The Eighth Day

mp3 Audio:  2015_04_19-Fr_Joseph-The_Eighth_Day.mp3


This sermon was preached on by Father Joseph Gleason on Low Sunday, April 19, 2015 at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services


Gospel Reading: John 20:19-23


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Our God is One. 

In the beginning, God took six days to create the heavens and the earth, and He rested on the seventh. In response, we eagerly ask, “What happens next? What happens on the 8th day?”

Alas, Adam’s sin introduced a dark twist into the story, and thousands of years would pass before we could see the glory of the 8th day. And all through the Old Testament, God gave us hints and examples, shadows and types providing a foretaste of what that blessed day would look like. Israel was constantly reminded of the 8th day.

  • An Israelite entered into God’s Covenant by being circumcised on the 8th day.
  • The priestly ordination of Aaron and his sons was completed on the 8th day.
  • With livestock, your sacrifice of first fruits to God was to be on the 8th day. In general, any lamb, goat or bullock was not acceptable for offering until the 8th day of its life.
  • A healed leper was declared clean on the 8th day.
  • Ceremonial cleansing after an issue of blood reached completion on the 8th day.
  • Ceremonial cleansing of a defiled Nazarite reached completion on the 8th day.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles reached its climax on the 8th day.
  • King Hezekiah’s cleansing of the Temple was completed on the 8th day.
  • Ezekiel’s purification of the altar climaxed in God’s acceptance on the 8th day.
  • When the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, on the 8th day, the people blessed the king and went into their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done for David His servant and for Israel His people.
  • We also remember that, in Noah’s Flood, eight souls were saved by water, and King David himself was the 8th son of Jesse.

What is the significance of the number eight? Why does the 8th day figure so prominently and frequently throughout the Old Testament?

Around the year 150 AD, there were still people alive in the Church who had lived during the same time as the Apostles. At this time, St. Justin the Martyr had a written dialogue with Trypho the Jew. In this dialogue, St Justin said,

“For righteous Noah, along with the other mortals at the deluge, i.e. with his own wife, his three sons and their wives, being eight in number, were a symbol of the eighth day, wherein Christ appeared when He rose from the dead forever the first in power.”[1]

In Noah’s Ark, why were eight people saved? According to St. Justin, the number eight was prophetic. It pointed forward to when Jesus Christ, the Son of God would rise from the dead on the 8th day.

About 100 years later, around the year 250 AD, St. Cyprian was in Carthage in a council of 66 bishops. They considered a question that had been posed by a man named Fidus in a letter. Fidus had suggested that infant baptism should be delayed until a child is eight days old, because in the Old Testament circumcision had always been delayed until the 8th day. This was the response given from this council of 66 Orthodox bishops:

For in respect of the observance of the eighth day in the Jewish circumcision of the flesh, a sacrament was given beforehand in shadow and in usage, but when Christ came, it was fulfilled in truth. For because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again and should quicken us and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came and spiritual circumcision was given to us. [2]

According to St. Cyprian and this council of 66 bishops, Old Testament circumcision was prophetic. It always took place on the 8th day pointing forward to when Jesus Christ, the Son of God would rise from the dead on the eighth day.

Long before we even reach the New Testament, we see the 8th day figure into numerous aspects of Israel’s history and Israel’s everyday life:

  • Whenever you read about Noah’s Ark, you would think about the number eight.
  • Whenever you circumcised your son
  • Whenever you offered God sacrifice of the first fruits from your livestock
  • And whenever you celebrated the annual Feast of Tabernacles you would think about the eighth day

The eighth day finally reveals its significance after the final week of the Old Covenant. From Palm Sunday to Good Friday, Jesus performs his final works for our salvation. On Friday He says, “It is finished,” and gives up His spirit. On Holy Saturday, His body rests in the tomb as He keeps the final Sabbath in the Old Covenant. Then, on the 8th day. . .

  • On the 8th day death is defeated.
  • On the 8th day, the gates of Hell are shattered.
  • On the 8th day, the graves release their captive.
  • On the 8th day, the Son of God rises from the dead holding the keys of death and hell in one hand and the broken teeth of the devil in the other.
  • On the 8th day, the old creation begins passing away, and the new creation begins breaking into our present world, for when the Apostles look upon the Risen Christ, they are looking at a human body which has already crossed over from death into life.
  • They are looking at a human body that will outlive this present universe. When this world burns, and we meet the end  of the world as we know it, our Risen Savior will still be there, alive and well on the other side.When the Apostles see the Risen Body of Christ, they are seeing their own future. For in the New heavens and the new earth, our bodies will be like His.

The 8th day, the day of the Resurrection, is such a significant cosmic event that Jesus immediately leads his disciples to commemorate that day. From that day forth, every Lord’s Day is a commemoration of the 8th day. Every Sunday is observed as sort of a “little Easter,” a weekly celebration of the Resurrection of the Son of God. In the Gospel of John, we see that Jesus immediately sets up a pattern for his disciples to follow.

The first Sunday, on the day of the Resurrection, the Apostles were gathered together in one place. Jesus came to meet with them. Jesus said, “Peace be unto you.” The Apostles were able to see the wounds in Jesus’s hands, feet, and side. The Apostles respond with gladness, and their unbelief is gone.

Jesus says, “Even as My Father has sent Me, so send I you.” He’s talking about evangelism. He’s talking about the Gospel being carried out into the rest of the world.

The next Sunday, the week after the Resurrection, you see the same thing. The Apostles are gathered together in one place. Jesus comes to meet with them. Jesus says, “Peace be unto you.” The Apostles, this time including Thomas, were able to see the wounds in Jesus’s hands, feet, and side. Thomas responds, “My Lord and my God!” and his unbelief is gone.

Jesus says, “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” Once again, He’s talking about evangelism. He’s talking about those of us who would believe the words of the Apostles and would believe in the Resurrection of the Son of God and would join His family in the Church.

Early in the Fifth Century, Cyril of Alexandria summed it up well. He said:

With good reason then we are accustomed to have sacred meetings in churches on the eighth day. And, to adopt the language of allegory, as the idea necessarily demands, we indeed close the doors. But Christ still visits us and appears to us all, both invisibly as God and visibly in the Body. He allows us to touch His holy Flesh and gives it to us. For through the grace of God we are admitted to partake of the blessed Eucharist, receiving Christ into our hands, to the intent that we may firmly believe that he did in truth raise up the Temple of His Body . . . Participation of the Divine Mysteries, in addition to filling us with divine blessedness, is a true confession and memorial of Christ’s dying and rising again for us and for our sake. Let us, therefore, after touching Christ’s Body, avoid all unbelief in Him as utter ruin and rather be found well grounded in the full assurance of faith.[3]

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our God is One. 


NOTES AND REFERENCES

[1] “Dialogue with Trypho.” In The Anti-Nicene Christian Library: Justin Martyr and Athenagoras, edited by Sir James Donaldson and Alexander Roberts, By St. Justin Martyr London: Hamilton and, 1870.

[2] “The Epistles of Cyprian.” In Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novation, Appendix, edited by Alexander Roberts, Sir James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, By St. Cyprian. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdman’s Pub., 1975.

[3] Cyril of Alexandria. “The Eucharistic Assembly.” In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture IVb, edited by Joel C. Elowski and Thomas Oden, 369. Dowser’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.


This sermon was preached on by Father Joseph Gleason on Low Sunday, April 19, 2015 at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services. Dormition Text Services provides full service secretarial support (including transcription and publishing services) to Orthodox clergy and parish communities.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in Fr. Joseph Gleason, John 20:19-23, Symbolism in the Church. Bookmark the permalink.

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