Q. 1. ? What is the Easter Obligation of Catholics?
A. 1. The Easter Obligation is defined in Canon Law # 920 where it states:
920 §1. "After being initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, each of the faithful is obliged to receive holy communion at least once a year."
920 §2. "This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at another time during the year."
Summarizing the above, Catholics are obligated to attend Holy Mass during the Easter Season in order to receive Holy Communion. To understand this obligation, it is necessary to know Section # 2042 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it states:
# 2042 "The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the Mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days."
"The second precept ("You shall confess your sins at least once a year") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness."
"The third precept ("You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy."
Having mentioned all of the above, it should be stated that those who fail to attend Holy Mass on Sundays and holy days as mentioned in the first precept above, they commit a mortal sin each time. Having committed mortal sins, they are obligated to receive the Sacrament of Confession prior to receiving the Holy Eucharist. For it is forbidden to receive the Holy Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin.
So you cannot fulfill the third precept unless you fulfilled the second precept if you have failed to fulfill the first precept. Therefore fulfilling the Easter Obligation is not just a matter of going to Holy Mass on Easter Sunday or during the Eastertide that lasts from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. It is an obligation to be an active participant in your Church by attending Holy Mass and holy days on Sundays, going to Confession on a regular basis and receiving the Holy Eucharist at least during Easter.
In conclusion, the Easter Obligation is to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Holy Communion) at least once between the First Mass of Easter (during Easter Vigil) and the final Mass on Pentecost Sunday, providing the aforementioned conditions have been implemented. (Attending regular Mass on Sunday and holy Days; receiving the Sacrament of Confession.)