St Basil the Great: Does the Eighth Day Remind You of Eternal Life?

Feast of Sts Prochoros, Nicanor, Timon & Parmenas the Apostles of the 70

Basil_Square.jpgWHY DID THE great Moses not open every part of the meeting-tent to everyone? The unclean he placed outside the sacred precincts, while the first court was assigned for the ritually pure. He judged only the Levites worthy to serve God, while sacrifices, burnt-offerings, and other priestly functions were reserved to the priests. Only one chosen from all the priests was admitted into the innermost sanctuary, but only on one day each year. Even on this one day he entered for only a short time, so that he would be amazed by the novelty and strangeness of gazing on the Holy of Holies. Moses was wise enough to realize that triteness and familiarity breed contempt, but the unusual and the unfamiliar naturally commands eager interest. In the same way, when the apostles and Fathers established ordinances for the Church, they protected the dignity of the mysteries with silence and secrecy from the beginning, since what is noised abroad to anyone at random is no mystery at all. We have unwritten tradition so that the knowledge of dogma might not become neglected and scorned through familiarity. Dogma is one thing, kerygma another; the first is observed in silence, while the latter is proclaimed to the world.

One form of silence is the obscurity found in certain passages of Scripture, which makes the meaning of some dogmas difficult to perceive for the reader’s own advantage. For instance, we all pray facing East, but few realize that we do this because we are seeking Paradise, our old fatherland, which God planted in the East in Eden. We all stand for prayer on Sunday, but not everyone knows why. We stand for prayer on the day of the Resurrection to remind ourselves of the graces we have been given: not only because we have been raised with Christ and are obliged to seek the things that are above, but also because Sunday seems to be an image of the age to come. Notice that although Sunday is the beginning of days, Moses does not call it the first day, but one day: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Gen. 1.5), since this day would recur many times. Therefore “one” and “eight” are the same, and the “one” day really refers both to itself and to the “eighth” day. Even the Psalmist follows this usage in certain titles of the psalms. This day foreshadows the state which is to follow the present age: a day without sunset, nightfall, or successor, an age which does not grow old or come to an end. It is therefore necessary for the Church to teach her newborn children to stand for prayer on this day, so that they will always be reminded of eternal life, and not neglect preparations for their journey.

—St Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit

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