The name “octave” has been given to the eight day period after a liturgical feast. This eighth day of the feast is considered as a recurrence of the first day. Each Sunday throughout the year is known as the “eight day”- a recurrence of the Feast of the Resurrection. The Octave day can be considered as the “greatest day” of the Feast itself. This practice of observing the octave day as the greatest day of the feast is rooted in Jewish celebration. For example the dedication of Solomon’s Temple and the annual Feast of Tabernacles. We read in the 7 chapter in Saint John.
"On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and cried out, “if anyone thirsts, let him come to Me; let him drink who believes in Me.” (Jn 7:37-38)
What is the Octave day of Easter?
Divine Mercy Sunday (Feast of Mercy), the Second Sunday of Easter “the greatest day”. We need to take the time to consider the meaning of these things and the connection that exist among them. We must enter into this Easter Sunday celebration knowing that the greatest day of this Feast is the celebration of God’s Mercy.
One of the greatest Doctors of the Church, St Gregory of Nazianzen, also supports this feast, declaring that the Octave Day of Easter is even a greater feast than Easter though it takes nothing away from the greatness of the Day of Resurrection itself. Easter Sunday is the boundary between death and life (a creation). But its eighth day, the Octave, is the Fulfillment of what Easter is all about- perfect life in
eternity (a second creation, more admirable and more sublime than the first).
What good is it to put these days on our calendars and call them “great feasts” if their meaning is not realized in our lives? We must understand them and rejoice and celebrate what our Lord has given us through His church.
When Jesus revealed the Sacred Image of Himself as The Divine Mercy to St. Faustina on February 22, 1931, He declared:
Our Lord Speaks:
“I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter (the eighth day, octave of the Resurrection of our Lord) that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.” (Diary, 49)
One day while St. Faustina was offering all her sufferings and prayers for the establishment of this Feast, she said to our Lord: “They tell me that there is already such a feast and so why should I talk about it?”
Our Lord Speaks:
“And who knows anything about this feast? No one! Even those who should be proclaiming My mercy and teaching people about it often do not know about it themselves. That is why I want the image to be solemnly blessed on the First Sunday after Easter, and want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it.” (Diary, 340)
“There will come a time when this work will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant from long ago” (Saint Faustina, Diary, 378).
Today certainly attests to the truth of Saint Faustina prophecy. Through the efforts of Saint John Paul II the new splendor of the Church has begun.This is not a new Feast day; it is the celebration of one that has been forgotten!
Our Lord through Saint Faustina, is simply reemphasizing what was strongly urged by Saint Thomas the Apostle in the earliest liturgical document in existence, the “Apostolic Constitution.
There we read:
“After eight days (following the Feast of Easter) Let there be another feast observed with honor, the eighth day itself, on which He gave me. Thomas, who was hard of belief, full assurance, by showing
me the print of the nails and the wound made in His side by the spear.”
What assurance did Saint Thomas receive by the sight of the Lord’s wounded side?
Not that Christ has truly risen (for that was obvious), but that He is divine and therefore has the power of reversing sin. By the site of the wounded side Thomas understood and saw the “stream of mercy. "This is what we see in His image, His life and blood to the Church, through the Sacraments. The red rays represent the Eucharist from which all the living waters flow, the pale rays are the waters of Baptism. And the hand raised in blessing represents the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As well as the sole function of priesthood, which is blessing.
The key to the Image
Now you can better understand why our Lord wants this image venerated on Divine Mercy Sunday (the eight day). As Thomas saw and understood the great significance of the wounds, we should ourselves see and understand the great importance of the wounds and the importance of the Sacraments. We should also see the symbolizing of the Holy Spirit through this image, whom Christ breathed into the Disciples during the Same Octave- Day appearance. On the strength of That Holy Breath, all sins are forgiven and “at one moment” (John 20, 21-24).
What a great promise our Lord gave us on this day, “complete remission of all sins and punishment ”. Let us be most grateful to Saint Thomas and Saint Faustina for drawing us into the depths of Divine Mercy, and lets truly celebrate for eight day’s our Lords resurrection and redemption and prepare ourselves for the, “Feast of Mercy”.
Quotations form the diary of Saint Faustina is from Divine Mercy in My Soul copyright 1987, Congregation of Marians. Writhing’s taken from Fr. Seraphim, Mercy The Message of Easter. Copyright 1994 Marian of the Immaculate Conception