Divine Mercy Sunday

What I’m exploring here today is something I don’t fully understand myself, but I think it might help me if I put some thoughts down “on paper”. 

Jesus told Sister Faustina, “I desire that this image be displayed in public on the first Sunday after Easter.  That Sunday is the Feast of Mercy.” [Diary, Notebook I, No. 88]  Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose the first Sunday after Easter and declared that it was the Feast of Mercy?  This particular Sunday has other names as well, one of which is Low Sunday.  Out of curiosity, I looked up Low Sunday in an old missal, one from prior to Vatican II, to see if there were any significant differences.  One important difference that I found was that the Gospel, prior to Vatican II, opened with a Lesson from the Epistle of St. John the Apostle (First Letter of John, Chapter 5).   I will just quote a small portion of it, to show you what we would have heard back then that we do not hear today:

“This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.  And it is the Spirit which testifieth that Christ is the truth.  And there are three who give testimony in heaven:  the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.  And there are three that give testimony on earth; the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three are one.”

Even if you were to look up the First Letter of John, Ch. 5 in a current Bible, you would not find it translated (at least in the versions I looked at) as precisely as it is stated in the old missal.

And so we have Jesus choosing to establish Divine Mercy Sunday on a day in which we were traditionally being taught about water and blood, the Holy Spirit, and the Trinity.  As I was pondering all these things, I took a look at what some bloggers had been saying about Divine Mercy Sunday over the last couple of years.  I noticed some disturbing comments, two in particular – one from a priest who said that Divine Mercy Sunday, “changed nothing liturgically”, and another from someone who said that Divine Mercy Sunday had, “absolutely no effect on the liturgical celebration”, that it was only a devotion with an indulgence attached.  Perhaps it is true that the devotion does not really change the liturgy of the day, but it changes our hearts, and immersion in the Divine Mercy message helps us understand the message of today’s gospel on a deeper level.  Inclusion of the former passage from the First Letter of John would do so to an even greater degree. 

In my post last year for Divine Mercy Sunday, if you had asked me why I included a picture of the Holy Trinity and a link to the beautiful Thrice Holy Hymn, I couldn’t have told you.  I only did what the Spirit moved me to do.  Today, I think I understand a little bit better

At the risk of turning this post into a tome, I would just also like to share something with you from The Revelations of St. Gertrude the Great, from the entry for Low Sunday, which reinforces my glimpse of an understanding as to why Jesus chose this day.  The entry opens with the words of Jesus, and continues with St. Gertrude’s understanding of His message:

“If you desire to receive the Holy Ghost…you must touch My Side and My Hands, like My disciples.”  By this she understood that he who desires to receive the Holy Spirit must first touch the Side of Our Lord – that is, he must acknowledge how much the Divine Heart has loved us in having predestinated us from eternity to be His children and heirs of His kingdom, and in pouring forth such benefits upon us daily, notwithstanding our ingratitude…” 


14 thoughts on “Divine Mercy Sunday

  1. Great post, Gabrielle, and I’m glad to see you dug a little deeper into the background of all of this – reference to the blood and water for instance.
    I did a post on the Holy Souls which of course also links in to all of this- and I think you’re like me when you come across posts or people who seem to give Divine Mercy little relevance.
    Personally, I believe I would be failing in my duty as a Christian, failing in my witness, if I were to withold the truth of Divine Mercy from any soul I encountered who through human weakness was in a state of hopelessness or near despair.
    It is one of the most heartening feast days in the Church, and I thank God and Sister Faustina, and Pope John Paul that we celebrate it today.

  2. Well, for all who think negatively that the more things change, the more they stay the same, I must say I was blown away by two things this year: One is that our teen-specialist priest has put together a huge Divine Mercy observance for the XLT youth tonight; and two, I saw a sizable ad in the paper for a Divine Mercy Mass to be offered by our Maronite priest at 2 pm today, culminating in Adoration and chaplet over at a RC church (the Maronite church is teensy; he must be expecting a crowd!) A nice surprise for all.

