A lament for the Octave of Pentecost from a surprising source

The new editor of American Magazine, Drew Christiansen, S.J., seems a bit wistful about the loss to the Ordinary Form of the Octave of Pentecost.  In this matter we wholeheartedly concur.

America – June 18th, 2012

By the time this column appears in print, Pentecost will have come and gone. In the waning days of the Easter season, the liturgy prompted us to wait for the coming of the Spirit; but there is no comparable liturgical effort in the days following the feast to help us relish the Spirit dwelling in us. The liturgy once encouraged Christians during the now-suppressed octave of Pentecost to meditate on the Spirit. [Dear Br. Christiansen: It is suppressed in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, but not in the Extraordinary Form.] Medieval monks savored the Spirit’s gifts deeply enough to give us the so-called Golden Sequence, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus,” which we still chant today. Rabanus Maurus in the ninth century gave us the equally rich “Veni, Creator Spiritus”; and in our times the monks of Taizé popularized their own importunate round, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus.”
According to Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, [It is nice that this good priest is cited….] even Pope Paul VI, when he prepared to vest to celebrate Mass the Monday after Pentecost in 1969, was surprised and saddened to learn that under his authorization the day now belonged to Ordinary Time. [Dear Br. Christiansen: I am the origin of that anecdote, which is now wide-spread.  I pubished it many years ago in The Wanderer and also on the COL Forum, but let that pass.] The older octave, Kirby writes on his blog, Vultus Christi (snipurl.com/23r4tee), “was eight days under the grace of the Holy Spirit, eight days of joy in the fire and light of His presence, eight days of thanksgiving for His gifts. The Octave of Pentecost was one of the most beautiful moments in the Church Year, not only by reason of the liturgical texts, but also by reason of its effect in the secret of hearts.” [Nice!]
What the suppression of the octave deprived us of is the opportunity, in Dom Mark’s words, to “linger over anything momentous…to bask in the after-glow of events rich in meaning…to prolong the feast.”  [Linger, yes, but not in inactivity.  We also have the chance to reflect on the mystery of the feast from different points of view.] People have an innate capacity and desire for meditation, he writes. “Meditatio is the act of repetition by which truth, or beauty, or goodness passes from the head into the heart. There it becomes life-changing.”
This Pentecost 2012 we sorely need to appreciate the beauty and the power of the Spirit alive in us—and to celebrate the Spirit moving in the wider church and in the world. For it so often seems we are living in a time of “the quenched Spirit,” when God no longer sends prophets to speak his word and the prophets we hear are often false prophets. We need the gentle comfort of the Spirit to nurse our bruised hearts and the Spirit’s light to guide us through dark times. Most of all, we need the divine gift of reform and re-animation.


That is a taste.

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  1. anna 6 says:

    I am embarrassed to admit that I had never really known about the octave until this year, through the Holy Father’s homilies, and by learning about the Holy Spirit Novena. As a result, I was very conscious of the movement of the Spirit and the gifts He brings.

    I guess that there was something in the air this year!!

  2. Clinton R. says:

    Another reason to pray for the return of the TLM as the ordinary form of the Mass. The “reforms” of the Mass were hijacked by modernists, heretics and apostates. Where in the documents in Vatican II does it call for “ordinary time”? It doesn’t! More bad fruit of Bugninisim.

  3. Gregory DiPippo says:

    I second that emotion…and I third it for Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi, the Assumption, Ss. the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Ss. Peter and Paul etc.

  4. Choirmaster says:

    I support this! But, I can’t figure out if it’s because of legitimate religious sentiment, or because those red vestments are so cool!

    The octave days, indeed, should be renewed and applied to all manner of important events in the liturgical year, especially the Marian feasts. That is, of course, if it is appropriate and/or traditional to do so.

    I’d like to put that on the list with the recovery of ad orientem worship, the revival of Gregorian chant, and a rediscovery of ceremonial reverence.

  5. pjsandstrom says:

    Whatever else one might say, Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter. So there has been already celebration of the Paschal Mystery’s events for a ‘week of weeks plus one’ by the time the Solemnity of Pentecost arrives. Of course, if one also wants to do some more work on the Liturgical Calendar, perhaps one should encourage returning Trinity Sunday to its original purpose (which is still celebrated in the Eastern parts of the Church, both Orthodox and Catholic), that is,as All Saints Day. This would be the proper celebration of ‘living out the life of the Holy Trinity’ in all those Initiated into the Body of Christ — the ‘children of God’ sharing the Divine Life, as Saint John repeats numerous times — and it would be then the ‘solemnity’ celebrating the ‘life of and in the Church’ which continues from Pentecost to our days with an important eschatological emphasis.

  6. JKnott says:

    These very same thoughts came sadly to my mind this Pentecost. It is almost breathtaking to think the octave could possibly be suppressed. The formal birthday of the Bride of Christ, THE One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, not to mention all the other implications for grace, just not worthy of an octave ?
    The same mindset that removed the St. Michael prayer from after Low Mass and the prayer that asks God for the “triumph of the Faith and the exaltation of the Church all went the way of the Protestants.

