A continuation of the liturgical guide to Easter (in normal times), by our master of ceremonies, Cathie James
Eastertide (and beyond)
The celebrations of Easter Day mark the beginning of the joyful season of Eastertide – a period of 50 days that ends with the Feast of Pentecost, marking the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-31). It is a season full of praise as reflected in the many ‘Alleluias’, the word meaning ‘God be praised’, which are said or sung in services throughout this time. Also in the name of the Sunday following Easter Day – ‘Low Sunday’ – which is thought to be a corruption of the Latin word ‘Laus’ meaning ‘praise’. In the words of St Augustine ‘we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song’.
During Eastertide the readings are all taken from the New Testament and one of them is always from the Acts of the Apostles, telling of the experience of the early Christians after the resurrection of Jesus. To reflect this festive season, the priestly vestments and altar frontals are white/gold, and you will see additional candles on the nave altar. The florally decorated Paschal (Easter) candle, lit from the fire at the Easter Vigil (above), stands next to the altar and is lit for every service. Where the Angelus is normally sung, it is replaced by the alternative Marian prayer ‘Regina Coeli’, which rejoices in Christ’s resurrection.
Forty days into Eastertide (a Thursday) we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, which commemorates Christ’s ascent into heaven following his post resurrection appearances to his apostles and disciples. At St Michael’s we mark this with a Solemn Choral Mass in the evening as well as the usual daytime Mass. Ten days later, we reach the Feast of Pentecost (whose name derives from the Greek meaning 50 days). On this day the liturgical colour is red, not white. It symbolises the ‘tongues of fire’, which according to the book of Acts, is how the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Jesus.
Eastertide finally comes to an end at Evensong and Benediction on the evening of Pentecost Sunday.
Seven days later, we move on to celebrate Trinity Sunday, celebrating God in three persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – and finally, four days after that, the Feast of Corpus Christi, celebrating the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ. This feast is celebrated gloriously at St Michael’s with a Solemn Choral Mass and procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the adjacent streets.
So the 60-day season following Easter Sunday is one of joyous celebration at the heart of our Christian faith, and that joy is very much reflected in our liturgy, vestments, ceremonial and music.
Dates 2021 – See Diary of Church Festivals
Ascension Day – Thursday May 13th
Feast of Pentecost (and Confirmation) – Sunday May 23rd
Trinity Sunday – Sunday May 30th
Feast of Corpus Christi – Thursday June 3rd