A homily for a late Octave of Easter celebration.
Matthew 28:1: Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
Let us pray
Heavenly Father, You raised Your Son Jesus on the day after the Sabbath; so raise us to share in the bright joy of Your endless day. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias will tell you that the number “seven symbolizes completeness or perfection” (Tyndale Bible Dictionary). Genesis supports this when it says “on the seventh day God completed His work which He had done.” Seven days make a complete week, after seven years a slave goes free, forgiving seventy times seven times means forgiveness to the end of time.
But after the seventh day comes an eighth, then another day, and another. If seven is complete, what need do we have of an eighth? Can God complete what is complete, perfect what is already perfect?
The Bible’s answer is, Yes. And the Bible’s symbol of this excess beyond completion, this perfection beyond the perfect, is the number eight, the first day after the creation week.
Boys born into Israel were human for seven days, then they were circumcised to become human in a new way, as Israelites. Aaron and his sons began their ministry as newly formed priests on the eighth day, lepers were restored to life on the eighth day, newborn animals became sacrificial food for God after a week of life.
God’s life is a life of eternal excess. Monotheism is tidy and smooth. Monotheists have one god without additions or complications, a god of clean and distinct edges. But we confess that God is Father, and since He is Father He is also Son. We believe that the Father and Son are united by an eternal Spirit, equally God. The Triune God is perfect insofar as He surpasses every tidy perfection.
And this is how God’s world works. How many times has a scientist announced that we know all we can know? How many theologians have written the definitive tome, only to discover a new unimagined question? While someone is tying up all seven loose ends, you can be sure someone somewhere has been learning to count to eight. Every textbook of science, every book of theology, every life, should end with an ellipsis, a “to be continued.” It always will be.
This is the God, and this is the world, revealed in the resurrection of Jesus. Death is final. It marks a completion, an end, a seven. Many of the early books of the Bible end with the death of the main character, just like each of our life stories. But not the gospels, and in Jesus our stories are only getting started when they come to an end.
On this Octave of Easter, because of Easter, we worship the God of the eighth day, the God who creates a seven and then starts counting again, the God who breaks through every closure, the Father of the Risen Jesus who by His Spirit ensures that all endings will be overtaken by new beginnings.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let us pray.
Father, You raised Jesus from the dead by Your Spirit, and by that Spirit you have given us eternal life. Keep us in Your Spirit, so that neither death nor life, neither principalities nor powers, nor any created thing will separate us from the life-giving Love of Your Son. Through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You, ever one God, unto ages of ages. Amen.