The fifty days of Easter Fr Crispin Harrison cr

A devout lady of Caribbean extraction, who attended a London church, impressed me because her dresses and hats worn at Mass always followed the colours marking the Church’s seasons. On Palm Sunday she changed Lenten purple for Passiontide red; at the Easter Vigil she was splendid in gold and white; and so throughout Eastertide until its glorious finale on the fiftieth day when she was decked out in Pentecostal red.

Her practice was strange but she had the right idea. All of us should make much of the themes of the Church’s year. We do this in Lent but now that we are in the Great Easter season it will be spiritually beneficial to reflect every day on its wonderful, uplifting message: Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.

Lhe fifty days from Easter Day to Pentecost were celebrated by Christians as early as the second century. Lhey were days of rejoicing to mark the resurrection of the Lord, days of new growth as newly baptized members swelled the numbers of the faithful, days when the meaning of the awesome mysteries of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist) were daily expounded by holy bishops.

Lhe themes of Eastertide are a great remedy for any who feel downcast, whether because of personal problems, or the state of our Church, or the sufferings of humanity. We should not be like those who have no hope, because our hope is in God who raised Jesus from the dead. He is always with us in his risen and glorious power so we need never be anxious or afraid. Our hope is in the Lord who promised that the gates of death would never prevail against his Church. Eastertide sets our sights on our ultimate destination and reward.

Howmay we keep our attention fixed on the risen Jesus throughout the fifty days? Here are some thoughts. We could have a small visual aid in our room, such as a candle, some flowers, a picture. Maybe we could try to change this each week. At Mirfield on Saturday nights throughout the year, we replace Night Prayer with a short service called ‘The Resurrection Vigil’ which we borrowed from the Canadian Prayer Book. Anyone could compile a service like that for daily use in Eastertide. The order includes an Easter hymn, Psalm 118, a gospel account of the empty tomb and the Lord’s appearance to his disciples, and concluding prayers.

The Stations of the Resurrection in Common Worship, Times and Seasons (CHP, 2006) are a valuable resource for public or private use. There are nineteen stations based on extracts from the New Testament. Most of these are short pieces from the resurrection stories in the gospels. In addition there are the earliest witness to the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 and from the Acts of the Apostles, the accounts of the Ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the conversion of St Paul. For daily use, just one or two readings would be appropriate, followed by meditation and prayer as time allows.

Holy Week has been long established in Christian practice and it is good to notice an increasing celebration of the Easter Vigil. A fuller and richer observance of the great fifty days of Easter culminating in a mighty crescendo at Pentecost is much to be desired to fill our hearts with joy, confidence and peace.