The 50 Day Easter

The 50 Day Easter

From the Rev. Brandon Filbert, rector of St. Timothy’s, Salem.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

If I were asked to describe a major difference between the Christianity I knew growing up and the faith I practice now as an Anglican/Episcopalian, I would say it would be Easter. When I was a child, Easter meant one day. That day started off with dressing up and going to church, then coming home, having an egg-hunt, and ended with a special dinner.

When I became an Episcopalian, I was introduced to Easter as season, beginning with great joy on Easter Day, but then followed by a series of other Holy Days stretching out for more than a month (all with completely foreign-sounding names at the time), and culminating on the 50th day with something called Pentecost, when we were all supposed to wear red. At first, I thought that somehow were all going to become Pentecostals that day and speak in tongues (when it arrived, I found I had misunderstood things a bit).

Going from Easter being one day to 50 days marked a decisive change in my spiritual life. Up until that time, I had thought of Jesus’s resurrection as an event isolated in time – something that happened to him and him alone, a long while back. It had always seemed more like magic than anything else. I believed in it, but it did not seem to have much personal meaning.

Experiencing Eastertide forced me to listen to the various resurrection accounts carefully, and to see how Christ’s resurrection established something ongoing, something we may experience now. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we all may experience the New Life Jesus lives still. That resurrected life is ours now…not just something that happened to Jesus a long time ago. Easter went from being a static event to a dynamic process.

Resurrection is an ongoing phenomenon in the normal Christian life. We are dying and rising to God over and over; dying to sin, dying to failed plans, dying to our own will…and rising anew with greater understanding and deeper trust and dependence on our Lord. We are being made aware of, and then healed from, brokenness and selfishness. Sometimes the process is quite slow, but enduring, stable discipleship eventually breaks through what blocks us from God’s will; God wins when we “stay in the game,” even if we aren’t particularly good players. This is one thing we learn from hearing those stories about the disciples’ earliest encounters with the Risen Christ. It may take a lifetime to accept the truth of Christ’s rising in our own life.

When we learn to see Easter not only as an event for Jesus but as initiating a process in human and our own personal history, we are on our way to internalizing Easter and living the Resurrection. That is a true celebration of what Christ given us. As we say in the Eucharist each week: “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us: therefore, let us keep the feast” – the whole feast, for 50 days…and forever in our hearts! Alleluia!