Easter has just began, this most blessed period in the mystery of our salvation, which lasts until Pentecost. The Sabbath is on Sunday because the Resurrection, the foundation of our Faith, took place on that day, that blessed of days that will forever be hallowed throughout history.
A meditation from Dom Prosper Gueranger:
We give the name of Paschal Time to the period between Easter Sunday and the Saturday following Whit Sunday. It is the most sacred portion of the Liturgical Year, and the one towards which the whole Cycle converges. We shall easily understand how this is, if we reflect upon the greatness of the Easter Feast, which is called the Feast of Feasts, and the Solemnity of Solemnities, in the same manner, says St. Gregory, [Homilia, xxii.] as the most sacred part of the Temple was called the Holy of Holies; and the Book of Sacred Scripture, wherein are described the espousals between Christ and the Church, is called the Canticle of Canticles. It is on this day, that the mission of the Word Incarnate attains the object towards which it has hitherto been unceasingly tending: mankind is raised up from his fall, and regains what he had lost by Adam’s sin.
Christmas gave us a Man-God; three days have scarcely passed, since we witnessed His infinitely precious Blood shed for our ransom; but now, on the day of Easter, our Jesus is no longer the Victim of death: He is a Conqueror, that destroys death, the child of sin, and proclaims life, that undying life which He has purchased for us. The humiliation of His swathing-bands, the sufferings of His Agony and Cross, these are passed; all is now glory,- glory for Himself, and glory also for us. On the day of Easter, God regains, by the Resurrection of the Man-God, His creation such as He made it at the beginning; the only vestige now left of death, is that likeness to sin which the Lamb of God deigned to take upon Himself. Neither is it Jesus alone that returns to eternal life; the whole human race also has risen to immortality together with our Jesus. “By a man came death,” says the Apostle; “and by a Man the Resurrection of the dead: and as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” [1 Cor. xv. 21,22].
The anniversary of this Resurrection is, therefore, the great Day, the day of joy, the day par excellence; the day to which the whole year looks forward in expectation, and on which its whole economy is formed. But as it is the holiest of days,- since it opens to us the gate of Heaven, into which we shall enter because we have risen together with Christ,- the Church would have us come to it well prepared by bodily mortification and by compunction of heart. It was for this that she instituted the Fast of Lent, and that she bade us, during Septuagesima, look forward to the joy of her Easter, and be filled with sentiments suitable to the approach of so grand a solemnity. We obeyed; we have gone through the period of our preparation; and now the Easter sun has risen upon us!
But it was not enough to solemnize the great Day when Jesus, our Light, rose from the darkness of the tomb: there was another anniversary which claimed our grateful celebration. The Incarnate Word rose on the first day of the week,- that same day, where on, four thousand years before, He, the Uncreated Word of the Father, had begun the work of the Creation, by calling forth light, and separating it from darkness.
The first day was thus ennobled by the creation of light. It received a second consecration by the Resurrection of Jesus; and from that time forward Sunday, and not Saturday, was to be the Lord’s Day. Yes, our Resurrection in Jesus which took place on the Sunday, gave this first day a pre-eminence above the others of the week: the divine precept of the Sabbath was abrogated together with the other ordinances of the Mosaic Law, and the Apostles instructed the faithful to keep holy the first day of the week, which God had dignified with that twofold glory, the creation and the regeneration of the world. Sunday, then, being the day of Jesus’ Resurrection, the Church chose that day, in preference to every other, for its yearly commemoration. The Pasch of the Jews, in consequence of its being fixed on the fourteenth of the moon of March, (the anniversary of the going out of Egypt,) fell by turns on each day of the week.
The Jewish Pasch was but a figure; ours is the reality, and puts an end to the figure. The Church, therefore, broke this her last tie with the Synagogue; and proclaimed her emancipation, by fixing the most solemn of her Feasts on a day, which should never agree with that on which the Jews keep their now unmeaning Pasch. The Apostles decreed, that the Christian Pasch should never be celebrated on the fourteenth of the moon of March, even were that day to be a Sunday; but that it should be everywhere kept on the Sunday following the day on which the obsolete calendar of the Synagogue still marks it.
Nevertheless, out of consideration for the many Jews who had received Baptism, and who formed the nucleus of the early Christian Church, it was resolved that the law regarding the day for keeping the new Pasch, should be applied prudently and gradually. Jerusalem was soon to be destroyed by the Romans, according to our Savior’s prediction; and the new City, which was to rise up from its ruins and receive the Christian colony, would also have its Church, but a Church totally free from the Jewish element, which God had so visibly rejected. In preaching the Gospel and founding Churches, even far beyond the limits of the Roman Empire, the majority of the Apostles had not to contend with Jewish customs; most of their converts were from among the Gentiles.