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:
- 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.”
- Pentecost is also the 8th Sunday of Easter, the completion of an octave of Sundays.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.