|Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives|
Egeria was a nun who authored a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the early 380s, making it the earliest of the kind. Regarding Easter Sunday and the fifty days that follow until Pentecost Sunday, she writes:
Services in the Easter Octave.*
Moreover, the Paschal days are kept up to a late hour as with us, and the dismissals take place in their order throughout the eight Paschal days, as is the custom everywhere at Easter throughout the Octave. But the adornment (of the churches) and order (of the services) here are the same throughout the Octave of Easter as they are during Epiphany, in the greater church, in the Anastasis, at the Cross, in Eleona, in Bethlehem, as well as in the Lazarium, in fact, everywhere, because these are the Paschal days.
On the first Lord's Day they proceed to the great church, that is, the Martyrium, as well as on the second and third weekdays, but always so that after the dismissal has been made at the Martyrium, they go to the Anastasis with hymns. On the fourth weekday they proceed to Eleona, on the fifth to the Anastasis, on the sixth to Sion, on the Sabbath before the Cross, but on the Lord's Day, that is, on the Octave, (they proceed) to the great church again, that is, to the Martyrium.
Moreover, on the eight Paschal days the bishop goes every day after breakfast up to Eleona with all the clergy, and with all the children who have been baptized, and with all who are apotactitae,** both men and women, and likewise with all the people who are willing. Hymns are said and prayers are made, both in the church which is on Eleona, wherein is the cave where Jesus was wont to teach His disciples, and also in the Imbomon, that is, in the place whence the Lord ascended into heaven.
And when the psalms have been said and prayer has been made, they come down thence with hymns to the Anastasis at the hour of vespers. This is done throughout all the eight days.
Vesper Station at Sion on Easter Sunday.
Now, on the Lord's Day at Easter, after the dismissal of vespers, that is, at the Anastasis, all the people escort the bishop with hymns to Sion.
And, on arriving, hymns suitable to the day and place are said, prayer is made, and the passage from the Gospel is read where the Lord, on the same day, and in the same place where the church now stands in Sion, came in to His disciples when the doors were shut. That is, when one of His disciples, Thomas, was absent, and when he returned and the other Apostles told him that they had seen the Lord, he said: "Except I shall see, I will not believe." When this has been read, prayer is again made, the catechumens and the faithful are blessed, and every one returns to his house late, about the second hour of the night.
Sunday after Easter.
Again, on the Octave of Easter,*** that is, on the Lord's Day, all the people go up to Eleona with the bishop immediately after the sixth hour. First they sit for awhile in the church which is there, and hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said. Then they go up to the Imbomon with hymns, and the same things are done there as in the former place. And when the time comes, all the people and all the apotactitae escort the bishop with hymns down to the Anastasis, arriving there at the usual hour for vespers.
So vespers takes place at the Anastasis and at the Cross, and all the people to a man escort the bishop thence with hymns to Sion. And when they have arrived, hymns suitable to the day and to the place are said there also, and lastly that passage from the Gospel is read where, on the Octave of Easter, the Lord came in where the disciples were, and reproved Thomas because he had been unbelieving. The whole of that lesson is read, with prayer afterwards; both the catechumens and the faithful are blessed, and every one returns to his house as usual, just as on the Lord's Day of Easter, at the second hour of the night.
Easter to Pentecost.
Now, from Easter to the fiftieth day, that is, to Pentecost, no one fasts here, not even those who are apotactitae. During these days, as throughout the whole year, the customary things are done at the Anastasis from the first cockcrow until morning, and at the sixth hour and at vespers likewise. But on the Lord's Days the procession is always to the Martyrium, that is, to the great church, according to custom, and they go thence with hymns to the Anastasis. On the fourth and sixth weekdays, as no one fasts during those days, the procession is to Sion, but in the morning; the dismissal is made in its due order.
The Ascension Festival at Bethlehem.
On the fortieth day after Easter, that is, on the fifth weekday--(for all go on the previous day, that is, on the fourth weekday, after the sixth hour to Bethlehem to celebrate the vigils, for the vigils are kept in Bethlehem, in the church wherein is the cave where the Lord was born)--on this fifth weekday, the fortieth day after Easter, the dismissal is celebrated in its due order, so that the priests and the bishop preach, treating of the things suitable to the day and the place, and afterwards every one returns to Jerusalem late.
* The word "octave" means "eight-days", thus the Easter Octave is the first eight days of Easter.
** Apotactici or Apotactitae (from ἀποτάσσομαι, to renounce), an ancient sect, who, affecting to follow the evangelical counsels of poverty and the example of the primitive Christians, renounced all their possessions. They seem to have been the same as the Apostolici or the Tatianites. During the persecution of Diocletian they had many martyrs; and subsequently adopted the errors of the Encratites, who deemed marriage and unchastity to be the same thing. The sixth law in the Theodosian Code joins the Apotactitae with the Eunomians and Arians.
*** On the eighth day of Easter, corresponding to Thomas Sunday in the Orthodox Church today.