“Easter is the high point of the Church Year,” writes Lee Maxwell in The Altar Guild Manual. “No preparation is too elaborate, and no observance is too jubilant” (p. 83).
During the fifty days of the Easter season, the Church rejoices in the resurrected Lord and the new life He brings. This season includes three great feasts that we celebrate: the Feast of the Resurrection, the Feast of the Ascension, and the Feast of Pentecost. Here is an overview of these three feasts and some suggestions for preparing your sanctuary for them.
The Feast of the Resurrection
On Easter Day, the whole Church rejoices with her risen Lord. On this festive occasion, many churches adorn the sanctuary with Easter lilies and other decorations to highlight the celebration. Special banners with symbols of Christ’s resurrection, such as the ones below, may also be hung and remain throughout the Easter season as a reminder of the Savior.
With a larger influx of visitors on Easter Day, care should be taken to help visitors feel welcome. The altar guild should prepare a larger amount of Communion supplies. Extra chairs, attendance cards, and welcome brochures may need to be added in the sanctuary. Download our free outreach kit to get more resources for welcoming and following up with Easter visitors.
The Feast of the Ascension
On the Ascension of Our Lord, the Church remembers Christ’s return to heaven, where He now sits at the Father’s right hand. Since this day is not usually marked with additional adornments or decorations in the sanctuary, the celebration provides an excellent opportunity to enhance the service through special music. One piece to look into is CPH Music’s new work “Why Do You Peer into the Skies?” Read the text below and listen to the hymn.
Why do you peer into the skies,
Staring with open, wond’ring eyes?
See and believe that Christ came down,
Now claims again His holy crown:
Dying that all should be fulfilled,
Living as God the Father willed.
Why are you waiting on this hill?
This is no time for standing still.
Soon to receive the Spirit’s pow’r,
Pray and prepare for that great hour.
Filled with the Word, go out and tell:
Jesus defeated death and hell.
The reign of Satan now dispelled,
The reign of God is still upheld.
Shout to the Lord great songs of joy;
Reaching new ears, all fears destroy.
When trumpets sound, the great surprise:
He will return, and we will rise.
The Feast of Pentecost
The final feast of the Easter season is that of Pentecost, during which the Church remembers the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Lutheranism 101: Worship, Rev. Dr. Thomas Winger explains the scriptural foundation and historical significance of this day in the Church Year:
We celebrate Pentecost as the completion of the Easter season and the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that He will send the Holy Spirit to His Church (John 14:15–31; 16:5–7). Pentecost is a celebration of the Spirit’s work, particularly in creating faith in the heart through Holy Baptism and preaching (Acts 2:38). But the Spirit’s work is to point not to Himself, but to Jesus (John 15:26). So Pentecost is still a festival of Christ.
The Christian Church has celebrated Pentecost since at least the third century, perhaps already in apostolic times (Acts 20:16). The color of Pentecost is red, recalling the tongues of fire on the disciples (2:3). (p. 124)
The change from white to red paraments and vestments can be a visual reminder of the transition into a new time in the Church Year. Many churches also choose to include additional information about the holiday in their bulletins. Pairing the visual changes in the environment with a written explanation can help worshipers understand the importance of this major feast in the Easter season. It is also helpful to explain the change to children in your congregation; resources like Growing in Worship or Church Year Connections can be useful for this.
Need to replenish your church supplies for the Easter season? Browse the collection on CPH.org!
Quotation from The Altar Guild Manual: Lutheran Service Book Edition © 1996, 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Hymn text for “Why Do You Peer into the Skies?” © 2015 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Quotation from Lutheranism 101: Worship © 2017 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.