Eight Days Later

Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St Thomas (c. 1601-1602)

It is no mere co-incidence that the gospel passage we read on the Second Sunday of Easter – the eighth day of the Easter season – is always that of St Thomas, who did not encounter the Lord when first he rose, but only eight days later (John 20:19-31).

For Christians there is always a link between the first day of the week and the eighth. It’s not really correct to talk of Sunday as a “Christian Sabbath”. Saturday is the Sabbath day, the seventh day; Sunday is the first day of the week. But as Sunday is also the day which saw the Lord rose from the dead, we speak of it as being the first day of the new creation: the day after the Lord rested. The first day of the new creation is then, in a sense, the eighth day of the old creation.

The most intense part of the Easter celebration is also an eight-day festival, an “octave”. Every day in this Octave is Easter Day, and the liturgical celebrations of the octave – with Gloria, sequence and extra alleluias – recognise this. One single 24-hour period is insufficient for the joy of Easter Day.

So Thomas is not late when he meets the Lord on the eighth day: for the eighth day is Easter Day. The slight delay has the benefit of enabling Jesus to demonstrate how real the resurrection is: Thomas can touch him, and recognised him not just as his friend and teacher risen from the dead, but as his Lord and God.

On this Octave Day may we too recognise Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life through his name, eternally singing, “Alleluia!”