Sacred Liturgy - Easter Sunday


"Christ is Risen, Alleluia"
"He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia"

With these joyous words Christians have greeted one another on Easter Day for nearly two thousand years. And every Easter the words proclaim anew the faith and hope of every Christian in the Good News of God's profound love of mankind, a love that conquers death. This Easter greeting is still used today. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches this proclamation is made during the Easter service as each person kisses the Gospel book.

Whenever Christians greet one another with these exultant phrases, we affirm the unity of believers throughout all times and ages until He comes again in glory. Every Christian family can establish the custom of exchanging this historic greeting, which is also a profession of faith, on Easter morning. It would set an appropriate tone of rejoicing for the entire day (and a reminder, also, for young children who may be so excited about their Easter baskets that they tend to forget why we are celebrating.)

Mass on Easter Day is the most splendid and exuberant celebration of the Church. For this is the Sunday of Sundays, the day of Resurrection of Christ, the center and foundation of our faith. As Saint Paul said, "If Christ be not risen, your faith is vain" [I Cor. 15:14, 17]. Thus Easter is the pinnacle of all feasts of the Church year, which began with Advent, or the expectation of the coming of the Messiah, sent by God to provide the means for our Salvation. The culmination of the entire liturgy is the Easter feast. Families who attend Mass on Easter Day join millions of Christians all over the world -- past and present -- in joyous affirmation of our redemption through the love of Christ, our hope of salvation, and our faith in the resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come. Although the Easter Vigil and Mass fulfills the obligation for Easter Mass, the Easter Day celebration is a highlight that many will not want to miss, and it is permissible to attend both.

Every element of the festive celebration of Mass on Easter Day resounds with the great Alleluia the triumphant word of praise for God of men and angels.

Alleluia (or hallelujah) is a Hebrew word adopted by the Christian Church. (Another familiar Hebrew word is amen, "so be it.") Hallel is the greatest expression of praise in Hebrew. Combined with Jah, the shortened form of the name of God, JHVH (meaning "I AM"), it becomes Hallelujah. Alleluia is a Latinized spelling.

From the time of the apostles the proclaiming of the Alleluia was a revered custom in ordinary life as well as in connection with the liturgy of the Church. Farmers and tradesmen sang it as they worked, and mothers taught their children to pronounce it before any other word. According to Father Francis Weiser, "in the Roman Empire the Alleluia became the favorite prayerful song of oarsmen and navigators. The Roman poet-Bishop Sidonius Apollinaris (480) described how the river banks and shores of Gaul resounded with the Alleluia song of the rowing boatmen." [Weiser, pp. 28-29] ("Alleluia" fits the familiar tune of the Song of the Volga Boatman. Try it!)

In Christian homes on Easter morning children and parents might greet each other with "Alleluia", then light a specially decorated Easter candle. This word of praise on Easter morning inspired Handel to write his famous Hallelujah Chorus. Playing a recording of this magnificent Chorus from Messiah on Easter morning is a memorable way of awaking the household to the joy of the day and the promise of the coming Easter Mass and celebration.

The Lord's Day
Every Sunday is a celebration of the Day of the Lord's Resurrection. Every celebration of Mass commemorates all the Easter Mysteries, the Lord's Supper at which Christ instituted the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and His Resurrection, the historic events on which Christianity is based. And each Sunday celebrates the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (fifty days after Easter) which established the Church.

Every Sunday, then, is a "little Easter." Every Sunday is Christ's feast day. This is why the Sundays during Lent are excluded from the forty days of penance; and why saints' feast days are not ordinarily celebrated on Sunday. All Catholics are seriously obliged to participate in the Church's celebration of Mass on Sundays.

From the earliest days of the Church the celebration of the Eucharist was made on the first day of the Jewish week . We know this because specific reference is made to the Lord's day in Acts 20:7: "And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled together to break bread Paul discoursed with them"; and I Corinthians 16:2: "On the first of each week, let everyone of you personally put aside something and save it up as he has prospered"

The word Sunday, dies solis, or "day of the sun" is a pre-Christian word retained by the Church (in English speaking countries) because it emphasizes the belief that Christ is the "Sun of Righteousness." Saint John, in Revelation 1:10, refers to the dies dominica, "the Lord's day.

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