Easter is the central feast of the liturgical year, the Queen of Feasts. The name Easter comes from ‘east’, the direction of sunrise. Our sun is the Resurrected Lord! With the Great Vigil of Easter (8.30 pm Saturday), the risen Lord makes himself known in the Breaking of Bread. After its Lenten absence, the ‘Glory to God in the Highest’ returns. The fast is ended, veils fall from the crosses and images. The time of feasting begins. Easter Week presents various appearances of the risen Lord. As the Sundays of Easter succeed one another they begin to turn toward the Ascension and the end of the resurrection appearances. Ascension Day will commemorate Jesus’ triumphant return to the place he left in order to do his great work on earth. Finally, the Day of Pentecost as the completion of the fifty days of abounding joy brings the gift of the Holy Spirit as the fulfilment of the Easter promise that Jesus will remain with us till the end of the world.
Second Sunday of Easter (Easter Octave), 'Divine Mercy Sunday'
Easter is to be understood as one long and great Sunday comprising the fifty days of rejoicing. The old name of the second Sunday of Easter was ‘the Sunday of (putting off) the white robes by the newly baptized who had been so clothed throughout Easter Week. The Gospel is the account of St Thomas’ insistence on visible and tangible proof of the resurrection. Throughout these days of Easter the Church itself struggles with the meaning of the raising of Jesus from the dead and encourages all those who, like Thomas, struggle to believe it. Jesus blessed those who have not seen and yet have believed. Our entrance antiphon shows the Church as mother provides for her children the nourishing milk of the Word of Christ that leads to spiritual growth and the vision of Jesus through faith.
In the 1930’s Our Lord Jesus requested through St. Faustina that a very special Feast of Divine Mercy be established on the First Sunday after Easter. In the Jubilee Year 2000 Saint Pope John Paul II established this special Feast of Divine Mercy in the Catholic Church and gave it the name of Divine Mercy Sunday.
Third Sunday of Easter
This Sunday presents various appearances of the risen Lord. With eyes of opened by faith, everywhere we look we see signs of God’s goodness and mercy. The very existence of the world is evidence of his power and love: ‘Cry out with joy to God, all the earth!’ The proper celebration of the resurrection never leaves behind the crucifixion. The two are the two sides of the same picture. The prayers of the mass remind us that that the effect of the humiliation of Christ was the restoration of not just of fallen humanity but the restoration of the fallen Creation as whole.
Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is the Sunday of the Good Shepherd. In it, we can contemplate the essence of the rescuing work wrought by Jesus. This Sunday teaches that the Lamb who was slain is one with the Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Moreover, in John’s Gospel, when Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd he is making a divine claim, appropriating the image which in the Hebrew Bible was applied to God himself. God himself is our Good Shepherd. In today’s reading (Isaiah) we are warned: God condemns those who should have served as the shepherds of the people and Creation.
Fifth Sunday of Easter
The Fifth Sunday’ of Easter highlights the very ground of living in the Christian community, our participation and growth in God’s love. Jesus told his apostles that he was going to leave them, he knew that his time had come, and that he would suffer and die before rising from the dead and returning to his father in heaven. Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, to love one another as he had loved them. How do we show people that we are followers of Jesus? People see Jesus in us and know that we are his followers when we love and care for others as he taught us to.
Sixth Sunday of Easter
With this Sunday the church looks ahead to the coming of the Holy Spirit of love. ‘Declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it forth to the end of the earth: The Lord has redeemed his people, alleluja!’ (Isa.48:20). Today we ask God to enable us to show in the way we live the life we celebrate with such joy. The readings of the Mass point to the very source of this life, the Holy Spirit who led Jesus Christ in his earthly ministry and whom he has shared with us his disciples. This is the Spirit who leads the churches towards our Heavenly Jerusalem, where Jesus, after his return to the Father, will prepare home, our lasting abode.
The Ascension of the Lord (Seventh Sunday of Easter)
The feast of the Ascension marks the completion of our Lord’s redemptive work, and yet the story is not finished, as the risen Lord whose earthly appearances have ended, will come again. A function of Ascension day is to prepare us for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Also, in the ascension of Christ, the Church sees a promise of where his followers will be. This week between Ascension and Pentecost is a time of prayer for the Holy Spirit that the Church might be prepared to receive the gifts of the Spirit
The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter. It also bears the name Whitsunday, that is, ‘white Sunday’, from the white robes worn by the newly baptized; or from the Anglo-Saxon ‘wit’ meaning wisdom, since the Spirit, the Counsellor, teaches the Church and leads into all truth. Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church! Roses, whose bloom looks something like tongues of fire, are a traditional adornment of the altar on Pentecost.