Octave Celebrations

Q. During the Octave of Easter, the Liturgy of the Hours has us saying the same prayers daily. What is the theological significance of this?

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:

Easter and Christmas are both followed by weeklong liturgical celebrations that extend the solemnity of the feasts themselves. When the liturgical feast days are added to these extra days the result is an “octave,” which is meant to be an eight-day celebration of the feast. The psalms for the Liturgy of the Hours do not change during the week following Easter because we are celebrating the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection for an entire eight days.

How, we might ask, did the Church come upon this practice? As is so often the case, we embraced an Old Testament custom and adapted it to Christian use. In the Book of Leviticus, God instructs Moses to celebrate the feast of booths. “On the first day, a declared holy day, you shall do no heavy work. For seven days you shall offer an oblation to the Lord, and on the eighth day you will have a declared holy day” (23:35-36).

The Church, in addition to these solemn octaves, celebrates “octave days,” which fall on the eighth day after a special liturgical feast. Jan. 1 (formerly known as the feast of the Circumcision) and Aug. 22 (feast of the Queenship of Mary) are among them.