On octaves and expansive love
Updated: May 5, 2020
Yesterday my niece Jen put a photograph on Facebook that I had taken more than ten years ago of my my sister Kathy and my grandniece Kayla, Jen's daughter. It was taken not long after Kayla had had some surgery that would help, among other things, with some auditory hallucinations she had been having. At one point - right before I snapped the photo - Maurizio and I were having a conversation it Italian. My sister picked up that Kayla was getting confused and explained to her not to worry - she wasn't hearing strange things - that her uncles always speak to one another in a different language. She then asked Maurizio to say something to Kayla in Italian, so he looked at her and said, "Kayla: sei una bellissima ragazza!" ("Kayla: you're a most beautiful girl!") Kayla's big eyes widened and looked up and she blushed the most exquisite of colours - peach and coral - and Kathy drew her closer to herself. She may not have known what he had said, but she couldn't help but be touched by the love evident; it was lilting and expressive. I can't paint, but it would have been a scene that someone like Raphael would have made into a masterpiece; I took a photograph instead.
It is, of course, more than a photo. It is an icon, an image which has the ability to transport one into a story that extends far beyond a picture on a screen. And each time I look at it I seem to pick up something different, note something new inside myself that the photo brings out. I think I'd be able to look at it a thousand times (I probably have already looked at it a thousand times) and I'll never be able to exhaust the beauty and love that is recorded in it. One picture just isn't enough to capture all of that, is it?
We celebrate today the fourth day in the octave of Easter. Now I remember some years ago in Spain talking about the notion of an octave and a woman said to me, "That's a Catholic thing!" clearly assigning that word not the "Mother-Teresa-helping-orphans" kind of vibe but rather the "Spanish-inquisition-torturing-someone" kind of vibe. I just smiled and said, "Yes, it IS a catholic thing, meaning - of course - universal" but my cheery explanation was lost on her.
But it IS universal. At its heart an octave is a period of eight days in which we acknowledge that the beauty and love of the event we celebrate cannot be contained. One day just isn't enough to capture it all - a thousand days wouldn't be enough to capture it all - and so we celebrate it for eight days in at least a nod to trying to unpack the mystery and its effects on us a little more profoundly.
This means that every day for seven days after Easter Sunday is Easter Sunday all over again! Besides the fact that one like myself who is chronically behind in correspondence can still send out Easter greetings for eight days and not be late, it also gives us the opportunity to enter into the mystery of the beauty and love of the Resurrection of Christ and look inside ourselves (listen to our lives) more resolutely, and come up with new insight into what salvation means to us as individuals and as his body. "What good would life have been for us had Christ not come as our Redeemer?" we hear in the Exultet - that great Easter hymn of praise - and the octave is a nod to setting up the shot so that we can look at the answer to that question over and over and over again.
So Happy Easter, people! Still! May the wonders of the Resurrection continue to unfold in our midst as beautiful language of love, lilting and expressive. In a world which has become rather limited, may we discover the sheer expanse of the story of our salvation. For the next four days. And for the rest of our lives.