Easter Sunday marks Jesus's resurrection. After Jesus was crucified on the Friday his body was taken down from the cross and buried in a cave tomb. The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers and an enormous stone was put over the entrance.
On Sunday Mary Magdalene and some of Jesus's disciples visited the tomb. They found the stone had been moved and that Jesus's body had gone. Jesus was seen later that day by Mary and the disciples, and for forty days afterwards by many people. His followers realised that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Christians call this the resurrection.
The Great Fifty Days of Eastertide form a single festival period in which the tone of joy created at the Easter Vigil is sustained through the following seven weeks, and the Church celebrates the gloriously risen Christ:
Triumphant in his glory now,
his sceptre ruleth all,
earth, heaven and hell before him bow,
and at his footstool fall. (Fulbert of Chartres)
Early Christians gave the name Pentecost to this whole fifty-day span of rejoicing, which Tertullian calls ‘this most joyful period’ (laetissimum spatium). It is sometimes also called ‘Great Sunday’. The Easter or Pascal Candle stands prominently in church for all the Eastertide services. The Alleluia appears frequently in liturgical speech and song;
On the fortieth day there has from the late fourth century been a particular celebration of Christ’s ascension. He commissions his disciples to continue his work, he promises the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then he is no longer among them in the flesh. The ascension is therefore closely connected with the theme of mission. The arrival of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost completes and crowns the Easter Festival.