Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday

“Today the Lord also shows us His glorious wounds and His heart, an inexhaustible source of light and truth, of love and forgiveness…. St. Faustina saw coming from this Heart that was overflowing with generous love, two rays of light which illuminated the world. “The two rays”, according to what Jesus Himself told her, “represent the blood and the water” (Diary, 299). The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha, and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, according to the rich symbolism of the Evangelist St. John, makes us think of Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5; 4:14). “Through the mystery of this wounded heart, the restorative tide of God’s merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long for true and lasting happiness find its secret.” Why does the Pope so strongly recommend that we pay heed to the Divine Mercy message and devotion – even the Image and the Chaplet -- given to us through St. Faustina ? Clearly, he does so because he sees all this as more than just a collection of “private revelations”; rather, he sees them as prophetic revelations, in other words revelations given to us by God to proclaim the heart of the Gospel – the merciful love of God shining through the death, burial and resurrection of his Son – in a way especially suited to meet the needs of our era. The liturgy for the Easter Octave, therefore, and for the Octave Sunday itself, is not something that needs to be “protected” or “sealed off” from the alien influence of the “private revelations” of a Polish nun. On the contrary, the celebration of Mercy Sunday should be open to all the enhancement and amplification of the message of merciful love which prudent use of her devotions can bring to it. Again, this does not mean that Divine Mercy Sunday is merely a new feast established to celebrate St. Faustina’s revelations. Indeed, it is not primarily about St. Faustina at all--nor is it altogether a new feast! As many commentators have pointed out, The Second Sunday of Easter was already a solemnity as the Octave Day of Easter; nevertheless, the title “Divine Mercy Sunday” does highlight and amplify the meaning of the day. In this way, it recovers an ancient liturgical tradition, reflected in a teaching attributed to St. Augustine about the Easter Octave, which he called “the days of mercy and pardon,” and the Octave Day itself “the compendium of the days of mercy.” For a deeper understanding of the place of the Octave Day of Easter in the ancient liturgical tradition, especially in the Didache and St. Gregory Nazianzen, see the essay by Rev. S. Seraphim Michalenko, M.I.C., in Divine Mercy, the Heart of the Gospel, published by the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy in 1999. Moreover, it is well known that the title “Divine Mercy Sunday” expresses the message of the prayers and readings traditionally