On Restoring the Lost Emphasis on Pentecost by Restoring the Octave and the Numeration of the Sundays after Pentecost

There are certain feasts so important that the Church celebrates them with an Octave. Currently we only have two: Christmas and Easter. Strangely, in 1970, the Octave of Pentecost was dropped. Not only was it dropped, but the very way of enumerating the year was altered as well: the weeks were no longer expressed in relation to Pentecost (e.g., “The Third Sunday After Pentecost”).

To me this is a sad loss because the Church really began her public mission to the nations on Pentecost. This was the date of her commission, her sending forth by the Lord. Renaming the time after Pentecost as “Ordinary Time” comes across poorly in English. Even pointing out that in this usage the word “ordinary” comes from “ordinal” (relating to the position of an item in a series (e.g., first, second, third)) doesn’t fully counteract the notion of ordinary as “nothing special.”

Pentecost was a pivotal event. Indeed, the Church’s entire history pivots here. She goes from discipleship (student) status to apostolic status. Having been formed and quickened by the Spirit, she is sent forth to make disciples of the nations and to baptize them. It makes perfect sense to enumerate the Church year in reference to this critical moment.

As for the Octave, if Christmas and Easter are foundational, certainly Pentecost is no less so. Restoring the Octave will give us the time to reflect more deeply on the meaning of that profound event. It will also allow us to draw more deeply from the Acts of the Apostles; currently we end our study of Acts too abruptly, speaking too little of St. Paul’s journey to Rome, a profoundly symbolic journey for him, the Church, and the Gospel.

For priests celebrating the Ordinary Form, it is often an option to celebrate votive Masses of the Holy Spirit in the week after Pentecost, as long as there are no obligatory memorials. But Pope Francis last year limited the Pentecost options even further when he instituted a new obligatory memorial: Mary Mother of the Church on the Monday following Pentecost. I love this title of Mary and the Mass for her under that title is good. But it has completely removed the possibility that a priest in the Ordinary form could ever celebrate an uninterrupted octave of Pentecost and that is unfortunate.

The celebration of the Extraordinary Form still includes a formal celebration of the Octave. Further the Sundays of the year are enumerated as Sundays after Pentecost.

I encourage my brother priests to consider celebrating as many votive Masses to the Holy Spirit that the calendar will allow in the week after Pentecost. This might mean, for those who are able to do it, celebrating in the Extraordinary Form during the whole week. Pentecost is just too important to be relegated to a one-day observation. Pentecost is pivotal; it is the prime feast of the Church’s mission to the world. An Octave is called for and the Sundays of the year should be restored in reference to Pentecost IMHO.

Octave anyone?

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: On Restoring the Lost Emphasis on Pentecost by Restoring the Octave and the Numeration of the Sundays after Pentecost

17 Replies to “On Restoring the Lost Emphasis on Pentecost by Restoring the Octave and the Numeration of the Sundays after Pentecost”

  1. Totally agree. In fact, after Easter, Pentecost should rank second in the feasts of the Church. Traditionally baptism was to be administered on these days.

    Also, the presence of the Third Divine Person assuredly deserves no less praise and rejoicing than does the presence of the Second. In fact, it was so fitting that there be the Octave of Pentecost culminating in the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, the supreme Mystery of our Faith. The Church, having received from the Holy Spirit, wisdom and power, now goes into the world proclaiming the Faith everywhere, beginning with the mystery of God Himself in the Three Divine Persons.

  2. I heartily agree!

    What do we do with this instruction in the Missal?

    “Where the Monday or tuesday after pentecost are days on which the faithful are obliged or accustomed to attend Mass, the Mass of pentecost Sunday may be repeated, or a Mass of the holy Spirit, pp. 1338-1345, may be said.”

    Could that be used to override a memorial on Monday or Tuesday?

  3. I discovered the Octave of Pentecost in my St. Joseph Missal. Very beautiful. I was wondering why Annunciation is not a big Feast Day like Christmas? And why St. Joseph’s Feast Day isn’t celebrated with more pomp given his great role in being the guardian of both Jesus and Mary. Thank you.

