HE EASTER octave features numerous out-of-the-ordinary liturgical features, such as a proper Communicantes, a proper Hanc igitur, and the sequence Victimae paschali laudes. What has struck me most during this past week, however, is the beauty of each day’s offertory antiphon (in the Extraordinary Form). Collectively, they convey a beautiful mystery.
The texts for each day are as follows (English translations mine):
Easter Sunday: The earth trembled and was still, when God rose up in judgment, alleluia. (Ps 75:9-10)
Easter Monday: An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and said to the women, “He whom you seek has risen, as He said,” alleluia. (Matt 28:2, 5, and 6)
Easter Tuesday: The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High gave His voice, and there appeared fountains of waters, alleluia. (Ps 17:14 and 16)
Easter Wednesday: The Lord opened gates of heaven and showered manna upon them, that they might eat; the bread of heaven He gave them. Man ate the bread of Angels, alleluia. (Ps 77:23-25)
Easter Thursday: On the day of your solemn feast, says the Lord, I shall lead you into a land flowing with milk and honey, alleluia. (Ex 13:5)
Easter Friday: This day will be for you a memorial, alleluia; and you will celebrate this day as a solemn feast to the Lord among your progeny, as an everlasting ordinance, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. (Ex 12:14)
Easter Saturday: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you from the house of the Lord; the Lord is God, and he has illumined us, alleluia, alleluia. (Ps 117:26-27)
Low Sunday: An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and said to the women, “He whom you seek has risen, as He said,” alleluia. (Matt 28:2, 5, and 6)
What catches my attention most about these texts is a shared theme. The common thread is this: the mention of something either going up from earth to heaven or coming down from heaven to earth.
Ascending: God rises up in judgment (Sunday), He leads His people to the heavenly Canaan (Thursday), and the praises of the people rise up from the house of the Lord (Saturday).
Descending: The Lord thunders from heaven (Tuesday) and showers the earth with manna (Wednesday) and streams of water (Tuesday), while Christ comes in the name of the Lord (Saturday) and illumines His people with heavenly light (Saturday).
Combination: Easter Monday and Low Sunday both feature an identical offertorium text, in which we encounter both an angel descending from heaven and the Lord rising from the dead.
It is unusual to find such a sustained theme among the offertory antiphons of any particular week or season of the liturgical year.
There is an antiphon during the concluding vespers of the Christmas octave on January 1 that uses the phrase O admirabile commercium (“O marvelous exchange”) to describe the humble incarnation of Christ and the consequent raising of human nature to partake in the divine.
Commercium could be a good summary of what I am trying to observe concerning the Easter octave offertory antiphons. I tend to associate the idea more with the Christmas octave than with the Easter octave. I also tend to associate it more with the secret (“prayer over the offerings”) than with the offertorium.
Perhaps the Easter octave offertories are inviting us to associate the theme of commercium equally with Easter.
Reflecting on this still further, it may be possible to identify a similar theme in the Glorious Mysteries of the holy rosary.
1. Resurrection: the Lord is raised up from the dead
2. Ascension: Christ ascends from earth to heaven
3. Descent of the Holy Ghost: the third Person of the Trinity descends upon the gathered disciples
4. Assumption: the Blessed Mother is assumed into heaven, body and soul
5. Coronation: a crown is set down upon the head of Mary, our Queen and Mother
This theme extends even beyond the Easter octave and into the Paschal season, Ascensiontide, and the great day of Pentecost. Perhaps it would be best, therefore, to say that this theme pervades much of the liturgical year.