  7. iPadre says:

    Yes, and Pentecost is not the only octave gone. We need a reconciliation with the 1962 calendar. With the stroke of a pen, a suppression can be lifted!

  8. acardnal says:

    Great idea iPadre!

  9. Frank H says:

    Hmm. A few more articles along these lines in America and I may have to think about subscribing.

  10. jhayes says:

    The new editor of “America” is Fr. Matt Malone. Fr. Drew Christianson has been editor since 2005 and is moving on this Fall to a new role.

    From their website:

    Father Malone, 40, who assumes his appointment in October, succeeds Drew Christiansen, SJ, who has served as America’s editor-in-chief since 2005.  Father Christiansen will be on sabbatical for the next year, serving as a visiting scholar in theology at Boston College.  In January 2014, Father Christiansen will assume a senior academic appointment at a leading Jesuit university.

  11. FrGuillory says:

    Because I felt that there is a serious pastoral need among my parishioners to foster greater adoration of the Holy Spirit, I instituted an “octave” of Pentecost of sorts this year. I did this by offering Votive Masses of the Holy Spirit on all days allowed between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. Even in the Novus Ordo, this can be done, in an authentically pastoral way. I explained to my parishioners the why and wherefore. Their reaction: they loved it!

  12. heway says:

    I tried my best to confuse our pastor last year. I left the red banners up -but he caught me before the next Sunday. Why? the cool colors and the expense for one day a year. I would continue Pentecost for a month if it were my choice. The Holy Spirit is the One that came to be with us, always, not one Sunday or week a year.
    My diocese has no plans for the coming Fortnight for Freedom – very disappointed.

  13. Geoffrey says:

    I can see liturgical progressives not minding a restoration of the Octave of Pentecost as much as a restoration of the season of Septuagesima. Brick by brick!

  14. Juho says:

    The Ambrosian rite, as far as I know, celebrates Pentecost all the way to October. Quite a difference between Milan and Rome :)

  15. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Juho, the Ambrosian Rite uses red vestments from Pentecost to mid-October, but does not celebrate Pentecost per se for the whole of that period, and actually used the term “season after Pentecost” less than the Roman Rite. This is not a uniquely Ambrosian custom either; Paris observed the same custom in its proper Use until it finally adopted the Missale Romanum in 1875.

    pjsandstrom, Trinity Sunday has NEVER been All Saint’s Day in any Western Rite.

  16. Giuseppe says:

    You’d’a thunk that a holiday where each person heard the word of God in his vernacular woulda been the premier holiday of Vatican II! (O no he diin’t!) ;)

  17. CatholicByChoice says:

    I also pray the Holy Spirit Novena after having hearing about it on EWTN one year, and then finding the prayer on the EWTN website. As a convert to the Faith, following the Church calendar throughout the year is spiritually inspiring and such a beautiful, beautiful experience. That is, up until “ordinary time.” Could there possibly be a less inspiring name for a period of time as “ordinary time?” We have Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentacost…all followed by a huge block of time labelled as “ordinary.” That name suggests something like “summer break,” time to kick off your spiritual shoes and just coast along until Advent. I understand that “ordinary time” used to be counted as “XX number of days after Pentacost.” Why in the world would the church change from that to “ordinary time?” The calendar follows the life of Christ…I can’t reconcile the “ordinary” label as having anything to do with the life of Christ.

  18. It might be mentioned that officially there is no such thing as “ordinary time”, in the OF or anywhere else.

    In the Latin Missale Romanum and Liturgia Horarum, the 34 non-seasonal Sundays of the Tempus per annum (“Time during the year”) are numbered Dominica I per annum through Dominica XXXIV per annum, using Roman numerals (“ordinals”).

    In mathematics, the term “ordinal” refers to counting things in order (or one after the other in sequence), and so one might call the Sundays in question the “ordinal Sundays” of the year. The 1973 ICEL folks were as challenged mathematically as linguistically and doctrinally and liturgically, so evidently they confused the concepts of “order” and “ordinary”, whence apparently came the term “ordinary time” which (so far as I know personally) is an artifact of that first English translation, and lamentably was retained in the recent new translation.

  19. Tina in Ashburn says:

    The octave supplies extra graces that pivot on that Feast, in addition to simply the continued prayers and beautiful vestments. Each octave day of Easter is still Easter – so Easter graces emanate each day of the octave. Additionally, observances of petition and fasting leading up to Feasts are more grace-filled. The starving laity needs more graces than ever today in this chaotic world – the re-institution of octaves is like a no-brainer.

    Since so many have lost the understanding of the graces that emanate from particular feasts, we now have special Masses on Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and associated novenas. Unfortunately, these are “Hallmark Days”, not Church sanctioned feasts with ecclesial graces. Sure you can go to Mass on Thanksgiving, or have a novena of Masses for Father’s Day, but the typical graces associated with Church feasts do not occur. It would make more sense to relate Father’s Day novenas to St Joseph’s feasts for instance.

    Feed the starving laity with real octaves and re-instituted devotions – then we wouldn’t be craving these strange substitutions.

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