It is surprising each year, but for many of us Easter always ends up feeling like a let down. Lent enjoys a number of ceremonies that give it a distinct character. We start with the ashes in a ceremony unlike anything else all year long. We lose the Alleluias and Gloria in Excelsis. Then in Passiontide, the last two weeks of Lent, we lost the Gloria Patri. Holy Week has something unusual or unique every day: the palms on Palm Sunday, the reading of the Passion accounts, the extra collects and genuflections, and so forth. Depending on your predilections, either Good Friday or the Easter Vigil is usually counted as the most beautiful, complicated, and moving Service of the year. Then comes Easter Sunday and here is the kicker: it is ordinary. There are no unique or moving ceremonies for Easter.
This is always highlighted for me by the acolytes. We have rehearsals, some fairly long, for all the Holy Week Services. The acolytes have extra duties. They need to know what is happening. We have to be careful to not forget anything. On Easter morning, even though they’ve already been told during the rehearsals, they always ask, “Is there anything special today?” And I have to say, “No. Easter is normal.” Why do they ask if they already know? Because it doesn’t seem quite right.
But that is really how it is: Easter is normal. It is not that Easter is like most of the year, with no special ceremonies all its own, but that the rest of the year is like Easter. Those ceremonies we are prone to take for granted – standing for the Gospel, singing Alleluias between the Epistle and the Gospel, etc, are all Easter ceremonies. Easter feels normal because Easter is the standard.
There is something confused in us that prefers the austere novelty of Lent, Passiontide, and Holy Week to Easter. To be sure, this confusion isn’t sinful, but it is confusion, not unlike children preferring boxed macaroni and cheese or McDonald’s hamburgers to the real things.
Easter is the norm because while we engage in some small liturgical re-enactments of Our Lord’s passion for the sake of teaching and remembering what Our Lord has done for us and how He loves us, in fact, it is done, finished, complete, and perfect. And the Holy Communion that we celebrate, even on Good Friday, is not a re-enactment of the Last Supper or a reminder or a teaching moment. It is the actual bestowal of Our Lord’s risen Body and Blood. He is risen. That is a historical and necessary fact. He died, but He lives. And even when we focus particularly upon the terrible price He has paid as our ransom to win us back from death and Hell, we never, never forget or think that He is dead. He died, yes, thanks be to God, He died, and died for us, but He lives. If that were not so our faith would be in vain.
That is why we proclaim His death every time we receive His Holy Body and Blood. What we are proclaiming is that He died and how He died and why He died but never that He is dead. The point for us that Jesus died is always that Jesus is no longer dead, that Jesus lives. So, yes, Acolytes, Easter is normal.