Welcome to one of those special number days. Today, we honor “the number eight.”
Numbers have meaning in our faith. We’ve just finished the 40 days of Lent. We’re beginning the 50 days of Easter. And Jesus rose on the third day.
But today, it’s all about eight. The Sunday after Easter marks the eighth day of Easter, the end of the octave of Easter.
Major church feasts — like Christmas and Easter — are celebrated for eight days, as are several saints’ feasts.
Liturgically, an octave is celebrated as one day, moving us into God’s time in a special way. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, Easter’s eighth day means “a new day has dawned: the day of Christ’s Resurrection. The seventh day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation” (n 346).
Many important things in our faith tradition happened over eight days:
–Solomon dedicating the Temple is a ceremony lasting eight days;
–When the second Temple was dedicated in the second century B.C., it also took eight days. (This is the historical background for Hanukkah.)
–For Christians, the number eight reminds us of Christ’s Resurrection because it was eight days after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem that Jesus rose, triumphantly, from the dead.
–And, as we know from John’s Gospel, on the eighth day after the resurrection, Thomas professed his faith in the Risen Lord.
Many things in church symbolize the number eight: some baptismal fonts have eight sides. The eight beatitudes may be carved in a monument outside your church. Some windows have eight sides, as do some altars or altar bases, candle stands, ambos and even steeples or church domes. What other eights can you find around you in church?
Eight serves to remind us of an octave, that special eight-day week. However, since weeks only last seven days in the real world, an octave should remind us that we are on God’s time. Easter changed everything — all things, including the week, have been made new. “The day of Christ’s Resurrection is both the first day of the week, the memorial of the first day of creation, and the ‘eighth day,’ on which Christ after his ‘rest’ on the great Sabbath inaugurates the ‘day that the Lord has made,’ the ‘day that knows no evening’” (Catechism, n. 1166).
Look around and see what reminds you of the day “that knows no evening.” Is it spring flowers? Flowing water in the font? Bells both inside and outside church? Sunshine through the stained glass, bringing color where there were only shadows?
Remember: the eight days of Easter resurrection fill the air. We’ll still face a new week on Monday, but the eighth day has broken in.
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of multiple books.