Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Octave Day of New Birth

Tomorrow we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, which is also known by various names, including Whit Sunday, Dominica in albis, Quasimodo Sunday, and (recently) Divine Mercy Sunday. It is the Sunday of the Octave of Easter. The morning's Office of Readings presents to us words from St. Augustine's Eighth Sermon in octava Paschae given to the newly baptized:
I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ... [Baptism] is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life...

This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eight day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, he put off the mortality of the flesh; his risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By his resurrection he consecrated Sunday, or the Lord's day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week.

And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realized, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit.
This is an octave. Augustine here demonstrates the great significance of the number eight as a sign of redemption and new life as well as resurrection, as our own resurrection is secured by Christ's, in whose body we are incorporated by way of our baptism by water and the Spirit. Baptism into Christ is baptism into his death and is intrinsically linked to his resurrection.

It is not uncommon to find baptismal fonts that are octagonal in shape for this very reason, as we find in the ancient baptistery in Milan where St. Augustine himself was likely baptized:

As Augustine also references, the number eight also applies to why the Church observes the Lord's Day, Sunday, as the eighth day, a day of new creation and birth in Christ, which, as Augustine writes, will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. The work of Redemption is of greater significance and splendor than that of the first Creation, as the Catechism points out (CCC 349):
But for us 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. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendour of which surpasses that of the first creation.
I hope that you are having a blessed Easter!

(originally posted in April, 2009)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Resurrexit sicut dixit!

Today is Pascha Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord!
Dominica Paschae in Resurrectione Domini

We spent the evening at our 4-hour Easter Vigil liturgy where we were privileged to join our parish community in welcoming 14 catechumens into the Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion. I could not help but recall my own reception into the church in 1997. The mystery of Christ's Church on Earth always moves me. The backdrop of human sin in the world and even in the Church cannot destroy us and cannot destroy our hope because we who seek Him belong to Him. The power and the glory of His suffering, death, and resurrection and Our Lord's victory over sin and death confirms that. How awesome that is! How awesome Christ is!

Last night's liturgy was awesome. Of course, every mass is inherently awesome. Our pastor preached a powerful sermon, touching on many points concerning baptism and justification, confirmation, and of course, the most intimate communion we share in the Holy Eucharist. What we share and live out in the sacraments is nothing less than God's own divine life at work in us. Peter assures us of this fact (2 Pet 1:3,4):
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.
And, in response, I can only echo Paul's assertion to the Galatians (Gal 2:20):
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Peace be with you.


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