Easter Octave — 8 days of joy, light
ARCHBISHOP JOSEPH E. KURTZ
The word Octave means eight, and the Easter Celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection is so central that all eight days are considered part of our celebration of Easter. Of course every Sunday throughout the year is a “little Easter,” but these eight days are special.
This octave of Easter is preceded by that journey through the paschal mystery that we know as Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, we travel with Jesus to Jerusalem and hear the “hosannas” that preceded his passion and death. On Tuesday, a Cathedral full of archdiocesan faithful came for the Chrism Mass to witness the oils blessed for the sacramental life of the Church in the coming year and to applaud our priests as they renewed their promises of ordination.
Then the Easter Triduum begins on Holy Thursday evening with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, continues through Good Friday and Holy Saturday, culminating in the Easter Vigil and concluding with Evening Prayer of Easter Sunday. Thursday and Friday include both the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper and that wonderful tradition of the washing of the feet as well as the service of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and the tradition of venerating the Cross.
At the Easter Vigils in our parishes across the archdiocese, we received more than 400 individuals — those who have been preparing to be received into the church through baptism or continued conversion.
The April edition of Conversations leads us through these steps of Holy Week with an explanation of the oils blessed at the Chrism Mass and my Easter message about the first Easter disciples that were sent forth after their journey and encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. I also interview Shayne Duvall, our coordinator of evangelization, about the “new evangelization and the upcoming synod in October.
Octave of Easter
Now we are in the Octave of Easter, which begins with the darkness of Holy Saturday being dramatically broken through with the light … actually a real fire that crackles … signaling a new dawn. I loved that this fire is the source of one candle — the Easter or Paschal Candle — that will be lit and in a place of honor in the sanctuary until Pentecost. “Light of Christ” is proclaimed by the deacon and every corner of our hearts and of our darkened world gets ready for the Light of Christ to penetrate with truth and love.
Alleluia! It is the word best sung to say it all. On my own, I am in darkness. With Christ a new day has dawned.
We live in a world desperate for the light. Mary Ann Glendon in her new book, The Forum and the Tower speaks to the vocation of the philosopher and the politician, and she quotes Francis Fukuyama with a call for vocations to a world “of unprecedented materialism, desperate personal isolation, and inner psychological weakness verging on the collapse.” (The End of History and the Last Man, 1992)
In January, Pope Benedict spoke to the bishops on ad limina visits about the vocation to the world and the need for informed and inspired lay leaders who will address these cultural challenges. While we all know the blessings of lay involvement in church ministries (where would we be without the strong and vibrant lay leaders within the church!), there is the danger that we will forget that the primary baptismal call is to renew the face of the earth, the world.
The Saturday before Palm Sunday I witnessed this call at its best when more than 400 men, representing 85% of our parishes, gathered at Our Lady of Lourdes Church for our archdiocesan Men’s Conference. This was a call for men to learn and live their faith. The keynote speaker was Deacon Greg Hall from Houston whose witness was thoroughly in the world.
In a gripping hour-long presentation, Deacon Hall walked us through the adventure of rescuing 33 Chilean mine workers trapped ? mile underground while the world, some one billion viewers, watched on television. Deacon Greg’s company in Chile specialized in heavy drilling equipment, and his team surmounted all odds and stayed faithful to the rescue effort for 67 days.
Later in my homily I mentioned that each of us could picture our own call to integrity and faithfulness in the everyday challenges that bring the values of Christ to the world. The Men’s Conference was an outstanding experience; I would love to bottle up the enthusiasm of that day and use it all year long.
Fittingly the Easter Octave concludes with Divine Mercy Sunday this weekend. Of all the gifts of Jesus, surely His Mercy is at the core of what we need to live our Easter faith. Celebrate the Easter joy … the new dawn. A Blessed Easter!