A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Forty Days of Lent? What About the Fifty Days of Easter?

One thing I have noticed as a Protestant whose tradition observes the forty days Lent. We don't seem to be very good at observing the fifty days of the Easter season. Yes, we pull out all the stops in worship on Easter Sunday, but then we seem to immediately go back to business as usual. While we have special times and services during Lent, we fail to place such emphasis on the season of resurrection between Easter Sunday and Pentecost.

And yet, Easter is the most significant holiday of the Christian year. Though we celebrate Christmas as the central holiday as far as emphasis, it is not. Without Christ's resurrection there is no Christian faith. If Jesus has not been raised, there are no Christmas celebrations to be had. The primary importance of Easter is revealed in the ordering of the Christian year. Unlike Christmas, Easter is a moveable feast, which means that it does not fall on the same date every year; and it is the date of Easter each year that determines the entire liturgical calendar. (For how the date of Easter is calculated, see here.) Thus, while the church observes Advent and Christmas as the beginning of the liturgical year, it is Easter that is the theological culmination and beginning of the Christian year.

So the question is why many Protestants who observe Lent, do not observe, in similar fashion (in reference to importance), the full fifty days of the Easter season. Why is the greeting, "He is risen!" reserved only for Easter Sunday and not for the entire Eastertide? Why is resurrection absent from some Protestant preaching  the Sunday following Easter Sunday?

On Ash Wednesday we are invited to observe a holy Lent for forty days. Why are we not similarly invited to observe a joyful Easter for fifty days following the morning the empty tomb is discovered?

I'm just wondering.


Mike Helbert said...

I'm not sure that the Easter 'season' did not get tossed with other so-called baggage after the reformation. The whole idea of not regarding one day over others, perhaps.
I've recently been using the Roman Christian Prayer, (single volume breviary). It seems awkward for me to be seeing 'alleluias' and reminders of Christ's resurrection in the daily hours everyday. But, it is a good reminder that Jesus walked, talked and ate with his disciples during this time. It's a good thing to reflect on.

Carol Kuniholm said...

N. T. Wright has some great things to say about this in Surprised by Hope - "So how can we learn to live as wide-awake people, as Easter people? . . . Easter is about the wild delight of God’s creative power—not very Anglican, perhaps, but at least we ought to shout Alleluias instead of murmuring them; we should light every candle in the building instead of some . . .
But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday . . . and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration. . . Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before., with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up. "