Think Easter's over? Guess what? Remember how it takes forty days, that Lent thing, to prepare for Easter? Well, it takes fifty days to celebrate it, and it's called Eastertide!! Or even better, called Paschaltide. That's right, Easter is not just one day to show up and celebrate, let alone not worry about making church again until Christmas. Nor does Easter celebrate something that came up and now you hold on to that until you die. Jesus fulfilled something which in turn leads to something further. Here's the deal.
We saw in the last few posts that Easter is not a stand-alone event. Here's a recap. When God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let his people go from slavery, it wasn't about human rights or dignity or anything else, it was so that his people may worship him, and what he wanted them let go for was to give them the Law, and so that in turn they may take the Promised Land.
All of that happened. It's recorded in the Hebrew Bible, which you may know as the Old Testament, specifically in the Law, or Torah, which is the first five books, and more specifically, in Exodus, the second of those five. And also in the Law, God commanded three great festivals to commemorate each of these, the liberation from slavery (Pesach, or Passover), the giving of the Law (Shavuot), and the journey to the Promised Land (Sukkoth). That's in Exodus too, with a recap in the book that itself is a recap of the Law, Deuteronomy. The three are called the Shalosh Regalim.
However, God's Law was not able to be fulfilled. So great is human sin, that it could not be fulfilled, even when the Law was given only to a special people, who were called out to receive it to in turn be a light to other peoples. In this we, all people, are shown our sin, our utter inability to attain to God even when he shows us exactly how to do it and doesn't even ask all of us to do it.
But, there is Good News. Having been shown our sin, God shows us our saviour, and not only that, becomes a man to be that Saviour himself! And in this man, Jesus, he did the whole thing himself because we couldn't. First, he transformed the Passover sacrifice of a lamb into the passing over from the slavery of sin by the body and blood of the Lamb of God, which is himself. Then that body and blood was sacrificed at Calvary, and then God ratified all this and brought it to-gether in the resurrection Jesus from the dead.
It doesn't stop there. Two more to go! Just as Passover lead to the giving of the Law, so Easter leads to the giving of the Holy Ghost. It goes like this: in the Law of Moses God commanded a ritual counting of the fifty days between the celebration of Passover and the celebration of the giving of the Law, called Shavuot or Pentecost.
Wait, what? Isn't Pentecost just a Christian deal, the "birthday of the church" and all that? No, it's not. "Pentecost" is a later name derived from the Greek for "fiftieth" for Shavout, the feast of the giving of the Law at Sinai fifty days after Passover. That's why in the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible it speaks of all the people being in town; they were there for what they thought would be that year's Pentecost. But instead, just as Jesus transformed Passover into the giving of himself, God counts the days and will transform Pentecost into the giving of the Spirit! So the church similarly counts and rejoices in Easter for fifty days until it celebrates the giving of the Law fulfilled and transformed into the giving of the Holy Ghost!
That's the second one. More on that, and the third to follow, when we get there in fifty days.
That counting from Passover to Shavuot is called the Counting of the Omer in the Law. OK, what's an omer? It's not a thing, it's a unit of measure, and is sometimes translated as "sheaf". OK, sheaf of what". Barley, that's what. It was offered in the Temple, the first, but not the last, fruits of harvest. Just as God did not deliver the Israelites from Egypt and then say "OK I got you out, I'm done, you're on your own from here" but got them out to give them the Law and begin the journey to the Promised Land, so the fulfillment of this in the Passover sacrifice of the Lamb Jesus doesn't just leave us on our own from there but leads to something more. The sacrifice that ends the count, before celebrating the giving of the Law, is wheat, a little better grade of stuff than basic barley. So with the fulfillment. The counting from Easter to Pentecost is called Eastertide, or even better, Paschaltide.
In Latin, this is called Quinquagesima. Hey wait, didn't we have Quinquagesima in Lent? Yes we did, and now there's another one, a different one, which has the same name because the time frame, 50 days, is the same. The Lenten one is distinguished from this one as Quinquagesima penitentiae, penitential fiftieth day, and this one is called Quinquagesima paschalis, paschal fiftieth, or even more tellingly, Quinquagesima laetitiae, joyful Quinquagesima! Thus, the joy and celebration of Easter is not one day, but fifty days leading right up to the gift of the Holy Ghost! We could call it the Easterly Joytime! In fact, in German, they do -- die österliche Freudenzeit.
This joytime has several Sundays. The first is Easter itself. There are three seasons in the church year in which the Sundays have "nicknames" taken from the first word or two in Latin (called the incipit) of their Introits, and Eastertide is the third of them, Advent and Lent being the other two like this. Here are the traditional Introits, Collects (the prayer that collects the thoughts for the day) and Bible readings for them.
Second Sunday of Easter -- Quasimodogeniti
As newborn babes: desire the sincere milk of the Word.
Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me. (I Peter 2:2)
Ps. Sing aloud unto God, our Strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. (PS 81:1)
Glory be to the Father etc.
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we who have celebrated the solemnities of the Lord's resurrection may, by the help of Thy grace, bring forth the fruits thereof in our life and conversation; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, out Lord, who liveth etc.
I John 5:4-10
Third Sunday of Easter -- Miserecordias Domini
Fourth Sunday of Easter -- Jubilate
Fifth Sunday of Easter -- Cantate
Sixth Sunday of Easter -- Rogate
Seventh Sunday of Easter -- Exaudi
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