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Easter Trivia

by Gary D. Penkala

Eastertide, the season of Easter, is filled with interesting trivia, some quite religious, some "less so." Here are some examples from this fifty-day celebration:

— The Romance languages derive their name for this feast from the Latin paschale refering to the Passover (It. pasqua, Sp. pascua, Fr. pâques, Port. Páscoa); likewise the Dutch Pasen and the Norwegian Påske. The term in many Germanic languages has a more secular origin, coming perhaps from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility (Ger. Ostern, Eng. Easter).

— The solemnity of Easter is such a great feast day that the Church multiplies the day times seven (a sacred number), extending its celebration for a full week. This week (of which each day has the rank of "solemnity") is so important that the Church multiples this by seven again, establishing a season of seven weeks. These forty-nine days culminate in another great feast, Pentecost [pente in Greek means "fiftieth"], the fiftieth day of the season.

— The symmetry of the Easter cycle is thus:

  • forty days of Lent
  • three days of the Paschal Triduum
  • forty days until Ascension
  • ten more days through Pentecost

The nine days between Ascension and Pentecost (where the former is still observed as a holy day) is often celebrated as a Novena to the Holy Spirit.

— In the Easter cycle, there are six Sundays followed by a great solemnity (five Sundays of Lent & Palm Sunday followed by Easter), and then six more Sundays followed by a great solemnity (the Second through Seventh Sunday of Easter followed by Pentecost).

— No Old Testament scripture (except the Psalms) is used at Mass during Eastertide. Sunday readings are outlined as follows:

  • First Reading (generally from the Old Testament)
    • Year A: Acts of the Apostles
    • Year B: Acts of the Apostles
    • Year C: Acts of the Apostles
  • Second Reading
    • Year A: I Peter
    • Year B: I John
    • Year C: Revelation
  • Gospel
    • Year A: John (1 Gospel from Luke)
    • Year B: John (1 Gospel from Luke)
    • Year C: John

Weekday readings follow this outline:

  • First Reading
    • Acts of the Apostles
  • Gospel
    • John

Many votive Masses (e.g. the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary) have special readings for use during Eastertide.

— "Alleluia," a Latinized Hebrew word meaning "Praise Yahweh," is used more frequently during Eastertide liturgies. In addition to its use as the Gospel Acclamation, the Alleluia is doubled and added to the dismissal at Mass during the octave of Easter (from the Easter Vigil through the Second Sunday of Easter [Divine Mercy Sunday]), as well as on Pentecost Sunday. A single Alleluia is added to the Introit Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon throughout Eastertide; likewise it occurs at the end of antiphons for the Gospel Canticles at Morning and Evening Prayer, at the responsories for the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer; and at the end of the Sunday psalmody antiphons for Office of Readings, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

— Normally we pray the Litany of the Saints kneeling. During Eastertide, when the Litany is prayed or sung (at Ordinations, for example), the proper posture is standing.

— The chant Vidi aquam, "I saw water flowing," replaces the Asperges me, "Sprinkle me, Lord," during the Sprinkling Rite at the beginning of Mass. The Regina coeli, "Queen of heaven," replaces the Angelus prayer which is said in the morning, noon and evening.

— The Rogation Days (from the Latin word for "supplication") were formerly the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday. A Mass and procession (with the Litany of the Saints) was celebrated to invoke the Lord's blessing on the fields in anticipation of a fruitful harvest.

— Pentecost was also called Whitsunday, "White Sunday," for the white garments worn by the neophytes (the catechumens baptized at the Easter Vigil). They wore their white garments throughout Eastertide (from their baptism until Pentecost Sunday).

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