Saturday, May 18, 2013
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 underestimated.  Catholics should fast and partially abstain from meat today (as per the pre-Vatican II customs) 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

3 comment(s):

del_button May 18, 2013 at 12:23 PM
Matthew Rose said...

What is your source for fasting today? It is my understanding that the Western Church has never fasted during Paschaltide, and today is still Paschaltide.

del_button May 18, 2013 at 7:54 PM
Matthew said...

Hello Matthew,

The 1917 Code states thus:

Canon 1252. § 1. The law of abstinence alone is to be observed on all Fridays.

§ 2. The law of abstinence and fast together is to be observed on Ash Wednesday, the Fridays and Saturdays of Lent, the Ember days [all day], and on the Vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints, and the Nativity.

§ 3. The law of fast alone is to be observed on the other days of Lent.

§ 4. On Sundays and days of obligation the law ceases except on a feast of obligation during Lent; and the vigils are not anticipated; likewise the law ceases on Holy Saturday at noon.

del_button May 20, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Matthew Rose said...

Matthew, thank you. Looks as though I was mistaken!

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