    1. once you get started on naming some feasts important and others not so important, it will never end.

  4. I’m blessed to be in the Ordinariate, where we have retained the Octave. It should definitely be allowed throughout the Roman rite, since it is such a pivotal event.

  5. I echo Jason’s comment. I, too, am blessed to be in the Ordinariate. In addition to each day in the Octave of Pentecost (Whitsun) having its own propers (Introit, Collect, Alleluia, Offertory, Prayer Over the Offerings, Communion and Postcommunion), we have retained the Ember Days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in Whitsun Week). Divine Worship: the Missal (pp. 462 – 473) also contains the Vigil of Pentecost (Whitsun Eve) and its extended form leading to the Day of Pentecost. We then number our days in Trinitytide: Trinity Sunday; First Sunday after Trinity; and so forth.

  6. I have heard this story many times:

    On the Monday after Pentecost in 1970, so the story goes, Blessed Pope Paul VI rose early and went to his chapel to celebrate Mass.
    Instead of the red vestments he expected, green ones were laid out for him. He asked the Master of Ceremonies, “What on earth are these for? This is the Octave of Pentecost! Where are the red vestments?”
    “Your Holiness,” replied the Master of Ceremonies, “this is now The Time Throughout the Year. It is green, now. The Octave of Pentecost is abolished.”
    “Green? That cannot be,” said the Pope, “Who did that?” “Your Holiness, you did.” And, the story concludes, Paul VI wept.
    Whether this is true or not I’m not sure but I think it points to the sadness many Catholics felt/feel.
    PLEASE bring back the Octave of Pentecost!

  7. There is no need to “override” the memorial on Monday of Mary, Mother of the Church, which has the character of Pentecost. It is a fitting part of a celebration of the octave of Pentecost. Perhaps it would have been more fitting on the Saturday of the Octave rather than the Monday, but especially the 2nd option for the first reading is very appropriate.

    Then, this year, on Tuesday, we have the memorial of Barnabas, which again emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the Apostolic mission of the Church in all the prayers.

    On Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday it will be possible to do votives of the Holy Spirit. Thursday is the only day that is out of place this year, the memorial of St. Anthony, but even then it is essential to see the saints as acting in the Holy Spirit and so even this memorial is not a distraction from the Octave of Pentecost.

  8. I seem to recall that Pentecost used to have an Octave of the First Order … that neither Christmas nor Easter was awarded, making Pentecost the highest feastday of our liturgy. Being the day the Church was divinely instituted seemed right and proper. It comes as quite a shock that its significance has been thus demoted.
    Making a feastday to Mary on a Monday is also bewildering as to how it can be celebrated when every Monday is Mass-less here in Melbourne as that is the priests’ recreation day … not sure if that is the custom in other dioceses.

  9. Mary, Mother of the Church.

    I’m just ruminating here, but it occurs to me that She is only our Mother by virtue of Her Mystical (and Unique) Union with the Trinity. She is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit…and in the marital sacrament the two become one. She was additionally immaculately conceived in the Holy Spirit. So in a very real way, celebrating any memorial for Mary is indeed a celebration of the Holy Spirit!

    I love your points about the Pentecost feast and season. Perhaps this reflection could simply be some consolation … or an explanation of why God the Father allowed Mary to share in the blessed Octave of Pentecost!

  10. Yes, I totally agree. I have tried to practice the option for votive Masses in the Octave in the Ordinary form for some years now. I would love to see it restored. This week there was another occasion for a school graduation Mass, which traditionally calls for a Mass of the Holy Spirit.

  11. I understand that the Feast of Pentecost not only follows the Hebrew Feast of Weeks, but also the Feast of First Fruits, which is eight days long like Passover and Tabernacles. I can even recall some biblical passages that connect the feasts and a certain hymn (For The Fruits Of His Creation). There are also the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the second biggest Christian solemnity and is only a little less important than Easter. It is a shame to see this octave dropped while the Octave of Christmas is retained. There are even three events in the Book of Acts that show further reflection on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Putting down Pentecost makes observance of feast days of the saints meaningless for they are nothing without the Holy Spirit.

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