Dear Fellow Parishioners,
After Lent, Holy Week and Easter, we are now at the end of Easter Week, or the octave of Easter. It’s called the “octave” because this Sunday is the eighth day after Easter, counting inclusively as they did in the ancient world.
Those of us who are a little older can remember when this was known as “Low Sunday.” It wasn’t called Low Sunday because this weekend is seen as a big letdown after Easter. The word “Low” is probably a corruption of the Latin word “Laudes,” the first word of the Sequence chanted on this Sunday: “Laudes Salvatori voce modulemur
supplici…” “Let us sing praises to the Savior with humble voice.”
This Sunday was also called “Dominica in Albis Depositis” – which means “Sunday of Setting Aside the White Garments.” Those who were baptized at the Easter Vigil would wear their white baptismal gowns for a week until they took them off on this Sunday after Easter.
To make a literary connection: In Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the hunchback was found abandoned on the steps of Notre Dame in Paris. He got the name Quasimodo from the Introit of the Mass, which was taken from the First Epistle of Peter, chapter 2: “Quasi modo geniti infantes” – “As with newborn babes…”
This Sunday has also been known, for obvious reason, as St. Thomas Sunday. The gospel tells us how Thomas – Doubting Thomas – came to believe in the Risen Lord. This event took place on the Sunday after the resurrection.
Finally, the Feast of Divine Mercy has been celebrated in many areas unofficially for many years. On April 30, 2000 – which was the Sunday after Easter that year – Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish woman religious and visionary closely associated with Divine Mercy. The pope also decreed that from then on, Divine Mercy Sunday would be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter, beginning with the first Easter of the new millennium.
By establishing this feast, Pope St. John Paul II placed renewed emphasis on the mercy of God in Christ, which of course is a central and perennial truth of the Catholic faith. It is no coincidence that Divine Mercy arose from the experience of the church in Poland, a country that suffered perhaps more than any other in the world from episodes of monumental wickedness during the 20th century. One in five Poles, and one in four Polish priests, survived the war. This suffering continued well into our own time, when in 1984, a young priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, was kidnaped and beaten to death by Communist security officers for daring to urge his fellow Poles to stand up for their rights without violence.
It is only through God’s mercy that treachery and tragedy can be transformed into a force for spiritual good, for spiritual beauty. That is the power of the cross and resurrection: the power to turn treachery and tragedy into a force for spiritual good.
Finally, I would like to thank all of those who, each in their own way, contributed to the celebration of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter – whether as ministers of the altar, musicians, creators of the liturgical environment, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, our office staff and volunteers, and members of the congregation without whose participation these liturgies would have far less motive or meaning.
Gavisi sunt discipuli viso Domino.
(“The disciples were gladdened when they saw the Lord.”)
Fr. Bill Donahue