Easter Day, or Easter Sunday, marks the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was three days after Good Friday when Jesus, who was then both human and divine, was crucified on the Cross. Communion services are held at dawn in a number of churches across Wales on Easter Day to celebrate the risen Christ. The light from the rising sun shines through East windows, bringing new light into the world. Jesus had died on the Cross, so that God’s wisdom and power could overcome death and sin, once and for all, for the salvation of the world. Christ was a new start for humanity, where people could live in God’s new world, behaving like Jesus did, linked together in mutual love, and continuing His good work.
Eglwys St. Celynnin Church (Llangelynnin Old Church)
Easter Day Communion Service (Llangelynnin Old Church)
The fifty days of Eastertide are the Easter Festival, and according to ancient custom, there is no celebration of the Eucharist on Easter Eve. Christians have long since held an Easter Vigil, gathering through the night to recall the story of God’s saving work, from creation, through to the death and resurrection of Christ. The Easter Liturgy is all about new life for the worshipper, which is a passing from darkness to light, and offers new hope to the faithful. The Easter Vigil signals the end of Holy Saturday, and has always been a favourite time for baptism.
Baptism symbolises a dying to sin, in order to be reborn in Christ. It’s also a time for Confirmation, when Christians confirm the promises that were made during their baptisms. Water and light are the basic elements that sustain life, both spiritually and biologically.
The joy created at the Easter Vigil is sustained for the seven weeks of Eastertide. The Easter Eucharist often follows the Easter Vigil, but sometimes it’s deferred until Easter Day, when the Church celebrates Christ rising from the dead – Resurrection.
Triumphant in his glory now,
his sceptre ruleth all,
earth, heaven and hell before him bow,
and at his footstool fall.
Fulbert of Chartres
For our ancestors, the image of light as the resurrected Christ was particularly meaningful. In those days, they couldn’t just flick a switch to get instant light! For us, the light from a candle is an honour that we bestow on Christ our Redeemer. The Exsultet, or Exultet, is an ancient hymn linking the night of our redemption to the Passover night of Israel’s redemption out of Egypt. The Church celebrates Christ’s resurrection with music, flowers, bells and colours. The Alleluia, which was silent during Lent, then returns!
Now the queen of seasons, bright
with the day of splendour,
with the royal feast of feasts,
comes its joy to render.
John of Damascus
Some places have a custom of lighting the Easter Candle at the beginning of Easter. The lit candle stands prominently in church buildings, for all the services in Eastertide. The Alleluia often appears in liturgical speech and song. Morning Prayer begins with the traditional collection of Pauline texts, known as the Easter Anthems. White or gold vestments and decorations emphasise the joy and brightness of the Easter season.
From the late 4th century, there has been a celebration of Christ’s Ascension on the 40th day, which is known as Ascension Day. Jesus commissions his Disciples to continue His work, He promises the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then He is no longer with them in the flesh. The Ascension is connected to Mission. The arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day,
Early Christians used to call the fifty days of Eastertide Pentecost, which Tertullian called laetissimum spatium – this most joyful period in English. For us today, Pentecost Day marks the end of the Easter season, fifty days since Easter Day. It is the day when we remember how the Holy Spirit was given to the Disciples after Christ’s ascension into heaven, crowning the Easter Festival.