Octave of Pentecost

During Mass at St. Benedict’s Monastery yesterday afternoon, the priest mentioned his sadness that we no longer celebrate the Octave of Pentecost. Although many of the older nuns in the congregation shook their heads appreciatively at his comment, I was puzzled, never having heard of (or at least not remembering it if I did) the Octave of Pentecost.

A little digging last night revealed that in the traditional Roman liturgical calendar, Pentecost was followed by eight days of celebration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The practice of celebrating the Octave ended in 1969. (So I guess I should have remembered it since I must have celebrated it during my Catholic youth.) I didn’t delve deeply enough to discover why it did, although I found a number of sites bemoaning the “reforms” that removed the octave from the liturgical calendar.

Whether or not we “officially” recognize an Octave of Pentecost, we have lost something important if we don’t spend time reflecting on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been given to us. They were not, after all, gifts given to us to stick in a closet with the fondue set someone gave us 15 years ago that we never use. Rather, they are ours to help us fulfill our role as disciples of Christ.

We don’t need the Octave placed on the liturgical calendar to spend time reflecting on what the coming of the Spirit means to us. So, as one might of done during the “official” Octave, take some time over these days to reflect on the gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord.


2 thoughts on “Octave of Pentecost

  1. Hi Susan….

    I’m a 1998 graduate of St. Thomas and get updates to your blog via Campus Ministry facebook.

    You know, on one level you’re absolutely right, we should be able to reflect upon Pentecost and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    Holy Mother Church, in her infinite wisdom gave us the Octave of Pentecost as a clear reminder of the importance of that recollection of which you speak. The reason that sites and people bemoan the loss of the Octave, is precisely because if we are not given reminders or markers, we tend, as modern people, to disregard that which is not reminded to us….

    I like to think of Octaves in the Church as reminders in email….There are many people who could not function properly without them….the same holds true for Catholics. We had reminders throughout the year to remind us of important aspects of our Catholic life…Octaves, Rogation days, Ember days, feasts, commemorations, memorials, etc…

    When those things were taken away, or disregarded, such as the Octave of Pentecost not being renewed in the new liturgical calendar, then it left the consciousness of the average Catholic. When that happened, they stopped recollecting on a very important part of our Catholic life, as you rightly point out.

    From my point of view, I would like to see you and all other Catholics start calling for a return to Octaves, and Rogation days (being in an Ag state, it would seem to be important) and a call for priests to celebrate optional memorials, precisely so we can recollect on those things which leave our consciousness, as Catholics…

    Thanks for a thought provoking blog entry….

  2. Continuing on the theme of The Octave of Pentecost, I came across a great article that I thought you and your readers might find apropos for the conversation at hand.

    I would point you toward the article by Gregory DiPippo.

    This is the link: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2011/06/octave-of-pentecost-proposal-for-mutual.html

    I think that it is definitely a thought provoking piece and a great way to continue the conversation about the importance of Octaves, from a hermeneutic of continuity and a mutual enrichment point of view.

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