An Incense Offering

Tomorrow we finish the Octave of Epiphany – the word  ‘octave’ speaks of eight days.  Someone asked me, “Why an octave?  Why eight days?”

The answer is, “Who knows?”  No. Just kidding. There are a couple of reasons. First, is the number eight.

  • Eight, in Scripture, is the number of beginning.  A week has seven days and the eight day is the beginning of another cycle of work and rest.  Each week we engage in dominion activity and co-labor with the Lord and rest on the seventh day.
  • Eight is the number of regeneration reflected in the covenant of circumcision.  It was on the eighth day the male Hebrew child was adopted by grace as a son of God, born into the household of God by adoption, or, in the words of Jesus, born again (or ‘born from above’). Jesus was circumcised on the eight day.
  • On the eighth day those who were unclean, after a seven day process of being restored to the worshiping community, on the eighth day were readmitted to Tabernacle (and later Temple) worship.  So eight is a symbol of restoration and renewal.
  • During the eighth decade after the initial deportations of Judah in the Babylonian exile the Persian King Cyrus issues the decree for the Jews to return to Jerusalem.  This is a new beginning for the people of God which began with the building of the altar.  Worship had been impossible without the Temple.  The unclean nation was restored never again to  serve idols.
  • The eighth day was the day of Holy Convocation held at the end of a season of holy feasting, celebration, and worship.  It was a day of dedication, reflection, and recommittment to living faithfully in the Covenant.
  • Jesus rose from the dead on the eighth day.  During Holy Week Jesus does the final work (it is finished), He rests on Saturday (the Sabbath), and on the eighth day, the first day of the next week, he rises from the dead; the new creation arrives in this astounding event and from then on ‘all things are becoming new.’

So eight is the number of new beginnings, new life, new birth, resurrection, restoration, regeneration, new creation.

Second, there five important Octaves in our liturgical calendar:

  • Octave of Christmas
  • Octave of the Epiphany
  • Octave of Easter
  • Octave of the Ascension
  • Octave of All Saints

A major feast is always the first day of an Octave. A Collect of the Day that begins the Octave is said every day during the Octave after other collects that are used on Sundays and special feast days that fall during the eight days.

May God’s blessings attend us as we finish out this Epiphany Octave.

Fr. Wayne

P.S.  It is still not too late to chalk the doors if you happened to miss.

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