Octave of Light

Christ PantocratorKnown as the Octave of Easter or Easter Week in the Latin tradition (or Bright Week in the Byzantine), throughout this whole week the Church extends the solemnity of Easter, marking each weekday with the highest of ceremonial during the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Mass) as well as in the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office, Lauds and Vespers, Morning Prayer and Evensong) effectively declaring that this week is but one drawn-out day, the eighth day of creation, fulfilling creation as God is raised from rest by the breaking of the prison-bars of death in the Holy Night and opens the way for all. We ring out as a single note “Resurrection” during this new week, recreating every day as the mark of God’s fulfillment of his eternal promises in time.

During this week, this Octave of Easter, the Church has also provided for us the privileged space for mystagogy, the incorporation into the fullness of the Paschal Mystery of those initiated at the Easter Vigil by means of participation in the sacramental life and post-baptismal catechesis. For several years when I was ministering at St Thomas More I gathered with the neophytes and others of the faithful each evening of the Octave of Easter, beginning with Easter Sunday Vespers, in order to celebrate solemn Evening Prayer incorporating longer readings from the Office of Readings of each day. For those familiar with these patristic homiletic resources of St Ambrose, St Augustine, the Jerusalem Catechesis, and others, you will know that these are among the richest mystagogical resources readily available. Following this worship we would spend about 35 minutes gathered around the baptismal font in order for the newly baptized to share their experience with the faithful who gathered with us drawn out by typological reflection on one of the primary symbols of the celebration of the Paschal Triduum. Their witness and their testimony, based on their nearness of the experience of the sacraments of Christian initiation, served as a fruitful occasion to accomplish those goals set forth for this period (RCIA 244ff.).

There are also many devotions and customs associated with these days including the Dyngus Day celebrations of Polish and other Slavic influenced areas and the dousing of kith and kin as a reminder of baptism on Easter Monday. One of the particular Eastertide devotions called for by the Church, modeled on the popular Lenten devotion the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross), is the Via Lucis (Way of Light or Stations of the Resurrection, see DPPL 153). The reflections of Father Sabino Palumbieri, the Roman Salesian priest who was inspired by the images in the catacombs of St. Callistus to formulate the Stations of the Resurrection in the 1990s, were published in English translation in 2002 as Via Lucis: Stations of the Resurrection by the UK based Catholic Truth Society. These remain the only published source of the Via Lucis of which I am aware and enumerate the Stations of the Resurrection as follows:

  1. Jesus rises from the dead (Matthew 28:5-6).
  2. Women find the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1-6).
  3. The risen Lord appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:16).
  4. Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the apostles (John 20:18).
  5. The risen Lord appears on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27).
  6. The risen Lord is recognized in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:28-32).
  7. The risen Lord appears to the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-39).
  8. The risen Lord gives the disciples the power to forgive (John 20:22-23).
  9. The risen Lord strengthens the faith of Thomas (John 20:24-29).
  10. The risen Lord says to Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
  11. The risen Lord sends the disciples into the whole world (Matthew 28:16-20).
  12. The risen Lord ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
  13. Waiting with Mary in the Upper Room (Acts 1:12-14).
  14. The risen Lord sends the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4).

God willing, I will be able during the remainder of this Week of Light to write some reflections and liturgical guidelines for celebrating these Via Lucis, Stations of the Resurrection, which I will share. He is risen, alleluia alleuia!

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