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Saturday, May 26, 2012
Vigil of Pentecost: Fast and Partial Abstinence

Today is the Vigil for Pentecost and tomorrow we will celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit and foundation of the Church. Pentecost marks the completion of the work of redemption, the fullness of grace for the Church and its children, and the gift of faith for all nations.

The Mass for Pentecost was formerly celebrated during the night and has since been anticipated.  It seems that the Vigil was modeled on that of Easter.  As on Holy Saturday, a vigil was kept during the night of Pentecost Sunday to prepare for the Sacrament of Baptism.  The Feast of Whitsun - the term Whitsunday is another name for Pentecost alluding to the white vestments of the neophytes - is as ancient as that of Easter.  The Saturday following the Octave of Pentecost officially begins the Season After Pentecost.

While the Novus Ordo calendar unfortunately only has 2 octaves, traditional Catholics will be familiar with the idea of multiple overlaping Octaves.  The practice of celebrating an Octave, while not only traced to the time spent by the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary awaiting the Paraclete, also has its origins in the Old Testament eight-day celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36) and the Dedication of the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:9). Very truly, Christ did not come to abolish the Old Law but to fulfill it.

By the 8th century, Rome had developed liturgical octaves not only for Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas, but also for the Epiphany and the feast of the dedication of a church.

After 1568, when Pope Pius V reduced the number of octaves (since by then they had grown considerably), the number of Octaves was still plentiful.  Octaves were classified into several types. Easter and Pentecost had "specially privileged" octaves, during which no other feast whatsoever could be celebrated. Christmas, Epiphany, and Corpus Christi had "privileged" octaves, during which certain highly ranked feasts might be celebrated. The octaves of other feasts allowed even more feasts to be celebrated.

This is one of the most important celebrations in the Church's liturgical year. I've prepared for this day through the Original Novena. The 1st Class Feast of Pentecost (i.e. WhitSunday) is one of the principal feasts in the life of the Church.  After tomorrow's Feast (and the subsequent Octave), we will conclude Pascaltide and begin the Season after Pentecost.

Today's preparation should not be underestimatedCatholics should fast and partially abstain from meat today (as per 1962 rubrics) in order to better conform themselves to celebrate this High Holy Day of Pentecost.

Collect (Vigil of Pentecost 1962 Missal):
Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that the splendor of Thy brightness may shine forth upon us, and the light of Thy light may, by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, confirm the hearts of those who have been born again by Thy grace.  Through our the unity of the same Holy Ghost
Image Source: The Pentecost by (after) Domenico Piola


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