The gospel for next Sunday – the second Sunday of Easter – begins with these words: “In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week…..”. The same day they refer to is the day on which Christ’s empty tomb was discovered.
The first day of the week became central to the Christian Faith because it was the day which saw Christ rising from the dead. It supplanted the Sabbath as the holy day because the decisive event of God’s plan took place on that day: the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Christians began to see it – in parallel to the first day of God’s creation – as the first day of the new creation which would come about fully when all creation would share in the new life of the risen Christ.
Later Sunday also came to be called the eighth day! Obviously, we have no eighth day! This was also a way of talking about the resurrection. The seven days of the week represent circular time that rolls on and on and keeps repeating itself. This is the time which is tied to the circle of life and death as is all of nature. Speaking of Sunday as the eighth day was a way of saying that what is celebrated on that day breaks out of the cycle of life and death as we know it and takes us beyond it – beyond a life which is bound to death.
There is a further playing with numbers in the Easter season.
From Easter Sunday to Pentecost – counting both – we have eight Sundays, that is eight eighth days. This whole season has been called the Great Sunday because throughout all of it we keep celebrating the new life of the resurrection in its different aspects culminating in the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.
Pentecost itself means the fiftieth day. So like Sunday, it goes beyond the 7 times seven days of life as we know it to the further day – the fiftieth day.
Fr Frank O’Loughlin
Fr. Frank, thank you for your explanation of the importance of the Resurrection. From our first breath taken as just born leaving
the womb of our Mother, enveloping the innocence of life ahead, accepting what life throws at us and then lastly inevitable death.
Life a we know it in this world is just a shadow of what is to come .
I like your analogy. We can all look forward to our own rising from the dead.
Now we all know about the 8th day of the week. and why it is so mentioned in the Mass and explained so beautifully by yourself and Fr Brendan on Sunday. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Fr. Frank. This is very interesting. Was the Passover always celebrated on a Thursday (or a specific date) or was it just the case in the year of Our Lord's death? Was it related to the full moon and the equinox as it is now? Kind regards, Kerry