On Pentecost

Today is Monday within the Octave of Pentecost, or Whit Monday. This octave has been dropped in the OF, so I am continuing to say the Hours in the EF. I will continue to do so through at least the Second Sunday after Pentecost, so as to have the traditional observance of Corpus Christi.

The things which struck me from the Office today were from the hymns. The Matins hymn is "Iam Christus astra ascenderat", which includes this stanza: "The day appointed was now at hand that would mark the beginning of the age of blessedness, for the cycle of seven days had revolved in the holy number of seven,". The hymn for Lauds, "Beata nobis gaudia", has this: "These things were done in holy mystery when the paschal season was over and the round of days had reached the sacred number that, by law, meant remission and freedom."

I knew Pentecost was 50 days after Easter, and I'm sure I had been told or had read the significance of it. But, it's one of those things I forget, so this was a nice reminder. It's good to have the reminders given us by God through the liturgy. The outpouring of grace associated with the Holy Spirit is appropriately placed 50 days after Easter. The reference to remission and freedom has to do with the cycle of seven and seven times seven years found in the Mosaic Law, at which points debts would be forgiven, land given back to its old owner, and things of that nature. Pentecost ties us to our Jewish roots, in its own form of the hermeneutic of continuity, given the Jewish symbolism of 50 and the fact that Pentecost was itself a Jewish feast before its appropriation by Christianity.

One of the odd things I don't really understand about the Hours for the Octave is the way Matins works. Even though they are liturgical days of the first class, they only have one nocturn. And not only that, they have three psalms instead of the customary nine. Why such important days have what seems to be a downgraded Matins, I don't understand.

The importance of keeping the octave of Pentecost is in importance of Pentecost itself. It is the capstone of Easter. Easter begins and ends with major, biblical Sunday feast days. The first of these, Easter, has an octave, so it is fitting that Pentecost have one as well. From the logical side of things, looking at Bugnini's reform, it doesn't make sense that the OF retained the Christmas octave (a second-class octave) but suppressed the Pentecost octave (first-class).

The suppression of the Penteocost octave denigrated the significance of the Paschal cycle of the liturgical year. It begins with a big deal, the Easter Vigil and then the Octave of Easter. But it now ends (in the OF) with Pentecost Sunday. And though the MR includes a Vigil Mass for Pentecost, it seems that it is rarely celebrated in parishes. Compare this to the EF, in which the end of Easter is an eight-day observance of Pentecost, which lasts all the way until Trinity Sunday. It should be clear that changing the end of Easter from a bang to a whimper has not served to highlight its importance to the faithful.

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