April 30, 2011

Renewal Sunday: The Eighth Day After Pascha

By Sergei V. Bulgakov

The eighth day after Pascha as the ending of the celebration of Bright Week was a special celebration since ancient times, as if it replaced the very same Day of Pascha and was called Antipascha, and means "instead of Pascha".

From this day the cycle of Sundays and weeks of the entire year begins. On this day the commemoration of the resurrection of Christ is updated for the first time. This Sunday of the Antipascha was called the New Sunday, i.e. the first day of renewal or simply renewal [1]. The more proper name is the real day, the eighth day after Pascha, that on this eighth day the Lord Himself willed the renewal of the joy of His resurrection with a new appearance to the Holy Apostles [2].

St. Gregory the Theologian says in his Homily on this Sunday: "With the ancient and good purpose, it is to honor the day of renewal as established law, or better to say, to honor the new benefactions with the day of renewal. But was not the day of renewal also the first Resurrection Day, followed by the blessed and radiant night? Why you give this name to the present day? That was the day of salvation, but this day is the commemoration of salvation. That day differentiates the burial and the resurrection in itself, but this day is purely of the new birth. It is the first day among those following it and eighth among those coming before it."

Commemorating this day of "renewal" the Holy Church inspires in us the necessity for our beneficial spiritual renewal. "The real renewal", the same Holy Father teaches, "we now celebrate, is the going from death to life. And so we put off ourselves the old man and renewed ourselves; that we too might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). ... The old has passed away, behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). ... Let us bridle all lusts from which death was born, let us become accustomed to the feeling of obedience, let us begin to hate any evil food from prohibited fruit and let us remember the former only and henceforth first be wary of the same. Christian be made new from the old and in this way celebrate the renewal of the soul. ... Change yourself with a good change, and in this case do not think highly of yourself, but say with David: 'This is a change being wrought by the right hand of the Most High' (Ps. 76:11), from whom is everything successful in people. God the Word wants that you not stand in the place alone, but that you ever move, moving smoothly, be completely newly created and if you sin turn yourself away from the sin, and if you are successful, you will have strained the powers even more."

1. According to the explanation of the Synaxarion there was an ancient custom to periodically do a solemn commemoration for some major events. So that time in the annual cycle does not pass by this very day on which the known event occurred, it annually did a commemoration in order that the memory of the great events was not forgotten. On this basis the Hebrews celebrated the Passover in Gilgal for the first time, renewing their memory of the passage through the Red Sea. On this same basis they celebrated the foundation, and with special solemnity, the renewal of the witness of the Tabernacle. According to this they commemorated the reign of David and other events of which there is no need to list. But so that the incomparably greatest of all events in the life of every one and exceeding every idea is the resurrection of the Lord that we not only commemorate annually, but also continually through every week. So the first renewal of this event in memory of the real Resurrection Day, which it would be possible to call the first renewal of this event by its own meaning both the eighth and the first: the eighth because it is the eighth from Pascha, as the first because it is the beginning of other Sunday commemorations. And this day can still be named the eighth because it will be placed in the image of that eternal day in the future age, which will also be the first and undoubtedly one not divided by night (Vladimirskiia Eparchialniia Vedomosti [Vladimir Diocesan News] 1898, 7).

2. So that the renewal of the appearance of the resurrected Savior was especially for the sake of the Holy Apostle Thomas, who at this appearance also saw the salvatory wounds of the body of the Resurrected One, that from here and of our other more common usage of the name of Antipascha or by the Sunday of St. Thomas, or Thomian. In the ancient church Antipascha Sunday had yet another more special name of "White Sunday", which even now remains in the Roman Catholic Church. It is called so because the newly baptized, who received the sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation on the eve of Holy Pascha and wore the paschal white vestments for seven days in the image of the infancy and renewal in Christ, on Thomas Sunday, as the last day established for the commemoration after the reception of Baptism, the chrism was washed off from the body and they solemnly wore those clothes in which they were vested after the holy font in the temple.

Our simple people called Thomas Sunday the Sunday of the "wire", or of the "wires", obviously, because these celebratory days come to an end and is led by the Bright Sunday of the Resurrection of Christ. Thomas Sunday is also called "Krasnoiu gorkoiu [with bitter beauty]" from the ancient Pagan games, which were played in mountainous places in Spring, before other places were free from snow and were covered by the first beautiful grass, which in the majority concluded in marriages (see details in Rukovodstvo dlia Seljskikh Pastirej [Manual for Village Pastors] 1892, 15; Tserkovnyi Vestnik [Church Messenger] 1896, 8).