Pentecost Wednesday: a reflection

Pentecost Wednesday: Ember Day

Another Octave ramble which might have a couple of surprises.

Back in the day, 5th c or so, Pentecost was enriched with an Octave, thus extending the festal character of the great feast. So, what to do with the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday Ember Days that fell at this time of year? For a while they were bumped. In the 11th c. Pope Gregory VII, Hildebrand, reinstated them while keeping the festive tone of the Octave.

Oh Lord, please send us another Hildebrand?

Consider what his approach to Eucharistic consistency might be and to prelates waffling on morals, sustaining schlock worship, etc.

Today’s Roman Station is St. Mary Major, the place traditionally for scrutinies of candidates for ordination.     If I had my way, we would call some back for scrutinies.

Because this is an Ember Day, we have two first readings, from Acts 2 and Acts 5, and then a Gospel pericope from the Bread of Life discourse in John 6.

Acts 2 relates the descent of the Holy Spirit and then Peter’s preaching with the conversion of many. Peter talks about the wonders people will see. Acts 5 opens with the sad case of Ananias and Sapphira. Later the Apostles are imprisoned, but angels let them out. When the big shots started to freak out, Gamaliel counseled patience to see if what the Apostles were doing was from God. In this reading, the Apostles work many signs, many cures. Even Peter’s shadow cured. Many believed.

The Mass texts will shift to different themes now. Pentecost and Monday and Tuesday (before Ember Days) all contained protection from harm by the enemy.

Something about the Descent of the Spirit has always twitched at my mind. Acts 2:1 says “they were all together in one place”. But there were quite a few believers at the time, at least 120. All in one place? the upper room wasn’t big enough. BUT… the Temple was and this is the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot. Males were to go to the Temple for the Shavuot harvest festival celebration with the waving of the harvest fruits. Acts 2:2 says a wind came (the Holy Spirit) and “filled the house”, Greek oikos. Oikos can be house, of course, but it can also mean any building, including the Temple, the house of God (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46; John 2:16f, (Isaiah 56:5, 7); cf. Luke 11:51; Acts 7:47, 49).

Remember what we read at the end of Luke 24:50-53 and the account of the Ascension of the Lord?

Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

They were continually in the Temple. Why? Among other reasons, Shavuot. When Acts says they were in the “house”, I think they were in the Temple.

What happens after the mighty wind and tongues of fire? A huge crowd hears Peter’s sermon. Where was that? In the Temple. When did it take place? At 9:00 in the morning. Remember the line about drunkenness? This was the 3rd hour of the morning and the time of the tamid, the sacrifice of the first of the two daily lambs.

To baptize all those people they would have needed a place with a lot of water. There was such a place nearby, pools for ritual cleansing before going to the Temple.

I am reminded of Ezekiel 6:26:

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

A new SPIRIT I will put within you. I will take away this TEMPLE of STONE and give you a TEMPLE of FLESH.

This took place in the Temple which lost the glory cloud of fire of the presence of God. The presence of God as fire returns and settles not in the Holy Holies where the Ark was, but rather on the New Ark, Mary and on the Apostles and, through baptism in the hearts of the new believers, new Temples of the Holy Spirit.

In the Introit of today’s Mass we pray: “O God, when You went forth at the head of Your people, making a passage for them, dwelling in their midst…” A reference to the fire cloud that lead the people. In the Collect we pray something that echoes that image of the guiding freedom-bringing fire: “May the Paraclete Who proceeds from You, enlighten our minds, we beseech You, O Lord, and guide us to all truth, as Your Son has promised.”

In the Second Collect, remember it is an Ember Day with two first readings, we get this. See if it doesn’t bind together my thoughts, above:

Grant, we beseech You, almighty and most merciful God, that the Holy Spirit may come to dwell in us, graciously making us a temple of His glory.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ms. M-S says:

    “schlock worship”

    I wish that didn’t sum it up so neatly.

  2. Pingback: VVEDNESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

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