Easter is a time without compare in the entire church year. Christmas for sure is also a very important festival, maybe even Pentecost with confirmation; but these do not even come close to Easter. The somberness of Good Friday is gone, and the reason for Jesus’ coming is now seen – all in his bursting from the tomb on the first day of the week. And from that time forth the church has been celebrating Easter.
It hasn’t been celebrated in all this same pomp and exuberance since the Early Church. At that time, every Sunday was a little Easter. The Resurrection on Sunday morning motivated the Christians to meet on that day rather than Saturday (the Sabbath of their Jewish roots). Eventually, celebrations on the anniversary of Easter itself sprang up – turning Easter into a big Sunday!
This was filled with a lot of controversy as the Church decided how to implement this wonderful festival into its life and practice. An important emphasis then was Baptism. This revolved around the celebration of the Holy Triduum (the three days Christ was in the tomb). The newly converted would all be baptized on Holy Saturday, the eve of Jesus’ Resurrection. This emphasizes the tie between being baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection with the celebration of the resurrection itself. This is still practiced by some Christians today where they baptize, or at least attempt to, all the new adult members, and the practice is echoed in this ancient Easter hymn:
Now no more can death appall,
Now no more the grave enthrall;
You have opened paradise,
And Your saints in You shall rise.
The final word of that stanza gives us another practice which we still hold today – the Alleluia. Alleluia is returned on Easter with full exuberance and joy. Our church even retains the ancient Easter greeting: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” All this is done to continually confess the Resurrection of Jesus and the joy with which this event fills our hearts.
The entire season of Easter (Eastertide) is a tide of joy. It is overflowing with the joy knowing that death is dead, the Accuser is silenced, and the grave is opened for Christ and even for us. This is a joy which flows from the tide of water which washed us at the Holy Font. For we were baptized so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Rom. 6).
This joy doesn’t stop with just baptism which washed us in the tide of water flowing from his pierced side, but it continues in the other tide – the blood. It is a cup of gladness that we take. We eat and drink the body and blood of not a dead Christ Jesus, but of a resurrected and living Jesus. The life and salvation from Easter morn is given to us in this blessed meal.
Alleluias, water, body and blood all telling us the same thing: Christ is risen! The Resurrection fills our hearts with joy, and our faith clings to it. There is just Easter joy, and no more fear of sin, death, and the devil. As Luther puts it:
See, His blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it; death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us.
(Hymns stanzas are LSB 633 & 458)