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Fifty days of unbridled rejoicing

By Scott Baker

As April unfolded, we observed the last few days of Lent culminating in holy week giving way to the Easter celebration. Even in our current state of “shelter in place” our observances went on. I liken Lent to a marathon and holy week is the last mile which is always the hardest, so I’m told, having never attempted to run a 26-mile course myself.

We all know the penitential nature of Lent with all the bowing and scraping and contrition for our sins. It takes endurance and persistence to keep our focus and maintain our discipline for the 40 long days of the church’s most penitential season of the year. But the finish line we cross, which is Easter Day, gives way to the great 50 days of Eastertide.

For many Christians, having reached Easter is all that matters; the finish line having been crossed. But for many other Christians, Easter Day is not the finish line, but, rather, the start of a whole new journey.

The counterpart to this, both culturally and liturgically, is the season of Christmas. Christmas celebrations don’t end on Dec. 25, but rather, begin. The Feast of the Incarnation inaugurates the 12 days of Christmas culminating on Twelfth Night, Jan. 6, The Feast of the Epiphany.

If we thought we needed endurance to make it through Lent, it was just good training for the energy we would need to celebrate for 50 straight days culminating on the 50th day, the Feast of Pentecost. It’s a time to celebrate and give thanks for the victory of Jesus Christ and his glorious resurrection. Eastertide is the season of unbridled rejoicing. All that penance of Lent was our spiritual training for the prolonged celebration of Eastertide.

In the words of Jewish scholar and author Abraham Heschel, “People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state — it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or spectacle … Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s action.”

Eastertide is a 50-day party. So, strap on your party hats and hold on!

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the pastor of Emanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.