Easter. The word conjures up images ranging from brightly painted eggs to festive services filled with flowers. We hail this festival day and then it is over, time for a summer vacation from church life… right? Actually, no. Easter is not just one glorious day—but 50 days of celebration. The explosive impact of the resurrection of our Lord is too vast to be contained within a celebration of just one day.
The 50-day celebration between Easter and Pentecost is no accident. It is rooted in the Jewish tradition. In our calendar, Easter Day and the 48 following days correspond to the Hebrew Feast of Weeks, a week of weeks (seven times seven, or 49 days) following Passover. The 50th day is celebrated as Shavuot or Pentecost. This means that Easter is not one closing day at the end of Lent. Instead, Easter is the beginning of a new season.
The eight Sundays between Easter and Pentecost have a special character. We light the Paschal candle. We sing alleluia again, and we celebrate the Resurrection. A tradition that goes back to the fourth century, to the Council of Nicea, highlighted the special character of the Great Fifty Days by ruling that during this period two practices commonly kept during the rest of the year were forbidden: fasting and kneeling. Christians from ancient times have been encouraged to stand for all the prayers and to receive Holy Communion. In honor of the Resurrection we will omit our Confession of Sin as well. And, while any posture—sitting, standing, or kneeling—is appropriate for worship, we do invite you, like the early church, to consider standing in recognition that you have been “raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). This year our Great Fifty Days will end with St. Barnabas Day, which falls on Pentecost this year.
Let us celebrate, not one day, but 50 days. I encourage you to stand for the Prayers of the People and the Eucharistic Prayer through Pentecost, June 8. Let us stand and celebrate—Alleluia! Christ is risen!