The Easter Octave
An octave is the eight-day period during which Easter or Christmas is celebrated, and includes the actual feast. The eighth day is also called the octave or “octave day,” and days in between are said to be “within the octave”:
Octave means an eight-day celebration, that is, the prolongation of a feast to the eighth day (dies octava) inclusive. The feast itself is considered the first day, and it is followed by six days called “days within the octave.” The eighth or octave day is kept with greater solemnity than the “days within the octave” (With Christ Through the Year by Bernard Strasser, 1947, p. 39).
The Easter Octave begins on Easter Sunday and ends on the Second Sunday of Easter of the Divine Mercy with every day being another solemnity or another “little Easter.” The current title for each of the octave is “Monday in the Octave of Easter,” “Tuesday in the Octave of Easter” etc., but commonly called “Easter Monday,” “Easter Tuesday,” and so forth. The Easter Octave “overrides” any other feasts on the calendar.
The Greatest Week of the Church Year
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! The comprehension and joy of this amazing gift of Christ conquering sin and death by His death and resurrection cannot be confined to just one day. The Church as a mother understands the needs of man. Within the liturgical calendar there is a built-in pattern that corresponds to human rhythms: times of preparation and penance building up to major feasts with celebrations that are prolonged, and multi-level feast days spread throughout the year. The Easter Octave gives us time to impress upon our souls the mysteries, joys and graces of the greatest feast of the Church. Each day of the Octave the liturgy dwells on the mysteries of the resurrection of Christ and our own resurrection through the sacrament of Baptism.
The greatness and uniqueness of the Octave of Easter within the Liturgical Year needs to be proclaimed:
If Holy Week is the most sacred and most important week of the entire ecclesiastical year, it is because it draws its importance from Good Friday, the day on which Christ, the God-Man and Redeemer, died on the cross for us. Rightly therefore can this week be considered the most serious and awe-inspiring in the Church’s calendar. But Easter Week is the antithesis of Holy Week. Since the resurrection was the most significant event in the life of our Lord who by means of this wonderful and undeniable fact made His divinity known to the entire world, Easter is the highest Sunday and Easter Week the great week of the entire Church year. No other feast is ever celebrated during this week (With Christ Through the Year, 1947, Bernard Strasser, p. 144).