The ‘After Pentecost’ Season
REASONS RELATING TO THE
We have finished the Feasts, the Fasts and the Seasons, which each year are held to recall the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord with the coming of the Holy Ghost. The history of the God-man, the wonderful work of the redemption, the glories of the risen Saviour, and the coming down of the Holy Spirit, each year are brought before the world by the rites, the services and the ceremonies of the Church. Take away the Church and her works, and, in one generation, God and all his wonders, performed for man’s redemption, would be forgotten. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, the Apostles appointed these chief feasts, festivals and seasons, to be celebrated to keep forever before the world the coming of our Lord and the work of our salvation.
Six months of the year is thus dedicated to the memory of our Saviour, while the six following months are dedicated to the work of God in the souls of men. Thus half the year is spent in celebrating the work of the Son of God when he lived upon this earth, while the other six months are set apart in which to celebrate the working of this redemption in our souls. Nature itself is in harmony with all this, for in the winter season all is cold and dismal; light has left the earth, a figure of the state of the pagan nations when the Lord came to redeem the race. The summer season is the most beautiful part of the year. The earth is green, while flowers cover the fields, all springing forth in bountiful plentiness, a type of the grace of redemption springing up into everlasting life in the souls of men. In the spring time the seed is sown; in the spring time our redemption was sown by the death of our Lord; in the summer the seeds spring “forth and grow strong to bear the harvest of the autumn time; in the summer time the grace of God sown in the redemption, springs forth in souls of Adam’s children, growing large and strong in godliness to bear the fruit of everlasting life, in the autumn time of eternity, when God will gather into his granary of heaven the souls of the saints, the fruits of redemption.
Thus after the Easter Season we enter a new period of time, which differs from the others. From the beginning of Advent to the coming of the Holy Ghost, the mysteries of our salvation have been unfolded. That time was like a long series of feasts, of fasts, of ceremonies and of services, during which, as in a sublime drama, the work of the redemption of our race was renewed. This latter part of the year is not without its mysteries and its solemnities; some joyful and glorious, some sweet and touching, all for the good and the growth of Christian holiness in the souls of men, to end at Advent, when again we will begin the same solemnities of another year. The After-Pentecost Season is longer or shorter than six months, according to the time when Easter falls. This season has come down to us from the times of the Apostles. It is sometimes made up of twenty-eight weeks and sometimes of only twenty-three. The Sundays of this season are called the Sundays after Pentecost. Such are their names in the most ancient books in the olden Missals and in the quaint Sacramentaries of the ages past. Such is their name in the writings of Alcuin in the 8th century. In some of the ancient books these Sundays are divided into five series. The first is called the Sundays after Pentecost, the second the Sundays after the Feast of the Apostles, the third the Sundays after St. Lawrence, the fourth the Sundays of the Seventh Month, while the fifth was called the Sundays after St. Michael.” These were their names in some of the oldest Missals and books used in the services of the Church from the middle ages till the 16th century. When Pope Pius V., published his Missal, following the customs of the Apostolic ages, and wiping out the Missals which for more than two hundred years before his time had been changing, the Sundays of this Season appear again with their old title, The Sundays after Pentecost.
That we may well understand the meaning of the time of the year in which we are now, we must remember the other Seasons through which we have passed. Each ceremony, each service was to make its influence felt in our souls. At Christmas, Christ was born in us; in Septuagesima Time he did penance for us; during Lent he fasted to show us an example; at Passion Time he died for us; he rose on Easter that we might rise from the death of sin; he went up into heaven to open to us its Spates of everlasting glory, and from the right hand of His Father he sent down the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, to live with us and to abide in our hearts. Thus all was done that Christ might be formed in us. The Holy Ghost then came into the world to live in the hearts and in the souls of men, to help them in their work of saving their souls. That same Spirit of God, who came on our Lord with his sevenfold gifts, comes on each one of us and leads us on to our salvation. That time of the work of the third Person of the Holy Trinity in the world is called the After-Pentecost Season.
Two temples the Holy Ghost inhabits, the Church and the Christian soul. For this was he sent into the world. “I will send you another Paraclete, who will teach you all things and who will abide with you forever.” By his strength and by his power, the holy Church, the Bride of the Lamb, goes on in her conquering career, gaining souls to God. Holiness and truth are in her. Unchanging in her teaching received from her founder, Christ; changing in discipline to accommodate herself to the different customs of peoples; kept from error by the Spirit of truth; obedient to her clergy, her commanders, like an army in battle array, she advances in this holy time after Pentecost to the conquest of souls, to battle with the old enemy of our race. Nothing on earth can be compared to her. She is above kings and governments. She is independent of earth. She is the mountain on the top of mountains. Persecuted for a time, yet she is always triumphant. Guided by the Holy Ghost she converts, sanctifies and saves the souls of men. This she always will do till the consummation of this world. This work of the Spouse of Christ is typified by the After Pentecost Season. She gathers then the fruit of holy souls. She baptises and guards the child from the moment of its birth. She teaches it her holy doctrine. She guides its stumbling footsteps during life, and at the end she sends the holy souls to heaven to worship God forever. Thus the work of the church is typified by this holy time, the last of the Seasons of the Christian year.
