Tuesday, 18 April 2006

The Easter Octave - the Forgotten 'Holy' Week

After the intense drama of Holy Week, many people find the Easter Octave something of an anti-climax. This is especially the case today (Easter Tuesday), with most of the population half-heartedly returning to work and (even) to school. Yet the Easter Octave is, in truth, another 'holy' week, just as full of spiritual drama and intensity as last week. Every Mass is a 'Solemnity,' complete with Sequence and solemn dismissal (Ite missa est, alleluia, alleluia) - the whole week, indeed, is an extension of Easter Sunday (the Preface at Mass even refers to 'this' Easter day).

As Catholics we need to rediscover the celebratory side of Easter week and make it the joyful counterpart to the austerity of Holy Week. All sorts of colourful Easter customs used to make sure that this was a week of light-hearted hilarity. In medieval Bavaria, for instance, the priest told funny stories and sung comic songs at the end of Easter Mass so that the congregation would be convulsed in Risus Paschalibus (Easter Laughter). In Russia anybody could enter the church to ring the bells throughout the day. Easter week was a time of feasting and playing (even distinguished prelates were to be found indulging in a game of handball). In Rome business transactions and even marriage ceremonies were deferred during this week. And yet, in our increasingly secular society, we're just given one bank holiday and then expected to return to normality.

Let us try to remain festive for the rest of the week, even if it means an interior festiveness while we go about our daily chores in the workplace. Why? Because Christ is Risen. Because Christ has conquered death. And, crucially, because He has promised that we too will have a share in His Resurrection, just as we have a share in His Passion.

Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!

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