Eastertide is 50 days.
50 days of feasting.
Practice for the never-ending alleluia of eternity. As this vintage postcard says, may ALL the hours of Easter-tide be bright…glad…a rejoicing. All. Of. Them.
Image credit: Vintage Easter Postcard, Public Domain (https://www.flickr.com/photos/vintagehalloweencollector/3407458512/)
I’m reading a book on the Origins of the Liturgical Year and it is really interesting – lots and lots in there to think about – but because of where *we* are in our liturgical year, I was struck by this tidbit – there were a lot of early Christian communities who really wanted to return to “normal” after Pascha (the early church festival linked to Jewish Passover, remembering Christ’s death and resurrection) quite early. And, it is of note that “normal” for them was…fasting.
I’m curious about this. Those who came from Jewish communities probably were familiar with eating/kosher guidelines (which are not the same as they are today for practicing Jews, but did exist in the 1st century), and I could see how they’d wish to return to that “normal.” But many early church communities were from Gentile communities – various types of not-Jewish – and they too were like, “let’s go back to not-feasting.”
This is me wildly imagining motivations, but I wonder…those preparing for baptism fasted. It was part of that preparation, fasting and prayer. And their prep period was long compared to what we’re used to – three years or more. We can hardly get a confirmation class to keep going for a year, and we’re not asking them to do Lenten level fasting for that whole year.
Maybe (and this is a huge maybe,) for them fasting *was* being Christian. It was turning your whole life, your whole routine, your whole physical self to Jesus. Maybe, after Pascha, while they rejoiced in resurrection and welcomed the newly baptized and had these huge long feasty parties…maybe after a week that started to feel like too much. If your preparation to Christianity is fasting, how can you be a Christian in feasting?
Even as these patristic theologians and early Christian communities started to parse out what Pentecost was and meant (and that varied wildly, and I suspect I’ll reflect on that in a month or so when we encounter our Pentecost Sunday) and began to assert that Eastertide should be the whole timeframe from Pascha to Pentecost…feasting for that season was a hard sell. Heck, not-fasting was a hard sell.
In my own Eating Liturgically practice, I discovered that tension early – if I’m not fasting, and I’m not feasting, just what am I doing? It’s why I came up with the Fierce day distinction – those days when I’m just, you know, out being Christ’s hands and feet in the world. I suspect part of the early church’s tension here is that they didn’t have a framework for that yet, they were always preparing/fasting. Or feasting. That’s it.
Even though I’m on board with a 50 day Eastertide of feasting, I will admit that it’s hard to keep up. The Easter candy is gone, even though I’ve just been eating a few pieces a day. I’m at work in the world – the Holy Week intense focus followed by the Easter Week of vacation is done – and it’s hard to feel an alleluia about all these e-mails and commuting. If heaven – that eternal Easter – is also a never-ending Sabbath (which I’ve heard argued) – I do feel like part of Feasting is resting, is not-working, in a way that Fasting is not in how we do it now, in the 21st century. I still work in Lent, it seems meet and right, even as I create space for more prayer and contemplation (ideally…ahem…)
And maybe that’s the key to this Eastertide thing in this weird cult of productivity and capitalism I’m trying to counterculturally follow Jesus within. Maybe it’s making space for the feast, for the alleluia, in the same way I make space for the Lenten fast.
And maybe, when Pentecost comes, this is what can allow me to go forth in the Spirit into the world – having breathed in the alleluias (and been restored in the time created for it,) I can then exhale the good news into the world and that long summer of Ordinary time, the Sundays after Pentecost. It’s worth a shot, anyway.