The Christian is a temple of the Holy Ghost; “Know ye not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost?” No temple ever built by hand of man can equal the beauties of our bodies. In the beginning, God made man to live within him as in a temple, till sin in the garden drove the Lord away. Man becomes again the temple of his God at his baptism. Then we should be like the Church. We should go on from virtue to virtue, gaining during this Season gaining in grace and good works before God and man. But there is this difference between the Church and man in being the temples of the Holy Ghost, that while the Church represents in summer time the ages which will come to pass from the days of our Lord to the end of the world, the soul can at the end of this Season begin again the same series of feasts and fasts, of ceremonies and services, of the times and of the Seasons of the year, and thus increase in holiness and in godliness, till at death God calls him to the everlasting glories of heaven.
From the times of the Apostles, the parts of the Holy Bible read in the Offices and in the Services, have been arranged for this time, so as to tell of the works of the Holy Spirit both in the Church and in the soul. The history of the children of Israel is but a figure of the story of the Church and of the Christian soul, and the trials and the battles of the Jews were types of the battles of the Church and of the Christians. From the first Sunday after Pentecost to the beginning of August, we read the four Books of Kings. They are a prophecy of the Church. The kingdom of Israel began by Saul. The Church of God began by the Jews. Saul was rejected by God. The Jews were discarded because they rejected the Saviour; David was chosen in his place. The nations were taken in the place of the Jews. David first lived in continual combats and warfare; the Church was first persecuted. At length peace came to Israel. Peace at length was given to the Church by Constantine. Solomon built his magnificent temple; the Church reared her wonderful Cathedrals. For a long time the Jews lived in peace; for many centuries the Church had peace during the middle ages. Of the twelve tribes ten fell away and were lost by Samaria in the north, being separated from the centre of worship at Jerusalem.
In the 16th century the nations of the north of Europe fell away at the reformation and are being lost, for now we see that little by little the revelation of God preserved by tradition is being destroyed among them. . .
From the death of Solomon began the wars of the Jews with the surrounding nations. Some were good and saintly kings, like Asa, Ezechias and Josias; some were bad infidel kings, like Achab, Manasser and Achaz. The people of God heard among the hills of Judea the voice of the Lord by the mouth of his prophets, calling them from the worship of idols, calling them to the worship of the Lord. The people of the Church hear the voice of God by the mouth of the clergy, calling them from the vices of this world, which are like so many idols. The Jews heard from the inspired men of old the ruin which would fall on them if they did not return to the religion of their fathers, as now we tell of the ruin of nations and of empires if they serve not the Church. Many times were the Jews punished for their sins. Many times have the Christians fallen because they served not their Lord. Thus the Jews were a figure of the Church, and Jerusalem a type of this world. They listened not to the prophets of the Lord. The Jews were taken captive; Jerusalem was destroyed, figures of the destruction of all things at the last coming of our Lord, at the destruction of the world. In August we read the Sapiential Books Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus because they tell us of the wisdom of God. That wisdom is the Son of God, the “Wisdom of the Father” revealed to man by the guiding influence of the Holy Ghost through the Prophets and through the Church, and who ever lives in her, and speaks to mankind by the voice of our chief pastor, the Pope.
Man can do nothing of himself for his salvation unless helped by God. Following this grace of God he soon becomes a saint. To give a good example, we read in the month of September the lives of the Saints of the Old Testament, of Tobias, Judith, Esther and Job, in whose souls we see the work of the grace of God. But as towards the end of the world, as foretold by the prophets, the Church will be driven to fight the great battles, which will be raised against her by the persecutions of Anti- Christ, in the month of October we read the history of the last wars of the Jews, and how they conquered their enemies, as given in the books of the Maccabees. As they conquered those who would destroy the nation of the Jews, thus the Church will not be destroyed, but according to the words of our Lord, she will last till the end of the world. “Behold, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the world. Thus the church having her founder, Christ, with her, will outlive the persecutions of the last ages of the world. To recall the prophecies of the last days, when the number of the saints will be filled, in the month of November, at the end of the ecclesiastical year, we read the prophets of old — Ezechiel, terrible in his words; Daniel, whose inspired eye reviews the empires, the nations and the peoples of the earth, and the little prophets, who foretell the vengeance of God, the calamities of the latter times, the end of all, the death of the world, and the wonders which will come to pass when the Son of God, in power and in majesty, will come to judge the living and the dead.
