Easter: The Great Sunday

Easter is not just "Easter Day," it is the fifty days from Easter Day until the Day of Pentecost. Easter is, so to speak, the "Sunday season". Every day of the Easter week is liturgically like a Sunday, and is of a similar rank as Easter. The following days are a further extension of Easter: the Sundays following Easter, often wrongly called "First Sunday after Easter," "Second Sunday after Easter," or (better) "Second Sunday of Eastertime" etc., are rightly called "Second Sunday of Easter", "Third Sunday of Easter" etc.

All the 7 weeks of Easter (a week of weeks) preserve an Easter and Sunday character. These fifty days, approximately a seventh of the year, make up a great "Sunday" in the yearly cycle.

The season of Easter has always been a time of joy and celebration. The Council of Nicaea, to favor this spirit of joy and celebration, even forbade fasting and kneeling during the fifty days of Easter.

This keeping of Easter as an extended celebration of the Resurrection has unfortunately been very much lost. I was struck today reading a pastoral letter of Bishop Conlon, of the diocese of Steubenville, inviting the Catholics of the diocese to resume the practice of abstaining from meat on Friday, and stating "The resumption of year-round abstinence in the Diocese of Steubenville will begin after this coming Easter, one week after Good Friday (April 17)." Of course this is certainly a good practice, but in fact, he chose the most inappropriate day possible to begin it. The Code of Canon Law, which in general preserves the law of abstinence on Fridays (though permitting the conferences of bishops to substitute other forms of penance), states that "abstinence from eating meat" is to be observed on Fridays unless they are solemnities. Easter Friday is a solemnity, indeed the greatest solemnity of the year that occurs on Friday. So this would not traditionally have been, nor according to the Code of Canon Law be a day of abstinence. The particular point about the starting date for beginning the practice is a small one, perhaps, but does seem to point to a certain regrettable lack of liturgical understanding.

3 thoughts on “Easter: The Great Sunday”

  1. Hi, thank you for your posts.

    I am trying to understand, are you saying that all 50 days, including all the Fridays are Solemnity?

    If we're treating all of the Easter season as one Sunday Easter Day, does that then mean we up the status of all days in the week to Solemnity within the Great Sunday?

    Thanks for time,

    1. No, just the Friday right after Easter Sunday, also called Easter Friday, is a solemnity.

      The post is not as clear as at good have been. Every day of Easter preserves a Sunday character, but they have a gradation, which I tried to indicate: (a) Every day of the Easter week, the week that begins with Easter Sunday, is fully like a Sunday, it is a solemnity, one sings the Gloria at the Mass, the Te Deum at the Office of Readings, etc. (b) The weekdays of the other weeks of Easter retain somewhat of the character of Sunday, one continues to sing extra Allelujas on them, but they are not ranked as solemnities.

      Regarding abstinence, that means that according to present canon law, abstinence is not required on Easter Friday (the Friday following just after Easter Sunday), but is required on the other Fridays of Easter.

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