The Great 50 Days of Easter

I have had questions each year about some of the changes in the worship service that take place immediately after Lent.
The time from the Great Vigil through the Sunday celebration of the Feast of Pentecost is known in the Church as the Great Fifty Days. As with many Christian celebrations, it takes its roots from Jewish tradition. The feast we call Pentecost is drawn from the Jewish celebrations of Passover and Shavuot. The time between Passover and Shavuot is known as the Feast of Weeks, which counted a week of weeks, or 49 days, with Shavuot occurring on the 50th day. Shavuot was originally an agricultural festival, but it came to be celebrated as the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Pentecost, also known as Whitsunday, is the eighth and last Sunday of Easter. Since Easter is not just one day, but a season, there are practices the church does to mark this time as a special time of celebration:

  • The Paschal candle is lighted during all services.
  • The Easter acclimation is used at Eucharist and at the daily offices.
  • “Alleluia, alleluia” is added to the dismissal at Eucharist celebrations and the daily offices; fraction anthems including Alleluias are chosen, as are hymns with multiple Alleluias.
  • The Confession of sin may be omitted entirely during the 50 days.
  • Some churches follow the prohibition made during the Council of Nicea in the fourth century that prohibited kneeling during the great 50 days, whether during the Eucharistic prayer or when receiving communion at the altar.
  • A lesson from the Acts of the Apostles is appointed for every day during the Great 50 Days, and is used as the first reading on Sunday, in place of the Old Testament lesson.
  • Since the entire season is a celebration, the vestments and altar colors are white.

Since it helps us to remember that Easter is a season and not ust a Sunday St. Matthew’s follows most of these changes during the Great 50 Days. See how many you notice this Sunday!

The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia, alleluia!!

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