The Easter Season: its history and how we can live it better

This blog post is taken from a chapter in The Easter Impact by Georges Chevrot. 

During Easter week we read a complete account of the appearances of the risen Savior and once again consider the proofs on which our faith rests. All our dogmas would be mere hypotheses and our hopes mere illusions if we were not certain of the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Having established this fact, the liturgy goes on to tell us that we must now live by this belief.

Eastertime was first called Pentekoste, a period of fifty days. Easter and Pentecost were two terms used for a single feast. At Easter the victory of Jesus Christ freed humanity from sin and loosed it from death. But when he emerged from the sepulcher the Lord did not come back to share his apostles' existence; he returned to his Father in heaven where that divine life which exists on earth only as it were in seed, flourishes to the full. That divine seed, which on earth transforms our condition and assures our future destiny, was bestowed on us by Jesus after his ascent to heaven, when he sent the Holy Spirit to take possession of his Church. That was on the fiftieth day after his resurrection. Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost are in fact three aspects of the same saving mystery, which forms a single whole. That is why the three events were originally commemorated together in one festival of fifty days, the feast of feasts.

In the Latin Church, Eastertide lasts for fifty-six days. Although the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost each have their own purpose, the atmosphere of the Pentekoste has continued as a time for thanksgiving to Christ for having raised us with him and for resolving to live in the new life which he has communicated to us.

The predominant theme of the Masses in this season is unquestionably one of joy. Our joy during this period must not only consist in exterior manifestations but must reflect our interior determination to lead a life worthy of our triumphal Savior. Those who are baptized are "risen from the dead." They share in the life of the glorified Christ, but this new life is not yet manifest. That divine life remains hidden with Christ in God, but our possession of it is nonetheless real. Therefore, we have not the right to entangle ourselves with this world's goods; we must seek heavenly joys. They are ours because we have risen with Christ.

Faithfulness, rather than the spiritual struggle, is the current theme: Let us become aware of the nobility of our new life, and the sense of our great dignity will lead us away from earthly attractions to concentrate our energies on heavenly things. Here we need asceticism again, to watch ourselves, to avoid all the negligence and cowardice that would hinder this heavenly impetus.

The spirituality is infused throughout with the spirit of the Beatitudes. These formulae, apparently paradoxical inasmuch as they ally happiness with renunciation, promise us the possession of God in one form or another. But the Faster victory has brought the fulfillment of the Savior's promises nearer, for if we are risen with Christ our life is henceforth hidden with Christ in God.

Because we are thinking of heavenly goods, our desire of holiness compels us to establish justice on earth; we thirst for this and are prepared to face any persecution for it. But our reward is great before God, in whom we are already living, hidden with Jesus Christ.