Enter into the Easter season by exploring the relation of its main feasts
By Rachel Gleeson
Easter is almost here! Soon we will be celebrating the highest feast of the Church’s year: Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord. As temperatures and moods rise this April, we as Catholics will be entering a joyous liturgical season.
The 40 days of fasting during Lent have been preparing us for 50 days of celebration during the Easter Season. This month the Church also celebrate Mary’s “yes” on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which has been moved because of Holy Week. Here are just a few ways you can celebrate Christ’s Resurrection as well as his Incarnation with your students this month.
This year, Easter falls on April 1. The liturgical season lasts 50 days from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday. It also includes the Solemnity of the Ascension forty days into the season. Easter is a time of great joy in the Church. Our parishes are adorned accordingly with white altar cloths, beautiful lilies, and other décor representing life and celebration.
These outward signs can be carried into the classroom the rest of the week. Bright spring colors and paper flowers can be nice additions but other decorations have more significance for us as Catholics. You might consider a statue of the Risen Christ or paper butterflies which are often connected to new life and resurrection. These can also be student projects. Have students research various symbols related to Easter and create posters, mobiles, or other displays that showcase these symbols and explain their meaning.
Students can also enter into this season by exploring the relation of its main feasts. The Ascension of the Lord is 40 days after his resurrection on Easter Sunday and ten days before the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These three key feasts provide structure to this liturgical season. Students can show the relation of these feasts to one another in time as well as what each celebrates in a variety of ways. My students have created charts, calendars, and graphs of the Easter Season. Each visual is as unique as the student who made it. It is a great opportunity to let them use their creativity.
This month we also celebrate the solemnity of the Annunciation. This is unusual but far from unheard-of. Normally, we celebrate this feast nine months before Christmas on March 25. However, during years where this solemnity falls during Holy Week, the celebration is moved to the first available day after the octave of Easter. This year we celebrate the Annunciation on April 9.
There are many ways to celebrate the Annunciation with your class. You might use the Gospel passage about the Annunciation for your prayer that day, for example. There are also many beautiful artistic representations of the Annunciation that can be used to focus prayer or for discussion. These are often full of symbolism and provide an opportunity to discuss interpretation in art. Students could read the Bible passage and look at various versions of the Annunciation before creating their own drawing or painting of the scene.
The Solemnity of the Annunciation is a great opportunity to introduce students to the angelus. This prayer has been in the church for centuries. It includes four simple call and responses, three Hail Marys, and a closing prayer. This makes it easy to include in a classroom. Even if students are challenged by the responses they can join in on the Hail Marys. The prayer describes the mystery of the Incarnation, Mary’s “yes” to God, and the role angels played in this key moment in salvation history. Traditionally, the Angelus is prayed at 6 AM, noon, and 6 PM as a reminder to turn to God throughout our day. It can be a great way to challenge students to pray during their day by adopting even just one of these times.
This month is guaranteed to be a joyous one in the celebrations of the Church. Bring this joy into your classroom and share it with your students. Our Catholic faith is one of fasts and feasts, repentance and celebration. It is important that are student experience the fullness of both.
Rachel Gleeson is a middle-school and high-school theology teacher and liturgy coordinator at a PreK-12 Catholic school in Wisconsin.