>Laurence H. Stookey has an intriguing chapter on Easter in his book Calendar, Christ’s Time for the Church. Chapter three is entitled, “Easter: The Great Fifty Days.” Stookey calls Easter an “ambiguous and unfortunate term.” Historically, the term has been used in two ways in the Church. Most common to the majority of our readers (I assume) is Easter as in Easter Sunday. Easter is one day. Some churches recognize Palm Sunday, some might have a service on Good Friday but, for the most part, Easter is seen as Easter Sunday and then it is over.
Churches who follow a Lectionary are accustomed to recognizing Easter beyond a single Sunday. For these churches Easter is “the period of eight Sundays, comprising fifty days, often called as a unit ‘the Great Fifty Days'” [Stookey, 53]. Most people think of Easter in the first sense but the second sense is more “ample and accurate.” Stookey writes, “the explosive force of the resurrection of the Lord is too vast to be contained within a celebration of one day.”Arguing for a fuller celebration of Easter he adds,
“The recovery of Easter as ‘the Great Fifty Days’ of the year can move the church along toward a fuller understanding of what the resurrection of the Lord implies. Easter is not one closing day at the end of a lengthy period of Lent. Easter is one extended rejoicing in the resurrection that more than exceeds in length the Lenten disciplines. The first day of the season, Easter Day, is the opening of a protracted celebration, even as the Resurrection is itself the opening to a vast new reality.”
This is a refreshing perspective for someone like myself who was brought up in your average revivalist, fundamentalist, Bible church tradition where Easter is over once Easter Day is complete. Those of you who come from a liturgical background may read a post like this and say, “Duh! Get with the program, silly free-churchers!” What can I say? Give us some time. Getting in touch with richer traditions such as “the Great Fifty Days” is very appealing for many of us who are looking to (re-)connect with many of the great traditional practices of those who have gone before us.
Time prevents from me from going into more detail of what a protracted Easter celebration looks like over a several week period so I will direct you to a few online resources:
The Great Fifty Days: Seven service plans from Easter to Ascension, page 2 of 2 by Joanne Alberda, Reformed Worship magazine.
Journey into Assurance: Ideas for the Easter season based on 1 John by Nelle A. Vander Ark, Reformed Worship magazine.
The Great Fifty Days from The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
Other resources: link.