More Than An Octave

This time of year the discussion pops up in traditional-leaning Catholic circles. What happened to the Pentecost octave? Isn’t it a horrible thing it’s gone? A few of my facebook friends have opined on this and I’ve commented there. Just revisiting the discussion from there and here:

  1. Pentecost has received a “promotion,” as it were. It is the crowning feast of the Paschal season, a counterweight to the observance of the Resurrection. It is part of the “Fifty,” no longer just the initiation of “eight.”
  2. Pentecost is also the 8th Sunday of Easter, the completion of an octave of Sundays.
  3. Pentecost is also rightly recognized as the culmination of the original novena, a period of nine days of prayer and preparation stretching from Ascension Thursday to the Christian observance of the descent of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Pentecost also includes the celebration of an extended Vigil: six readings–not just three. This is the second-longest Liturgy of the Word in the Roman Rite. There are also a host of special prayers and possible observances that mark Pentecost as a significant liturgical event.
  5. The elimination of an octave doesn’t preclude a parish from celebrating a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit during the week following Pentecost, with the provision that a higher ranking liturgical day isn’t bumped off the chart. Maybe more than one–there are a good number of readings and prayers from which to choose.
  6. If the Vigil on Saturday is too much, then an extended Vespers on Sunday evening might well give added festivity to the observance.

Aspirants to the Pentecost octave might have a few initiatives to undertake before I’d register their complaint as valid:

  • Does your parish observe the Easter season will full festivity on weekdays? Daily Easter Masses should hopefully look a bit different from ordinary weekdays.
  • Does your parish add extra vitality to the novena, including resources for families to use at home?
  • Do you celebrate the full Pentecost Vigil and/or Vespers on Pentecost evening?
  • Are the usual social appendages to Sunday Mass kicked up a notch? By this I would think of a Saturday dinner, a full breakfast Sunday morning in between liturgies, or at least special foods for parishioners.
  • Do you observe a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit on occasion during the year (such as at the commencement of an academic year) and especially during the week after Pentecost?

I wouldn’t judge a parish frozen in minimalism as such. But if there is a true devotion to the Holy Spirit, I would think a lot of options exist to honor the Third Person. If those options aren’t utilized, I’d say Catholics, including traditionalists, have a lot to do before they can reasonably complain about what has been lost.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to More Than An Octave

  1. Liam says:

    Another tidbit relative to this week: in the USA, we have until Sunday to fulfill our preceptual Easter Duty if we have not done so since the First Sunday of Lent. (Originally, the time period for fulfilling the Easter Duty was the Easter Octave, but over centuries it’s spread to a varying bands of time for each country – if memory serves, the time band in the USA was set in the 19th century.)

    Also, this is the time period for many ordination anniversaries, because priests were formerly most commonly ordained on the Ember Saturday of the Pentecost Octave.

  2. Devin Rice says:

    As someone who largely supports the reformed liturgy, I do at times wonder if the pruning and simplification went just a tad too far. All of your numbered and bulleted points are certainly valid. It is just that outside of parish life and daily mass attenders, a not insignificant portion of the laity use some sort of liturgical prayer in their devotional life. Whether is it the daily mass readings w/ reflections from a publisher like Word Among Us, LOTH, or an abbreviated form of the Office like out of Magnificat, a restoration of the Octave would affect the prayer life a number of believers. And linking Pentecost to Trinity Sunday is a fitting return to the liturgical roots of the feast and crown to Paschal season.

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