Low Sunday, Thomas Sunday, & Quasimodo Sunday
Many churches call the Sunday after Easter "Low Sunday." Historically this is because the day often pales in excitement and solemnity when contrasted to Easter Day. Attendance also plummets on this Sunday when compared to the prior Sunday. Yet for St. Mark's, we are not very good at producing a "low Sunday." If you come this Sunday to high mass, we will begin with the great hymn, "Hail thee, festival day" in procession, and we will celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter with all of the ceremony the Octave of Easter deserves. For us, if Easter Day was the highest Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter is perhaps just a normal high Sunday.
This Sunday is also called Thomas Sunday, because we will hear the Gospel of doubting Thomas - when Thomas declares that he must touch the wounds to truly believe that Jesus is alive. The beauty of this Gospel is that when Thomas does meet Jesus in the flesh, he proclaims a perfect profession of the faith, "my king and my God!" We also hear about that wonderful moment when Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto his disciples giving them the gift of forgiveness or reconciliation. This Gospel is one of the many beautiful resurrection Gospels we shall hear in the coming weeks.
In the ancient church, this Sunday was the last day that those who were baptized at Easter wore their white baptismal robes. Those being baptized were like newborn infants in the faith, and on this Second Sunday of Easter, as the robes were taken off, the newly baptized were reminded that the discovery of the faith still continues beyond their Lenten preparations. Now they would be called to continue their maturation process into Christ. The Introit to high mass poignantly reflects this theme:
Like newborn babies, alleluia, you must hunger for pure milk, the milk of the Word, alleluia.
In Latin the text begins with Quasimodo, hence why this Sunday is also referred to as Quasimodo Sunday. Having been introduced to the faith during Lent in preparation for Baptism, now the newly baptized must continue their journey, deepening their commitment more and more to Jesus Christ and his Church. As N.T. Wright, the author of the books we have been using for our Sunday morning Bible study has said, we must not be content with "permanent spiritual babyhood."
The season of Easter spans fifty days - ten more days than the season of Lent. There is great symbolism in this comparison. If Christians are to be penitent for forty days, we are to party for fifty days. If we are to prepare for forty days for Baptism, we are to feast for fifty days at Holy Communion. If we have dealt with the low nature of humanity for forty days, we now may be lifted up high to the saving grace of Jesus Christ for fifty days. If we have had forty days of the basics of the faith, now we can have an eternity of the real substance of our faith. Easter is the realm for which all faith must aim. With this in mind, perhaps we are lucky that we cannot fathom a "low Sunday," for with Christ rising from the tomb, the vocabulary of life makes a shift. Everything becomes high, higher, and the highest, and the highest is always Jesus Christ our Lord.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Father Paul Lillie+