What to Know When Going Back to Mass for Easter
Is there a day more ideal for brunch than Easter Sunday? I mean, if you’re gonna begin the day with mimosas, might as well throw in bunny-butt carrot cake pancakes, right?
If Sundays are perfect for a weekend-savoring brunch, then Easter stands as the king of all Sundays. You can finally feel the sun again, green shoots are starting to push through the ground, and the promise of summer is just ahead.
If Easter means you are hopping to church (see what I did there?) to meet up with family or friends before shrimp-n-grits or dyeing eggs or bloody Marys — or even if it’s just one of the important moments of the year where you connect with faith — here are a few things to notice when you’re at Mass.
You’re stepping into a feast for starving people.
Many of those around you in the pews at Mass have been slogging through Lent, a period of preparation for Easter when Catholics take on practices of self-denial (prayer, fasting, and charitable giving). Lent is a time to give things up, to strip life down to the essentials, to train our wills to be less selfish and more responsive to God and others.
That means that for the past six weeks, the church building has been very empty — no flowers, no color besides purple. The music has been subdued. There’s been a focus on repentance and conversion. Going to Mass for the past month and a half has felt more like going to the gym, to be honest, but it’s all geared to heighten our celebration of Easter.
So one thing to notice in the church on Easter is the way everything has been arranged as a feast for the senses: the smell of Easter lilies and incense, the rich and varied music, the color of flowers and new banners. They’re even throwing water around! The Church is bursting at the seams with this feast, and the contrast between the Lenten journey of preparation and the Easter feast is like night and day. It’s a time for authentic joy, and the Church doesn’t want anyone to miss out on it.
You’re stepping into a time machine.
The tremendous amount of energy and resources the Church pours into celebrating Easter is an indication of how important this day is in the seasonal routine of our faith. In short, it doesn’t get any bigger.
The reason for this is very simple: what happened when Jesus walked out of that tomb after being tortured and killed changed the course of human history. It. changed. everything.
In fact, Easter is so important that one day spans eight days — every day between Easter Sunday and the following Sunday is all the same. In the Church’s eyes, Tuesday after Easter Sunday is still Easter. It’s like we found a way to make a good thing last longer.
There’s another way in which Easter Sunday Mass is like stepping into a time machine. The act of coming together as a Church to share stories and a meal makes Jesus really and truly present to us. Mass is not just a sign or metaphor, and it’s not just a way for us to remember Him — it’s a way for us to encounter Him. Even though He lived and died 2,000 years ago, the whole point of Easter is that He is risen — truly risen — and lives among us now, in ways both obvious and mysterious.
When we gather with the Church to celebrate a moment of faith together — whether that’s Christmas or Easter or anything in between — it’s not just to remember that moment. It’s to enter into it. Our celebration brings the power of that moment to life for us in the here and now, and we can join our lives to it and be changed by it. That’s why everyone at Mass is cheerful and joyful — we’ve been touched by the joy and hope that comes from this transformative event.
You’re stepping into the Sunday of Sundays.
Even if you’re not Christian, you can’t deny the historical record, which shows that Jesus was a public figure who taught in Roman-occupied Palestine 2,000 years ago, and was tried and executed by crucifixion. His body had to be removed from the cross before sundown on Friday because, as Jews, his followers observed the Sabbath.
What happened from there comprises the fundamental and most essential element of our faith. On the third day (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), Jesus’ followers returned to His tomb to finish preparing it for burial. When they arrived, they discovered it unsealed and empty, and a messenger told them Christ has been raised from the dead.
In the days and weeks that followed, these followers recorded seeing the risen Christ, speaking with Him, even touching Him and sharing a meal with Him. And these encounters changed them profoundly. His disciples went from fearful cowards who fled when Jesus was arrested, to fearless teachers, themselves, who were willing to suffer and die to share with others the good news that Jesus is risen from the dead.
The whole life of Christian faith goes back to that first Sunday. In fact, the first Christians gathered together on Sundays to pray and remember this event because they recognized that it changed history. Our Sunday observance is one of the oldest traditions we have as a Church — every Sunday is a little Easter because it’s the day we remember God changed our destiny and opened a way through death to new life.
And if that’s not a good reason to enjoy a mimosa today, I don’t know what is.