The season which the Church calls Eastertide is the seven weeks after Easter Sunday, and during this time we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Vestments are white (except for some saints days which fall during the week) and the air of celebration continues.
During the 6.00pm (Saturday), the 9.15am and 11.15am (Sunday) masses the congregation is sprinkled with the water of baptism – reminding us all that it is through the act of Baptism that we are washed clean of our sins and become members of the Body of Christ, the Christian family.
The music, which was often solemn during Lent, is now joyful and full of praise.
The times of Sunday and weekday services follow the normal pattern throughout Eastertide, except for the celebration of the Ascension.
The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord is held on the Thursday in the sixth week of Eastertide, exactly forty days after Easter Day. On this day we remember that the risen Lord returned to his Father in heaven, leaving his disciples to await the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
On Ascension Day, a day which is observed across most Christian denominations and is often a bank holiday in continental countries, there will be a Mass at 9.30am and a Sung Mass at 7.30pm.
On the fiftieth day after Easter (which is what Pentecost means in Greek, in fact) the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Jesus had departed from them for the last time, ascending to be with God the Father, and the disciples are gathered in a close knit group, not really knowing what to do next. Their Lord has gone, and they are left alone with their thoughts and their faith.
The Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples, just as Jesus had promised to them, and suddenly they are transformed from an inward looking and fearful group, into preachers of the Word. The story is in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, 2:1 – 11.
They go out, unafraid and full of the Spirit, and the real growth of the Church begins. In the next thirty years the world is irrevocably changed; the Christian faith reached the corners of the known world; the disciples began great missionary journeys; and the most prolific Biblical writer, and perhaps the greatest missionary of all time, St Paul, began his travels and his writing.
Vestments worn at Pentecost are red in colour, not to represent the blood of martyrs or even of Christ himself, but to represent the fire of the Holy Spirit, alive in our lives and our hearts.