WDTPRS – Pentecost Sunday: Holy Church’s warp and weft remain strong

The Fiftieth Day Feast, Hebrew Shavuot or Greek Pentekosté, for the Jews commemorated the descent of God’s Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, wreathed in fire, fifty days after the Exodus.  But Jewish feasts also looked forward even as they looked back to an historic event.  At Shavuot they looked forward to the return of the fiery glory cloud of God’s presence in the Temple.

Fifty days after Our Lord’s Resurrection, the tenth (perfection) from His Ascension, the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and first disciples to breathe grace-filled life into Christ’s Body, the Church.

The Spirit descended as “tongues of fire”, on the day they memorialized the descent of God like fire on Mount Sinai.

The Jews at that time would also have thought of the vision of the temple in the Book of Enoch, made of tongues of fire.

Hence, this Pentecost event would have really got the the attention of the multitudes, perhaps a million people, thronging Jerusalem for the feast.

This magnificent Sunday (which in the Roman Rite’s Extraordinary Form retains its Octave along with the special Communicantes and Hanc igitur) has in the Ordinary Form a Collect rooted in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary.

Deus, qui sacramento festivitatis hodiernae universam Ecclesiam tuam in omni gente et natione sanctificas, in totam mundi latitudinem Spiritus Sancti dona defunde, et, quod inter ipsa evangelicae praedicationis exordia operata est divina dignatio, nunc quoque per credentium corda perfunde.

I like that defunde and perfunde.  Spiffy.

Cor is “heart” and corda “hearts”.  Sacramentum translates Greek mysterion.  Sacramentum and Latin mysterium are often interchangeable in liturgical texts.  Defundo means “to pour down, pour out”. Perfundo, is “to pour over, moisten, bedew”, and “to imbue, inspire” as well as “to dye”.

Exordium means “the beginning, the warp of a web”. Exordium invokes cloth weaving and selvage, the cloth’s edge, tightly woven so that the web will not fray, fall apart.

Exordium, also a technical term in ancient rhetoric, is the beginning of a prepared speech whereby the orator lays out what he is going to do and induces the listeners to attend.

From Pentecost onward Christ the Incarnate Word, although remote by His Ascension, is the present and perfect Orator delivering His saving message to the world through Holy Church. “He that heareth you, heareth me”, Christ told His Apostles with the Seventy (Luke 10:16).

Much hangs on exordia.


O God, who by the sacramental mystery of today’s feast do sanctify Your universal Church in every people and nation, pour down upon the whole breadth of the earth the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and make that which divine favor wrought amidst the very beginnings of the preaching of the Good News to flow now also through believers’ hearts.


God our Father, let the Spirit you sent on your Church to begin the teaching of the gospel continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe.

Really?   REALLY?

Moving on…


O God, who by the mystery of today’s great feast sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation, pour out, we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth and, with the divine grace that was at work when the Gospel was first proclaimed, fill now once more the hearts of believers.

Unity and continuity are keys to this Collect.

The Holy Spirit pours spiritual life into the Body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit wove the early Church together through the preaching of the Apostles and their successors and, in the Church today, extends their preaching to our own time.

The Holy Spirit guarantees our unity and continuity across every border and century.

The Holy Spirit imbues and infuses, tints and dyes the fabric of the Church as He flows through it.

When the Holy Spirit’ fire poured over the Apostles, they poured out preaching in public speeches to people from every nation.  I think they were not in the “upper room” but in the Temple, as the Law required Jewish men.  In Greek, oikos can mean “temple” or “house of God”, not just “house”.

That makes greater sense of the immediate reaction they received.

The Holy Spirit, in the preaching of the Apostles, began on Pentecost’s exordium to weave together the Church’s selvage, that strong stable edge of the fabric, through the centuries and down to our own day.

Also, for Shavuot, Pentecost, the Jews at harvest were commanded by God to leave the edges of the fields unharvested for the sake of the poor.

The bonds of man and God symbolically unraveled in the Tower of Babel event, when languages were divided (Gen 11:5-8).

Ever since the Pentecost exordium’s “reweaving”, though here and there and now and then there may be rips and tatters, Holy Church’s warp and weft hold true.

Let our hearts and prayers be raised for unity. Sursum corda!

In our Collect we pray that our corda may be imbued with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Sacrum septenarium!

Let them be closely woven into, knit into Holy Church and even over-sewn with her patterns, not ours.

Let our hearts be bounded about by her saving selvage, dyed in the Spirit’s boundless love.

Let us also pray for the unwitting agents of the Enemy of the soul, hanging onto Holy Church’s edge but in such a way that they tear at and fray the Church’s fabric.

Pardon my homographs, but though they be on the fringe, they endanger necessary threads, precious souls of our brothers and sisters who through their work of unraveling can be lost in the fray.

When we mesh with the Successor of Peter and remain true in the Faith and charity, our holy selvage and our salvation will not be undone.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. RuralCatholic says:

    Yes! Let’s stop using the same threadbare arguments, keep our wits needle-sharp and cut through the meritricious persiflage that is liberalism. A stitch in time saves nine, and sew on.

  2. Pumpkin Eater says:

    Absolutely brilliant! Thank you Father.

  3. Pingback: SVNDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  4. MrsBridge says:

    When I think about those ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost, I feel lonely: Was God in no way present on this earth in those days? Were we abandoned? Orphans? Then I remember Mary. The Holy Spirit was present in her from her birth, and clearly so after the Annunciation. Thus the Holy Spirit was present on earth, in her, for those lonely ten days. How wonderful — the Mother of the Church was here all along! (I don’t think Acts ever says precisely that she was with the apostles in the “house” at Pentecost. She didn’t have to be; she had already received the Holy Spirit. And so it does seem possible that the apostles were not in a residence but in the temple, where only men were allowed. Just wondering.)

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    Amen, thanks Fr. Z.

    A Blessed Whitsunday to all villeins in Merrye Olde Englande.

    Meanwhile, across the water in France Pierre and Fifi are taking a break from Sartre, Gauloises and chansons de geste glorifying le football and are hearkening to Les chants gregoriens:


    Les voies de Dieu sont impenetrables

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    For Irish brethren and sisteren, the hardy folk of the Emerald Isle currently battling pagans and druids again, The Song of Manchan the Hermit (c. 9th century).

    I wish, O Son of the Living God, O Ancient Eternal King,
    For a hidden hut in the wilderness, a simple secluded thing.

    The all-blithe lithe little lark in his place, chanting his lightsome lay;
    The calm, clear pool of the Spirit’s grace, washing my sins away.

    A wide, wild woodland on every side, it shades the nursery
    Of glad-voiced songsters, who at day-dawn chant their sweet psalm for me.

    A pleasant church with an Altar-cloth, where Christ sits at the board,
    And a shining candle shedding its ray on the white words of the Lord.

    Rough raiment of tweed, enough for my need, this will my King allow;
    And I to be sitting praying to God under every leafy bough.

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    I have no truck with the Coding, it is an Arcane art Probably of Ye Devil, but I’m told this is the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer in Binary- the native language of Ye Geek:

    01001111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01100110 01100001 01110100
    01101000 01100101 01110010 00101100 00100000 00001010 01110111

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