    I have kind of blown the Novena this year — I was too much a mensch about Iraq matters, and focusing on other things of the spirit, and thus am only on Day 4 of that.. There shall be no indulgence granted me, unless He Himself extends it ’til next weekend, but that takes nothing away from the joy of this celebration. It’s about Him for the whole world.. the whole world, all souls, until He comes again. Mercy.

  3. I have yet to attend a mass on the Sunday after Easter where Divine Mercy is mentioned, never mind observed.
    There is a shrine I attend every now and then for a day of quiet which recites the chaplet every day at 3.
    And, when I visit the very sick or am at a funeral or hear the report of someone’s death, I recite the chaplet.
    This am I woke up saying it.
    However, the Liturgy goes on as usual in most parishes here.
    Not even a mention in the bulletins.
    Thanks for this insightful post, Gab.

  4. Wonderful post – how I wish we Anglicans had this devotion, or festival, or… As far as I know, not even the most Anglo-Catholic of us do; and yet it is so beautiful, and so right and necessary, and obedient and faithful, we should remember our Lord’s mercy to us sinners in this way.

    Thanks, Gabrielle – you’ve made my day. Literally!


  5. I’ve been attracted to the Divine Mercy quite a bit lately. Mercy is the antidote to what ails the moder materialist world.

    Are you saying that you woke up and said the chaplet or were you saying it in your sleep as you awoke?

    MikeF, I understand that a lot of protestants say the divine mercy chaplet. I think you can say it.

  6. Truly a great post Gabrielle! I too have to confess that it is only in the last few years that I have been involved with Divine Mercy, odd tho, I don’t pray the chaplet at all unless it is done at Church or in a prayer Cenacle.

  7. Ann, speaking of digging into the background, I have found references to Divine Mercy going back to the Desert Fathers. But liturgically speaking, as I went back to the pre-Vatican II missal, and also back to St. Gertrude’s revelations, it’s just so amazing to realize that Gertrude, for instance, on that day centuries and centuries ago, was listening to the very same Gospel that we were!

    Carol, it’s wonderful to hear that the Divine Mercy devotion is growing in your area. I understand what you mean about focusing on other things of the spirit this year; we can only do so much, and we just trust that He knows all the intentions of our hearts…

    teresa, why don’t you try starting a small Divine Mercy hour at your parish next year? There may be others who would love to help with that, but are too timid to raise the possibility. Ours started off very small several years ago, but this year the church was about three-quarters full for it.

    Mike, thank you for your heartwarming comments! It’s not really surprising to me that you haven’t seen the devotion even in Anglo-Catholic environments, because it’s really only been in the last decade or so that we have begun it in Catholic churches. But I agree with JT; I would see no reason why it couldn’t be for everyone!

    JT, I think teresa meant that she woke up saying it. She has awakened saying other prayers as well, and MC often wakes up with songs that the Lord has given her. It’s so beautiful to realize that our souls have been with Him all night, and I think we tend to forget that, unless we wake up with a prayer or a song on our lips…

    MC, I started to say the Chaplet every day a few years ago (during Lent, for a special intention, and then the Novena), and I found that after Lent and Divine Mercy Sunday, I didn’t want to stop. It had become a part of my prayerlife that I didn’t wish to lose.

  8. I accidentally (Providentially) came upon this post just a few days after I had some thoughts on the origin of Divine Mercy Sunday. I usually don’t stop and write, but …

    I’d like to offer an additional perspective regarding a possibility why Our Lord chose this particular day for the Feast, and perhaps why also the old missal refers to the Blood and water.

    In the Old Covenant, according to Leviticus chapter 23, God established the Feast of Tabernacles, or Tents, with the Israelites. It lasts 8 days. Without all the details, Israel gathered together for the first day, a sabbath, and camped out in tents. God had them stay in the tents for seven straight days because the festival reminded the Israelites that “God made the children of Israel to dwell in tents, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

    On the 8th day, which was “the day of assembly and congregation”, they came out of the tents in celebration – this symbolized the gaining of the Promised Land. This 8th day was also a sabbath.

