After Jesus died on the Cross on Good Friday, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin and a secret disciple of Jesus, asked Pontius Pilate if he could bury Jesus’s body. Pilate agreed. Joseph sprinkled Jesus’s body with myrrh and aloes and wrapped it in fine linen. He placed it in a tomb he had made for himself. Joseph rolled a stone over the tomb and left. Joseph fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
His mother Mary, the Apostles — particularly St John — and Mary Magdalene mourned their loss. Today, we, too, reflect on His generous death on the Cross for our sins.
Some people continue to fast until dusk, at which time they break out traditional Easter food: eggs, lamb, ham as well as special breads and pastries. Others will place food for their Easter meal into a basket and take it to church to have it blessed by the priest.
No services of Holy Communion take place until the evening, when many Catholic and Anglican churches hold an Easter Vigil. At this time, the tall Paschal (Easter) candle is lit. The priest lights a new one each year. It is lit at all services and Masses for the next 40 days, until Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. It is then removed from the altar.
The Paschal candle contains five grains of incense, representing the five wounds of Jesus. The lighting of the candle recalls the light and life of His Resurrection.
Holy water fonts, which were emptied on Maundy Thursday, are replenished with newly blessed water.
Traditionally, catechumens — those new to the faith — are baptised on this day. This recalls Scripture: if we are baptised in Christ, we will die in Christ and find eternal life with Him.
Now, returning to Jesus and the tomb: although His body was there, His spirit had gone to Sheol, or the place of the dead to free the souls of children and righteous adults. Jesus descended into this ‘Hell’, although the limbo He went to is not like the Hell or Purgatory that we know today. His presence illuminated all these righteous souls from the beginning of time — Adam, Eve, Noah, Moses — and Sheol became a paradise until Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven. Upon His Ascension, Jesus opened the doors to Heaven for them, where they live with Him now and forever.
Very early the next day (Sunday), at the tomb, something tremendous happened (Matthew 28:1-9):
And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary [Clopas], to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men. And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen: and behold he will go before you into Galilee; there you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you. And they went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples. And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet, and adored him.
If you want to celebrate Easter Sunday with a special biscuit, visit this page to find out how to make Resurrection Cookies.
Have fun! Happy Easter!