The Great Fifty Days of Easter: Living as Baptized Disciples of Jesus Christ
The Easter Season, also known as the Great Fifty Days, begins at sunset Easter Eve and continues through the Day of Pentecost. It is the most joyous and celebrative season of the Christian year. James F. White notes that even though congregations today may focus more on observing the high holy seasons of Lent and Advent, for the early church, the Easter Season was historically far more important than either of these more commonly observed seasons.
James White writes,
It is perplexing why modern Christians concentrate on Lent, the season of sorrow, rather than on Easter, the season of joy. Augustine tells us, “These days after the Lord’s resurrection form a period, not of labor, but of peace and joy. That is why there is no fasting and we pray standing, which is a sign of resurrection. This practice is observed at the altar on all Sundays, and the Alleluia is sung, to indicate that our future occupation is to be no other than the praise of God” [Augustine, Letters, Wilfrid Parsons, trans., Fathers of the Church. New York: Fathers of the Church,1951. Volume 12. 284-84]. The resurrection was and is commemorated by a day each week—Sunday; a festival each year—Easter Day; and a season—the Easter Season. There can be no doubt about the centrality of the resurrection in the life and faith of the early church (James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship, Revised Edition. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990. 61-62).
The Easter Season focuses on Christ's resurrection and ascension and on the gifts from the Holy Spirit on the first Easter (John 20:22–23) and the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Lessons from the Acts of the Apostles replace readings from the Old Testament because the early church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the best witness to the Resurrection. The ancient Christian name for this festival is Pasch, derived from the Hebrew pesah ("deliverance" or "passover"), thus connecting the Resurrection to the Exodus. The origin of the English word Easter is disputed but may come from the Anglo–Saxon spring goddess Eastre and her festival. Pentecost comes from the Greek pentekoste, which means "fiftieth." It refers to the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which Greek–speaking Jews called the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). Early Christians also used the term Pentecost to refer to the Great Fifty Days as a season. In addition to the acts and services of worship on the following pages, see The Great Thanksgivings and the Scripture readings for the Easter Season in the lectionary.
We have created two miniseries for the Easter Season. Both series are centered in the Gospel readings from the lectionary for each week, including on the Day of Pentecost, for which we have focused our resources, not on the traditional reading from the second chapter of Acts, but instead, on the passage from the seventh chapter of John’s Gospel.
Our resources for the Easter Season support the two formational focuses for which the early church created the season: formation in core doctrine and formation for ministry in Christ's name and the Spirit's power. The first miniseries provides deeper formation in the doctrinal core of ministry and the sacraments. The second helps prepare people, especially the newly baptized or confirmed, together with the whole church for ministry in which we are united with Christ and one another as we flow into all the world. Small formation groups meeting weekly support and strengthen this work in concrete ways so participants are prepared to be commissioned for their ministries at Pentecost.
Series One — Awakening...
A three-week series
DOWNLOAD the Awakening Series [PDF] (the download does not include hymns, additional resources, or images found online)
Series Two — Becoming...
A three-week series
- Becoming One with Christ (week 4)
- Becoming One with Each Other (week 5)
- Becoming One in Ministry (week 6)
Both series point disciples toward the conclusion of the Easter Season on the Day of Pentecost, as congregations come together to celebrate the birth of the church with the finale to the season, “Flowing into all the World.”
DOWNLOAD the Becoming Series [PDF] (the download does not include hymns, additional resources, or images found online)
Throughout the season, you will notice a focus on water. Celebrations of baptism, confirmation, and congregational reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant are encouraged throughout this season, especially on Easter Day and on the Day of Pentecost.
Use the colors of white and gold and materials of the finest texture for paraments, stoles, and banners. On the Day of Pentecost, use bright red. Bright red symbols may also be used on a white background earlier in the season. A focus on the baptismal font is appropriate throughout the season. A large freestanding white candle called a paschal candle may be used at every service during this season and at baptisms and funerals during the rest of the year. Standing for prayer is traditional. Flowers of all colors are appropriate.
Visuals on the Day of Pentecost for this series will focus on the baptismal font. However, other appropriate visuals for Pentecost include red flowers, doves, flames of fire, a ship, or a rainbow.