    Do you think it’s valid to understand the 8-day Easter celebration as a New Covenant fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles? The OC sabbaths are transformed to the NC Sundays. We rise with Christ out of sin and death (slavery in Egypt) on Easter Sunday and travel (in tents) in the life of grace, until we reach heaven (the Promised Land) on the Divine Mercy Sunday.

    If so, then that 8th day of Easter is a big, big day!

    In John, ch. 7, the Lord goes up in hiding to the Feast of Tabernacles. It was on this 8th day of this Feast, when the congregation was having its party, that the Lord spoke out: “And on the last and great day of the festivity, Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believes in me, as the scripture says: Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in him …” (Jn 7:37-39)

    The Lord, even then, I *think*, associated His Mercy with the 8th day of the Great Feast, with arrival in the Promised Land, with heaven. Our Promised Land is to dwell in His Mercy.

    God bless, and thanks for the forum to share!

  9. Jerome, I’m glad you “stopped and wrote”. 🙂

    Your comment and insights are certainly giving me a lot to ponder. I’m afraid I don’t have enough of a biblical/scriptural or apologetics background to say whether or not it’s truly valid to understand the 8-day Easter celebration as a New Covenant fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles or not, but I can certainly see how you have arrived at that possibility. Another way of looking at it, I suppose, would be that the Feast of Tabernacles was a foreshadowing of the Octave of Easter. I find the words of Jesus particularly striking (that you have quoted from John 7) on the 8th day, and I agree with you that they seem to be filled with His Divine Mercy, and again, as in the First Letter of John, Ch. 5, the Holy Spirit is brought to our attention. It really seems to make sense, what you are saying.

    I was just thinking, though, about the fact that the Feast of Tabernacles, from what I’ve read, was actually a celebration which took place in the fall, rather like a harvest festival. But then again, Divine Mercy Sunday is probably one of the greatest days for the harvesting of souls!

  10. Jerome, by the way, welcome to St. Blog’s. I’ve just been over reading some of your wonderful posts, but for some reason I can’t leave any comments.  Of course, this may be for the best…    😉

  11. Hi Gabrielle,

    Thanks for your welcome. I am new to blogging, as you may tell … I had comments off because I hadn’t figured out spam prevention yet. Now I got it, so comments should be on. You are always welcome there.

    You know, back to the Divine Mercy topic, it is a lot to ponder, and the beautiful thing to me is that all the considerations and takes we may have are gifts of glimpses into the Lord’s eternal nature. In other words, as you’ve indicated, these make me think that Divine Mercy Sunday is not new, much less artificial, but has really always been. The new celebration brings it “into relief”, if you will, because we need it so now, much like Catholic dogma is not new revelation, but rather an unfolding of that revelation to suit the needs and desires of man at the current time.

    Praise the Lord!

  12. “In other words, as you’ve indicated, these make me think that Divine Mercy Sunday is not new, much less artificial, but has really always been. The new celebration brings it “into relief”, if you will”.

    I agree with you entirely, Jerome, and this is one of the reasons why I would really like to see some good material written on this subject, well-researched historically/theologically, to bring this to light. In particular, material that would soften the hardened hearts of many traditionalists, who ignore or scoff at Sr. Faustina’s God-given mission and message.

  13. Hi Gabrielle,

    There is a friend of mine who is a seminarian with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception who is working on just that. He has been on Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s show talking on the Divine Mercy, so I think he’s already gaining some certain respect for his work in theological circles. His vocation is really centered on the promotion of Divine Mercy, as well as developing its validity from the historical and theological perspective. I think that someday something like what you described will come to be, and I suspect it will be from the Marians, who (maybe you already know) have received the entrustment of the promotion of the devotion from Pope John Paul II. Just a guess!

    But I agree that a theological sewing together of the new devotion with traditional ones would help a lot of people who are tradition-minded.

    God bless,

  14. That’s wonderful, Jerome. May God bless your friend and his work. Actually, I didn’t know that the Marians of the Immaculate Conception had been entrusted with that (or it never registered if I saw it before) but I have found some good links now which I will put up here and on my Mary blog. Thank you so much. Have just been reading about the April 2-6th Divine Mercy Conference that took place, and I can envision what we’re talking about coming to fruition very soon.

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