When one day is simply not enough

adamevechristHow can our poor minds even begin to understand the enormity of Easter, called by early Christians ‘The Feast of Feasts’.

The wonder and joy of Easter cannot be contained in one day, it must spill out into many
days of celebration!  The Church shows us just how important and central to our faith this feast is, by mandating a full Octave (from the Latin word octava, eight) of celebration.  Christmas is the only other feast that does so.  Eight days of celebrating!

Those of us who pray the Divine office pray the same psalms of Easter Sunday for eight days to underscore this wonderful truth.

As our brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith celebrate the Feast of Passover for seven days, as commanded by God to Moses in Exodus, we as Christians, can do no less on this solemn sacred Feast of Easter, and in fact,we take it one step further, one day further.

The Church Fathers speak of the number seven as the ‘total of temporal existence’.  The great Saint Augustine speaks of the eighth day of the octave as ‘taking us out of time and into eternity’.  Jesus leads us into that eternity, into that eternal light.  Each day gives us the opportunity to live with our Lord in that eternal reality, being in the world, but not of it.  As Adam was pulled from his prison of darkness into the light by the very Author of Light, the New Adam, we too are freed to walk in that Light of truth and grace, we can live in that eternal reality in a very authentic way, each and every day.

As the Octave takes us into rest of the fifty days of this Easter season, let us really rejoice in the true knowledge of a very real hope, the hope and joy only Jesus can bring!

Saints of the Octave

Merry Christmas!  As the eight day celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity approaches its end this might be a good time to look at the different saints who are celebrated during the Christmas Octave.  They are many and varied, so what brings them together during this exalted celebration?

St. Stephen, St. John the Apostle, the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas Becket, the Holy Family.  Well, probably no one wonders why the feast of the Holy Family falls within the octave, but what about the others?  In their lives we see that the followers of Christ may come from any profession, any background, any culture.  The key is not where they came from, but where they were going – no matter which direction their lives were headed, when they heard Jesus’ call they followed Him unreservedly, even to Calvary and the shedding of their blood.

Martyrdom of St. Stephen

St. Stephen, the first martyr, whose blood bore great fruit for the Church – the grace of his sacrifice turned Saul the Pharisee into St. Paul the Apostle.

St John writing his Gospel

St. John, especially beloved of God, and entrusted with the care of Our Lord’s own Mother, his Gospel teaches us so much about the divinity of Christ.

The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents – babies and toddlers, unable to speak the name of their newborn King, yet giving their lives for Him.  In their martyrdom we see God’s power in bringing grace and goodness out of even the most evil actions of man.

 Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket

St. Thomas Becket – a close friend of King Henry II, but once consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury, he didn’t shrink from opposing the king in defense of Christ and His Church, even when it cost him his life.

Though not all were called to follow Him to the same end, they all shared a life-changing love for Jesus Christ.  As St. Thomas Becket wrote in the second reading from today’s Office of Readings, “The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.”

Each one of these saints won the crown of eternal life – some by the witness of their blood, but all by the witness of their life – through sacrifice, prayer, perseverance, and God’s grace; all of which are available to us today, if only we seek and ask.