on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), starting sometime after sunset. They have usually undergone a long process of study and preparation known as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Their baptism parallels Christ's own Death and Resurrection, as they die to sin and rise to new life in the Kingdom of God.

Communion: Our Easter Duty

Because of the central importance of Easter to the Christian faith, the Catholic Church requires that all Catholics who have made their First Communion receive the Holy Eucharist sometime during the Easter season, which lasts through Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. (The Church also urges us to take part in the Sacrament of Confession before receiving this Easter communion.) This reception of the Eucharist is a visible sign of our faith and our participation in the Kingdom of God. Of course, we should receive Communion as frequently as possible; this "Easter Duty" is simply the minimum requirement set by the Church.

Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
Bible Story illustrations by publishing.com 

and

Visual Bible Alive

Powered byEMF Form Builder