Pentecost Wednesday: another ranting 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. For a while they were bumped. In the 11th c. St. Pope Gregory VII, Hildebrand, reinstated them while keeping the festive tone of the Octave.

If the Octave of Pentecost can be abolished for the Novus Ordo calendar, it can be reinstated, just as Benedict XVI John Paul II reinstated “Prayers over the people” during Lent.

If the Ember Days can be de facto suppressed through lack of interest and ignorance, they can be reinstated.

Oh Lord, please send us another Hildebrand?

Consider what his approach to “Eucharistic consistency” (or is it “Eucharistic coherence”…)  might be.  Consider what he would do about prelates who waffle on morals, who do nothing about 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.  In my day in Rome, before ordination to the diaconate and to the priesthood we had pretty thorough “scrutinies”.  We went around a big room from table to where there was a priest scrutineer who would interrogate us about the material of which he was an expert.  These guys were usually professors from the Pontifical Universities.

Because this is an Ember Day, we have, first, two readings from Acts 2 and Acts 5, with a “Flectamus genua” for good measure, 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.

Two points spring to mind on this beautiful Roman morning, my last full day in Rome.

First, Gamaliel counseled patience.  If what the Apostles were doing was from God, it would endure and produce good things.  If it was not, that would become clear. Would that today our Whatevers High Atop The Thing would have even a hair’s breadth of such wise patience when it comes to something that really doesn’t need to prove itself because it already had a track record of centuries.

The Vetus Ordo has a track record and the Novus Ordo does not.  Rather, the NO’s incipient track record isn’t that impressive.

On the contrary. Ratzinger said, way back in the day, and I’ve been saying picking up on him that the two Rites (that’s what they are, let’s not kid ourselves) should be freely offered in the best way, most faithful way possible, side by side.  People will show us the way forward.  But progressivists, you see, the catholic Left, liberals (from the Latin “free”, meaning for a liberal you are only “free” to agree with liberals), are afraid of freedom when it comes to that which stands as a bulwark against erosion of doctrine and – wait for it – morals.  There is nothing to fear from the Vetus Ordo and the people who want it, unless, that is, you fear large, happy, devout families with many children who participate in the life of the Church, which they love.

Second, Peter’s shadow healed.  John was the voice and Christ the Word.  “He who hears you hears me”.  “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven…”.  “This is my Body…”.    The farther we get from the light source, the weaker and fuzzier the shadow.  TRADITION keeps us close to the light source.   Hence, Tradidi quod et accepi.

The Mass texts today shift to different themes. 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… this is the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot!

They were not in the Upper Room.  They were in the TEMPLE.

Males were to go to the Temple for the Shavuot – Pentecost – spring harvest festival celebration involving the wave offerings in the Temple of the harvest fruits, loaves baked from the first sheaves.  The Temple was certainly “big enough” for all the disciples.  And that is where they were!   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).  Jesus refers to His Body as a Temple using “house”.

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”, they were in the Temple.  Jewish festivals looked back to historical events and they looked forward to something yet to be fulfilled.  Shavuot looked back to the descent of God on the mountain in the fiery presence cloud, shekinah, when God gave the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments.  Shavuot looked forward to the return of the fiery “presence cloud” to the Temple which had departed with the destruction of the first Temple.  That’s Pentecost: Shavuot fulfilled.  The first fruits this time being the 3000 baptized.

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 led 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. JonPatrick says:

    Concerning the fruits of traditional vs modern worship, I have been following the news from Gower MO and the exhumation of Sr. Wilhelmina foundress of the traditional order there. If it does turn out that her body is miraculously incorrupt, is this a sign that God is favorable to tradition? I think it is also interesting that her habit did not decay whereas the lining of the coffin made of similar material did. This is significant because she advocated for the wearing of the traditional habit in her original order when the other sisters had discarded it. Perhaps God is telling us something re the wearing of the habit.

  2. Greg Hlatky says:

    This applies to yesterday’s rant as well as today’s.

    I’m just a poor, dumb pew sitter but I’ve been a scientist for over 40 years. Nobody questions propositions about the physical world around us: force equals mass times acceleration, the value of pi is 3.14159+, the atomic mass of cobalt is 58.933 daltons and so on. We may understand these things better with time and use these propositions to change the world around us, but they aren’t credibly challenged.

    If the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry was one day to announce that the atomic mass of cobalt is now between 56 and 61 and that anyone insisting on a value of 58.933 was being unnecessarily rigid, there would be chaos. Sales of cobalt and its salts would grind to a halt because no one would be sure of how much they were getting. Formulations and processes involving cobalt compounds would no longer work. No one could use cobalt in catalysts or batteries for fear of infringing on another’s patent. We might reasonably question all or several of the IUPAC’s intelligence, motives or sanity.

