Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands For our offenses given; But now at God's right hand he stands And brings us life from heaven. Therefore let us joyful be And sing to God right thankfully Loud songs of hallelujah. Hallelujah!
-- Martin Luther, 1524
It is out of the solitude of holy meditation upon Christ’s Passion that the day of our Lord’s resurrection breaks forth upon us in all its glory. This festival season is celebrated soon after the spring equinox, when in the world of nature daytime has caught up with and overtaken nighttime: the sun has won the victory! Darkness and cold have been overcome by light and warmth!
Easter Sunday and the Eastertide are so unique that it is impossible to celebrate the great event of Christ’s resurrection simply within the framework of a circular, annually recurring church year festival or season. This truly singular event – Jesus’ resurrection from the dead – is crucial and pivotal to the past, present and future. Easter is not only the oldest of all Christian feasts, it is the festival of festivals, the feast of feasts! That is why the entire fifty-day season of joy from Easter to Pentecost was once celebrated with such exaltation that all fifty days were considered Sundays and Easter days. Easter is the definitive end of all the struggles and sufferings of Christ and ultimately of those who are his through faith.
The liturgical color of this highest season of the Church Year is white, the color of light and of our Lord. In many churches a paschal candle burns next to the altar to signify the presence of the risen Lord with his disciples. Within this season we also celebrate several ancient festivals, as we remember St Mark, St Philip and St James, the Ascension of Our Lord, and the Coming of the Holy Spirit: Pentecost Sunday. It is also during this time of Easter that we welcome young confirmands into communicant membership at Jerusalem.
St Mark, Evangelist (April 25)
Tradition holds that St Mark got much of the material for his Gospel from Peter. His mother, Mary, owned the house in which the infant church gathered for prayer (Acts 12). He was also, for a time, part of the famous missionary team of Paul and Barnabas, though he abandoned them midway through their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13). Later he accompanied Barnabas on a separate missionary journey to (Acts 15:36-39); late in life Paul mentioned how Mark was helpful to his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). Mark may have been the first bishop of Alexandriawhere he was martyred in 64 AD.
St Philip and St James, Apostles (May 1)
Philip was born in Bethsaidaand was one of the first disciples to follow Jesus. He brought Nathanael to the Lord (John 1:43-51). Philip preached in Scythia, where he was remarkably successful, and then traveled to Phyrgia (now in modern ) where he met his death. James is usually called James the Less (meaning either "short" or "younger") to distinguish him from James, the brother of Jesus and from James the Elder, the brother of John. This apostle's mother was one of those present at the crucifixion. Philip and James have been commemorated together as the remains of both men were reportedly interred in the Church of the Apostles in Romeon the same date in the fourth century.
The Ascension of Our Lord
The Festival of the Ascension – the fortieth day after Easter – celebrates our Lord Jesus, the God-man, entering the heavenly realms as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Among other things, Christ’s ascension emphasizes that human beings have a place in heaven and that even now Jesus, true God and true man, rules all things for the good of his people. Jesus’ words of promise to his disciples on this day also point our eyes forward to his gracious outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday and beyond.
Confirmation Sunday Confirmation Sunday at Jerusalemis closely related to the season of Easter and Pentecost Sunday. Since youth confirmands are normally received on the third Sunday in May, Confirmation Sunday almost always falls on one of the final Sundays of Easter or Pentecost Sunday, a reminder to us all that the Holy Spirit alone is the one who works faith in the hearts of his people through the gospel and that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is central to the message of forgiveness and eternal life.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit: Pentecost Sunday
Pentecost is the third great festival of the Christian year. The name Pentecost (fifty days) is Greek and refers to the second great Jewish festival which followed fifty days after the Passover Feast. The Christian observance of this festival of the Holy Spirit began by the early third century AD and, coming at the end of the fifty days of Easter’s celebration, ranked with Easter itself in the thought of the early Church as a high festival. Mass baptisms were often celebrated on this Sunday, much like the first Pentecost when Peter and the other apostles received about three thousands new converts through Holy Baptism (Acts 2:41).
The medieval Church developed many customs in connection with this festival. Among these were the lavish use of roses and the employment of trumpets in worship. The liturgical color for the day is red, a reminder of the tongues of fire and also of the blood of the martyrs, “the seed of the Church.”