‘New birth and renewal in holiness’

By | April 8, 2009

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter because Easter is so great a feast that we celebrate it for 50 days. St. Athanasius called the 50 days of Easter the “Great Sunday.” Today is also the close of the Easter octave — a special eight-day celebration reserved for only two feasts during the year: Christmas and Easter. In today’s Preface we hear, “We praise you with greater joy than ever on this Easter Day.”

In the early church, this was also the day the newly baptized took off the white baptismal robes they had received at the Easter Vigil. The baptismal imagery is evident in the opening prayer and the prayer over the gifts, where we hear references to the Easter sacraments, the waters of death from which we have been raised, and those born again in baptism.

Since 2000, this has also been designated “Divine Mercy Sunday” by Pope John Paul II, reflecting the devotion of St. Faustina Kowalska, who was canonized in 2000. The painting of Divine Mercy shows the Risen Jesus with two beams of light coming forth from his heart, one red and one blue, reminding us of the blood and water about which we hear in today’s second reading.

This weekend most parishes will begin Mass with a sprinkling rite. Last week at the Vigil or on Easter morning, we renewed our baptismal promises, rejecting sin and evil and professing our faith in the Trinity and in the key mysteries of our faith, and we were sprinkled with the blessed water.

Today, the blessing of water and the sprinkling again remind us of our baptism, which was the beginning of our participation in the risen life of Jesus and our very first profession of faith. While this rite is appropriate for any Sunday – the day on which we celebrate Christ’s resurrection — it is especially fitting for the Sundays of Easter. The sprinkling rite replaces the penitential rite.

There are three options for the blessing of water, but the third is recommended for the Easter season. The prayer of blessing begins with a reference to the many ways water enhances life — fruitfulness for our fields, refreshment and cleansing. We recall the Israelites’ journey to freedom through the waters of the Red Sea and God’s gift of water from the rock. Today the blessed water is described as a means of new birth and renewal in holiness. The prayer concludes by asking that we might share the joy of all who were baptized at Easter. After the prayer, the priest blesses himself, the ministers, and all of the people while an Easter antiphon or hymn is sung.

As we are sent forth at the end of today’s liturgy, there is a solemn blessing followed by the sung dismissal, “the Mass is ended go in peace, alleluia, alleluia.” And we respond, “thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia.”


Sr. Rehrauer is president of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, Bay Settlement, and former associate director of the Liturgy Secretariat for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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