    So can someone explain to this dumb bunny why the lodestars of God’s creation are rightly considered fixed and immutable, whereas Divine Revelation and Divine Tradition are whatever today’s Church says they are at the moment?

  3. Geoffrey says:

    “If the Octave of Pentecost can be abolished for the Novus Ordo calendar, it can be reinstated, just as Benedict XVI reinstated ‘Prayers over the people’ during Lent.”

    Wasn’t it during the reign of St John Paul II that the Prayers over the People during Lent, as well as the feasts of the Holy Name of Jesus and St Catherine of Alexandria, were restored to the third typical edition of the OF Missale Romanum (2002)? I could be wrong… [Now that you mention it, I think you are right. The point, however, remains unchanged.]

  4. ThePapalCount says:

    Thank you FrZ for this exceptional teaching and insight.
    This makes the whole Pentecost event even more powerful and amazing.
    I never had this presented to me. Excellent. Thank you.

  5. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    We have an entry in Butler for St. Gameliel:

    “He was of the sect of the Pharisees, and a doctor of the law, in the highest reputation at Jerusalem. St. Paul recommended himself to the Jews by saying that he had been his scholar. When the Jews were deliberating to put the apostle to death, St. Gamaliel prevented such a resolution, and indirectly showed the Christian religion to be the work of God; yet this he did with so much prudence as not to incur any suspicion. Though he had not then embraced the faith, his conversion was more early than that of St. Paul, as St. Chrysostom assures us. Having buried St. Stephen at his own estate, twenty miles from Jerusalem, he was afterward himself interred in the same sepulchre, and discovered his relics to Lucian, in a vision, in 415.”

    His feast is August 3rd. Perhaps we backwardist restorationists ought to consider him one of special patrons…

  6. Father JCPS says:

    Did Benedict XVI add the Prayers over the People during Lent back to the Roman Missal or did Saint John Paul II in the Jubilee Edition? [Someone else caught this. I think so. But my point stands, I think. Good things, improperly undone, can and should be reinstated. JP2 also put important things back into the Rite of Ordination of Priests that Paul VI had taken out (stupidly).]

  7. HFL says:

    Thanks for this very insightful instuction Father Z. I, too, had wondered about the timing issue of their receiving the Holy Spirit in the upper room and their immediate preaching to the crowds and baptizing of the 3,000. You mention that “Males were to go to the Temple for the Shavuot,” but this raises another question for me . . . Luke notes that, upon their return to Jerusalem after Christ’s Ascension, “they were joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus …” (Acts 1:14, which argues for her inclusion among the “they” (2:1) who were “gathered together in one place” on Pentecost). Assuming that the Blessed Mother was present, then it stands to reason that the Descent occurred in the middle court (also called the “Women’s Court”), as women were not allowed into the inner courts. Do you have any insights on this? Thanks!

    [A good addition. At the same time, I’ll bet that the Holy Spirit would have found Mary wherever she was. Still, it is fitting that they were all together and at the Temple. Also, I believe only adult males were obliged. Others were not but certainly went also.]

  8. Cornelius says:

    The surest sign that something in the Church pleases God and suits His purposes is that it has endured. This is so obvious to me, and is such a clear mark of Catholicity, that when I encounter nominal Catholics who despise what has endured and endlessly extoll the new and untried, I feel I’m talking to someone from a different religion.

    It’s like talking to another American who throws shade on fundamental freedoms explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. They seem to me to belong to some other country.

  9. Gaetano says:

    I strongly support scrutinies for candidates before ordination. Indeed, I support presenting the Oath of Fidelity & Profession of Faith to applicants to seminary & religious life, along with an annual review of them.

    There is a sad account from the late Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J. of a group of Jesuits preparing for diaconal ordination. They were presented with the Oath of Fidelity & Profession of Faith.

    It was clearly the first time(!) they were seeing them, and several expressed concern they could not wholly assent to all of the Church’s teaching.

    The Jesuit director reportedly suborned perjury by reminding them that they had invested so many years leading up to this point and that they should “prayerfully consider” signing.

    I am certain no small degree of mental reservation was exercised.

    It is sad that we have come to such a point, yet here we are.

  10. Chris in Maryland 2 says:

    How odd of the NO “movement,” that its “movers” in the 60s – 70s insisted that “the reform” was “oh-so-much” about The Holy Spirit, and yet instead of expanding the Feast of Pentecost beyond the old Octave, they reduced Pentecost to one day, and then abruptly eclipsed the whole idea with the ho-hum of Ordinary Time.

    That makes lots of sense I guess, right? Holy Spirit descends in fire, and the Novus Ordo responds by yawning.

    Sleep-walking anyone?

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