As we prepare for Holy Week, here are a few tidbits about Holy Week and Easter that are generally misunderstood! A blessed and grace-filled end of Lent to you all!
1. Why is Good Friday “good”?
Well, although we remember this day in a solemn way without the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and in silence, it is good because simply put, Jesus died for our sins. What took place in the garden of Eden so long ago is made right again through the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. We lost our “good” way through our first parent’s selfishness in that garden and Jesus made it all “good” again by being obedient unto death.
2. So what really happened on Holy Saturday?
Jesus descends to hell and releases those imprisoned by death. From an ancient homily about Holy Saturday, we are able to conjure up images of Christ descending into the netherworld to release those held captive, such as Adam and Eve. With poetic language, we read that indeed God is sleeping and the world is silent. I often go back to this ancient homily to contemplate this moment, this time where we find all the tabernacles of the world empty and God asleep. “Awake O sleeper!” Jesus exclaims to Adam. That same hope is exclaimed to us every Easter as we too live in hope of our own resurrection. We will awake and arise and live forever with Christ!
3. On the third day, He arose again?
If Jesus died on Friday and rose on Sunday, how does that make three days? Ancient jews counted their days much differently than we do today. For them, a part of today and a part of tomorrow were two distinct days; as opposed to us seeing it as just 24 hours. Jesus died around 3 p.m. on Friday and arose on Sunday. Friday counts as one distinct day, Saturday another day and Sunday, even though tradition holds he rose from the dead at dawn, was another distinct day. That makes three days.
4. Easter is not just one day of celebration!
For many of us, Easter memories are filled with images of dressing up to go to Easter Sunday Mass followed by a great feast with family and hunting for Easter eggs while later stuffing our face with hollow chocolate bunnies. But Easter does not end there. Easter is actually 50 days long! Easter lasts from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. Easter Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday (Instituted by St. John Paul II) is known as the Easter Octave (for 8 days) which are to be celebrated as an extended Easter Sunday. So celebrate and celebrate well for 50 days! This is the most important celebration of our Christian calendar, even more so than Christmas!