Such is the meaning of the After-Pentecost Season, the summer of the Church, when Christian souls flourish in grace, like trees planted by the limpid waters of life flowing from the exhaustless fountains of the crucified Saviour. During this time the vestments are green, to express the hope we have of salvation through our God, when guided by the Holy Ghost at the end of our exile in the heavenly and the everlasting Jerusalem which is above.
The first Sunday after Pentecost is called Trinity Sunday, because it is dedicated to the glory of the most Holy Trinity. From the times of the Apostles, the Christians had a feast set apart in which they recalled the glory and the worship of the Triune God. In some of the churches, in those times, they celebrated that feast the first Sunday before Advent, but most of the churches, following the traditions of the Apostles, held the festival on the first Sunday after Pentecost. In the first ages, besides these two Sundays mentioned, they devoted each Sunday in the year to the Holy Trinity, till at length the first Sunday after Pentecost was above all others set apart to the special worship of the Trinity, throughout the whole Church.
All worship goes to the Holy Trinity, for when we adore any one of the most Holy Persons, we adore all Three, for they are one God. At the end of all the prayers, in administering the sacraments, at the end of the Psalms, all end with the words, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” These words were formed by the Apostles. When Arius and his followers in the 14th century denied that Christ was God, equal to the Father in all things, the Nicene Council condemned him, and to the words, ” Glory be to the Father,” etc., added, “As it was in the beginning, and is now, and will be forever, Amen,” to show that Christ was always, is now, and ever will be God. The Saints of these olden times had a special devotion to the Holy Trinity. The remains of that is seen in the services of the Church.
Sunday was dedicated to the resurrection of our Lord, but in another manner it was set apart for the glory of the Trinity. For that reason, on Sunday, the office of Matins is always made up of three watches of three lessons each, to honor the three Persons of the blessed Trinity. The Athanasian Creed, which treats of the Three Persons of God, is said at Prime, and the Preface of Trinity Sunday is sung at the Masses of the Sundays of the year when there is no other feast.
In the 8th century we read that the pious Alcuinus, encouraged by St. Boniface, the Apostle of Germany, composed the votive Mass we offer in honor of the Holy Trinity. Later, in 1022, the German bishops pronounced in favor of the devotion to that Mass. Before that time the Belgians had a feast in honor of the Holy Trinity, for the bishop of Liege celebrated a solemn feast in his cathedral in 920, and composed a complete Office for the day. It spread rapidly, especially among the religious Orders during the first years of the 11th century, being fostered by Bernon, Abbot of Reichnaw. We see by one of the old liturgical works of Cluny, that it was celebrated there for a long time before 1091. In 1061, Alexander II., sat upon the Chair of Peter, and sanctioned the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Trinity, which at that time had been spread into every part of the world.
In the beginning of the 12th century, the prince of liturgical writers, Rupert the Abbot, wrote: “After having celebrated the solemnity of the coming of the Holy Ghost, we sing the glory of the Holy Trinity, in the Office of the following Sunday, and that is very proper, because after the descent of that divine Spirit, began the preaching of our belief, and in baptism is the faith and the confession of the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost In 1162, the glorious martyr, St. Thomas of Canterbury, celebrated the feast of the Holy Trinity in the cathedral on the first Sunday after Pentecost, in memory of his consecration to the episcopacy, which took place on that day. In 1260, the council of Aries, presided over by archbishop Florentin, solemnly sanctioned the feast in France, and added to it an Octave. In the beginning of the 13th century, Durand leads us to conclude that a great part of the Christian world kept the feast. Some of the churches of France celebrate twice in the year the feast of the Holy Trinity, on the first Sunday after Pentecost and on the last Sunday before Advent, the remains of very ancient customs.
When Atilla, the “scourge of God,” conquered a large part of the Roman empire, he destroyed numberless liturgical works of our holy religion. St. Boniface, archbishop of Metz, asked Alcuinus, the teacher of Charles and of his son Louis, kings of France, to rewrite again these books which had been destroyed. They were approved by the Council of Metz, and the feast of the Holy Trinity was commanded to be celebrated the first Sunday after Pentecost.
Alcuinus wrote a special Mass for Trinity Sunday, every day we give glory to the Trinity. The Arians, who denied the Divinity of Christ and the Trinity, having spread, SS. Hilary and Ambrose, with Eusebius, wrote and preached against them, and Gregory the Great commanded the Mass to be sung and churches to be built in honor of the Most Holy Trinity because, although each Sunday was consecrated to the Trinity in the early days of Christianity, when but few feasts of the saints were celebrated, it was foreseen that as the saints grew in numbers their memory would be celebrated during many Sundays of the year, and that unless a special feast in memory of the Holy Trinity was celebrated, soon the Trinity would not be honored as in former times. For that reason the feast was commanded to be held on the first Sunday after Pentecost. During this season of the year, except those of the *Quater Tenses of September, the Masses have no titles like the great feasts of the other seasons, for they are not of such importance, or they do not go back to the Apostolic times.