Contrary to what many think, Easter is not a single day. It is actually a season that begins on Easter Sunday and continues for seven full weeks. This seven-week cycle is known historically as the "Great 50 Days" or the "Week of Weeks." During this period, the church celebrates Christ's resurrection, his appearances to the disciples after Easter, his post-resurrection teachings, his ascension into heaven, and the disciples’ eager anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
- The Great 50 Days of Easter also is the time when those who have reaffirmed their baptismal vows or have been baptized at the Easter Vigil reflect on the meaning of their baptism. Through the lectionary texts they explore the “mysteries” of their faith. The early church called this period of the process mystagogia.
- The Easter Vigil is the first official celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Historically held in the hours of darkness between Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day, it is a service marked by baptism, the return of the exclamatory “ALLELUIA,” and begins the 50-day celebration of Easter. At the opening of the Easter Vigil a new fire is lit.
- The Paschal candle is the first candle to be lit with a flame from this sacred fire, representing the light of Christ coming into the world. This represents the risen Christ as a symbol of light (life) dispelling darkness (death). Often the people will light their own candles, symbolizing that the light of Christ, while divided among many, is not dimmed.The Paschal candle remains lit for the 50 days of Easter. After Pentecost the Paschal candle is lit at baptisms to signify the Holy Spirit and during funerals to represent the hope of resurrection.
- On Easter Sunday, the whole church enters into this period of uncovering in new ways the mysteries of faith expressed in sacrament, word and life lived for others. And each time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist (using Eucharistic Prayer A), we say these words: