by Fr Gabriel-Allan Boyd
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! OK, ok, I may have gone to see a particular Marvel Avengers movie last week whose story referenced an “Endgame.” And in this season of Resurrection, it may have also inspired me here to explore God’s ultimate, redemptive Endgame of Infinite significance for all of creation. And just for fun, Stan Lee may even make a cameo in this little article.
It’s a bit of a coincidence that the mathematical symbol for the word, “infinity,” is a number eight turned on its side, but it ties in Marvelously with our Church’s Resurrectional understanding of the timeless 8th day.
So, via prose, let’s draw an illustrative line from the very beginning of time, and going around a bit, to cross back over through the middle, and back again into the new beginning at the end—in the ultimate fulfillment of time. If you recall from the Genesis creation story, God created the entire cosmos in six days, and then rested on the seventh. In the New Testament story, our Lord, Jesus Christ finished His saving work on the 6th day, rested on the 7th, and then rose from the dead on the 8th day—a Sunday—a day that participates in a timeless new beginning. So, the Church came to regard the day of Christ’s Resurrection as the 8th day, because that act had further implications for the entire cosmos, beyond God’s initial act of creation.
For the Church’s earliest theologians, this was strengthened by all the Old Testament references to the number eight, regarding them as prophetic hints, foreshadowings and types of what would happen for the cosmos on the day of resurrection. For instance, an Israelite entered into God’s Covenant by being circumcised on the 8th day (Leviticus 12:3). The priestly ordination of Aaron and his sons was completed on the 8th day (Leviticus 9). An offering of livestock to God was to be made on the 8th day (Exodus 22:29-30). A person who’d been healed of leprosy was declared clean on the 8th day (Leviticus 14:1-33). The Feast of Tabernacles/Tents reached its culmination on the 8th day (Leviticus 23:36). [Relatedly, the Apostle John tells us, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (John 1:14). And put a little pin in this thought, because, in a couple of paragraphs, we’ll come back to talk more about the timeless significance of this Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles…and what that means for us.] King Hezekiah’s cleansing of the Temple was completed on the 8th day (2 Chronicles 29:17). When the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, on the 8th day, the people blessed the king and went into their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done for David His servant and for Israel His people (1 Kings 8:66). We also remember that, in Noah’s Flood, eight souls were saved by water (Genesis 7:13), and King David himself was the 8th son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:10-13). God threw that number, 8, around quite a bit in the Old Testament…and the early Church spiritually perceived that these references prophetically led us to a picture of God’s Resurrectional redemption and restoration of His creation…the day at the end of it all (the eschaton) that never ends.
So, the Church regards all of Bright Week as the 8th day. And really, during the whole Paschal season, as we continue to sing “Christ is risen,” and we greet each other with that phrase, and we lovingly linger in keeping Christ’s resurrection in our hearts and minds, we’re sustaining a godly participation in that 8th day. Every Sunday thereafter, as we celebrate the Eucharist, we’re also stepping into that 8th day, when like those first disciples after Christ’s death, we meet together behind closed doors, and Christ also appears to us in flesh and blood. And when, having been given the Holy Spirit, we obey Christ’s first post-Resurrectional command to His disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, so also I send you,” then also, we’re walking in that 8th day—in God’s continued, timeless restoration of His creation. It’s a new day with no end, because all of creation is now being unified with the Resurrected Christ…as a new creation. It’s the timeless reign of the love of the Trinity over our hearts, creating the new heaven and the new earth, with all humankind having the opportunity to be renewed in Him and to become set-apart to live in timeless right-relationship.
Now let’s get back to where we stuck a pin in the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. In the New Testament, we’re given a snapshot of Jesus Christ observing the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles in the Temple, where He gives us the prophetic Eighth Day significance for Christians. The Festival of Tabernacles was one of the “big three” annual festivals (along with Passover and Pentecost) for which all Jewish men were expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and it was generally the most joyous and popular of the three. In Jesus’ day, it celebrated a remembrance of God’s sheltering protection and care for the Israelites’ needs during their 40 years of wandering in the desert, as they awaited the time that they could learn to trust God enough to finally enter the Promised Land. On the last and most important day of the feast, a particular water ceremony was especially prominent, as they commemorated in thanksgiving, the water that God once gave them from a dry rock in midst of the barren wilderness. There from the temple, with trumpets blowing in celebration and great celebratory fanfare all around, a priest with a golden pitcher would be sent forth to go to the nearby pool of Siloam (which means, “sending forth”), he’d draw water from it, and then carry it back to the temple where another priest would pour out the water in front of the altar. It was there in the context of this water ceremony, on the biggest day of this eight-day-long Feast of Tabernacles where Jesus did something significant regarding the 8th day. “On the last and most important day of the Feast [of Tabernacles], Jesus was standing in the temple courtyard teaching. He said loudly, “Whoever is thirsty must come to Me to drink. As Scripture says, ‘Streams of living water will flow from deep within the person who believes in Me.’” Jesus said this about the Spirit, whom His believers would receive. The Spirit was not yet evident, as it would be after Jesus had been glorified” (John 7:37-39).
In this 8th day Paschal season, we’re reminded that our Lord has already breathed His Holy Spirit upon each of us at our baptism. We’re reminded that Jesus Himself, was lovingly sent to us as an offering by His Father, and our Lord has gone to the pool of “Sending Forth” and drawn out the living water and has poured Himself out in front of the altar. He says to us during this time, “Shalom (peace, right-relationship, holy-wholeness) to you. As the Father has sent me forth, so also, I send you forth.” And so, we wait behind closed doors asking for the Spirit’s guidance in understanding God’s revelation to us, some of us in fear, some of us in awe-filled wonder, some of us in excited anticipation, expecting that on the day of Pentecost (as He promised) God will send forth His Spirit upon each of us, so that we, being sent forth in love as an offering, just as Christ was sent forth. It’s God’s Infinite Endgame plan to use each of us, flawed as we are, to reconcile the world back to Him. As shown in the New Testament book of Acts and the lives of those earliest Christians, there’s an enormous amount of God’s power being entrusted to each of us. But just remember, “With great power comes great responsibility.” ~ Stan Lee