Roman Catholicism is a religion that has been around since Jesus Christ and his Apostles walked the face of the earth (20-30 BCE). One of the main focuses of this faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Catholics celebrate the day Jesus resurrected on a day they call Easter. This is viewed as a day of rejoicing and celebrating, as Jesus, their savior, has come back from the dead so save them.
Easter Sunday is probably the most important Roman Catholic holidays in the liturgical year. It is the day that the Church revolves around, the day when the Church’s savior is resurrected from the dead. Easter Sunday is part of the Holy Triduum which includes two other major holy days: Holy Thursday and Good Friday. These three days represent the time Jesus Christ spent being persecuted until being put to death on a cross on Good Friday. This concept of a “triduum” is reflected in the Catholic sign of the cross with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Roman Catholics believe that Jesus was sent by God to come to earth and die on a cross to save humans from their sins. When Jesus resurrected from the dead on Easter Sunday his followers rejoiced because they believed they had been saved from sin and death and would be able to go to heaven with their savior.
Easter Sunday Celebration
The celebrations that take place on Easter Sunday are not your typical modern celebrations that are seen in many events today. People want to be able to relate and connect to something bigger than themselves, and lots of Roman Catholic practices require extensive trust and faith to do this. Regardless, the Catholic Church remains constant believing that the way they do things is the way it should be done now and hundreds of years from now.
Many churches hold a sunrise mass outside on the morning of Easter. This is done to represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I myself have been to three sunrise services and I think they are beautiful (*again, this is my student’s writing, not mine – I have never been to a sunrise service and cannot imagine me doing so for a long time). It is a sacrifice to get up early in the morning, but seeing the sunrise makes it all worth it. The music played throughout the mass is usually more upbeat than usual and the priest dresses in white, differing from the somber colors he wears on Good Friday.
After the service, many Catholics carry out the tradition of hunting for Easter eggs that are filled with candy. This is done because children often give up candy or other sweets for the 40 days of Lent. Flowers, cards, and food are exchanged, again continuing the trend of bright colors and happiness being shared. Large feasts are common since Catholics periodically fast during the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday.
The Easter Vigil is celebrated on the night before Easter Sunday. A breathtaking experience highlighted by hundreds of candles and amazing incense, the vigil marks the beginning of Easter.
The atmosphere in the church is different: the holy water fonts are drained, all the lights are out, the tabernacle is empty. The service begins outside the church. A new fire is lit and blessed.
The vigil is split up into four different parts:
- Service of Light
- Liturgy of the Word
- Liturgy of the Baptism
- Liturgy of the Eucharist
Because of this, the service usually lasts a couple of hours. This being said, it is worth the time. It is one of the most outstanding encounters I have ever experienced and would highly recommend going. The vigil, in my opinion, is just as beautiful as Easter Sunday.
- Cunningham, Lawrence. “Roman Catholicism.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Roman-Catholicism
- “Easter.” ReligionFacts. Published November 10, 2015. http://www.religionfacts.com/easter
- “Easter Sunday.” Catholic Online. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.catholic.org/clife/lent/easter.php
- Miller, Jennifer G. “Catholic Activity: Easter Vigil.” Catholic Culture. Published 2003. Accessed May 13, 2016. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1043
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006.