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Customs of the Post Pentecost Season

Customs of the Post Pentecost Season

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Published by: kswasson44 on Aug 26, 2009
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Customs of the Post Pentecost Season1. Trinity Sunday
Though the mystery of the Holy Trinity is the greatest dogma of the Christian faith and the Feastof the Holy Trinity one of the beloved annual feasts of Christianity, there are not many customsor rituals quintessentially associated with this day. It has always been the custom, however, tokeep this day with
greatreverence and solemnity
. Festivals after Mass featuring thunderous
preachers
and thunderous
bands
aroused their listeners to joyful heights, while
Holy TrinityConfraternities
(which were once very influential) would sponsor special events and devotionson this their name day.Superstition also ascribed great powers to the
weather
on Holy Trinity Sunday,regardless of what it was: "Trinity rain" was considered as healthy as "Trinitysunshine."
2. Feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24)
John the Baptist has the honor of being the only other person besides the Blessed Virgin and our Lord whose
birthday
the Church celebrates with a special feast. No doubt this has something todo with the unique role that John plays in the economy of salvation. As the "Precursor of theLord" and the greatest of the prophets (Lk. 7.28), John was given the commission of preparingthe way for the Son of God. In the
Confiteor 
he is ranked higher than Saints Peter and Paul, andis subordinate only to the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael the Archangel. (Tradition holds thatlike the prophet Jeremiah, John was consecrated in the womb to be free from all mortal sin.) Butthere is also something special about his birthdayitself: John's conception in the womb of hisaged mother Elizabeth was miraculous, as was the Angel Gabriel's prophecy about his missionand name (Lk. 1.5-26, 41-80). Even the birthday's location in the year is profoundly significant: because of the summer solstice, the days begin to grow shorter and shorter after his birthday. Thedays after Christ's birthday, on the other hand, begin to lengthen. Hence John's statement aboutJesus, "He must increase and I must decrease" (Jn. 3.30), is echoed in the cycleof the cosmos. No wonder that in speaking of John, the Archangel Gabriel declares, "many shall rejoice in his birthday" (Lk. 1.14).
 St. John Bonfires
Tying into this theme of increasing and decreasing light is the
St. John
(sin-jen)
bonfire
traditionally lit on the night before the Feast. The mood surrounding thissolemn vigil is merry, since the day was regarded as a sort of summer Christmas. The Romanritual even includes a special
benedictio rogi
, or blessing of the bonfire, for the birthday of theBaptist:
 Lord God, Father almighty, unfailing Light who is the Source of all light: sanctify thisnew fire, and grant that after the darkness of this life we may be able to come with pureminds to Thee who art Light unfailing. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
 Domine Deus, Pater omnipotens, lumen indeficiens, qui es conditor omnium luminum:novum hunc ignem sanctifica, et praesta: ut ad te, qui es lumen indeficiens, purismentibus post hujus saeculi caliginem pervenire valeamus. Per Christum Dominumnostrum. Amen.
The bonfire, incidentally, is an excellent symbol for John, the untamed prophet who lived outsidethe city both literally and figuratively. It also makes an interesting contrast with the Paschalcandal. On Easter vigil, a similarly "wild" fire representing Christ is made outside and is used tolight the Paschal candle, which is then carried into the church. Significantly, in the
 Exultet 
thedeacon praises this candle as the product of a beehive, symbol of a virtuous and harmonious city.The idea seems to be that Christ is also an outsider, though he succeeds through his death andresurrection in bringing the light of truth into the very citadel of darkness. On the other hand,John, who never lived to seeChrist's triumph, can only bear witness to the light from the outside.
 A Great Leap in the Study of Music
We should also mention the breviary hymn for the Feast of St. Johnthe Baptist:
Ut queant laxis
. Tradition ascribes the hymn to Paul theDeacon, who purportedly wrote it before having to sing the difficult
 Exultet 
on Holy Saturday night. (Paul was suffering from a hoarse throat and, remembering howZechariah, the father of St. John, was cured from a case of muteness, thought it best to direct his prayers to the Baptist). What makes
Ut queant laxis
most famous, however, is that it is the sourceof our musical scale,
do, re, mi
. An attentive medieval monk noticed that the melody of the hymnascended precisely one note of the diatonic scale of C at each verse. Taking the first stanza, hedecided to name the notes after the first syllable of each verse:
UT
queant laxis
RE
sonare fibris
MI
ra gestorum
FA
muli tuorum,
SOL
ve polluti
LA
 bii reatum, Sanc
T
e
I
oannes.With the exception of 
Ut 
, which was later changed to
 Do
for ease of pronunciation, thesesyllables became the first six notes of our scale:
 Do
,
 Re
,
Mi
,
 Fa
,
Sol 
,
 La
. And this stanza alsoended up providing the name of the seventh note,
Ti
, which was later taken from the last syllableof the penultimate word and the first syllable of the last word of the stanza: "T" from
Sancte
and"I" from
 Ioannes
. The names for the notes to our basic Western musical octave therefore comefrom the hymn for today's feast.
3. Feast of Corpus Christi 
At the age of sixteen, a humble Belgian girl began having visions of a brightmoon marred by a small black spot. After years of seeing this perplexing portent, Jesus Christ appeared to her and revealed its meaning. The moon, Hetold her, represented the Church calendar, and the black spot the absence of afeast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. That nun was
St. Juliana
, Prioressof Mont Cornillon (1258), and the Feast she was commissioned by our Lord to promote was thefeast of 
Corpus Christi
.
 
Even beforeits universal promotion in 1314, Corpus Christi was
one of the grandest feasts of the Roman rite
. At the request of Pope Urban IV (d. 1264), the Mass propers and divine officefor this day were composed or arranged by
St. Thomas Aquinas
, whose teaching onthe RealPresence was so profound that the figure of Jesus Christ once descended from a crucifix anddeclared to him, "Thou hast written well of me, Thomas." The mastery with which Aquinasweaves together the scriptural, poetic, and theological texts of this feast amply corroborates thisconclusion.
 Processions & Pageants
Though Maundy Thursday is in a sense the primaryfeast of the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi allowsthe faithful to specially reflect on and give thanks for the Eucharist. Hence there arose a number of observances centered on Eucharistic adoration. Themost conspicuous of these is the splendid
CorpusChristi procession
. This public profession of theCatholic teaching on the Real Presence of Christ inthe Blessed Sacrament was solemnly encouraged bythe Council of Trent: there is even an indulgenceattached to all who participate in it. By the 1600s, the procession on Corpus Christi had becomethe most famous of the year. Long parades of faithful walk with the Blessed Sacrament (carriedin a monstrance by the priest) while church bells peal and bands play. In Latin countries, thestreets are blanketed with boughs and flowers, often elaborately woven together. Sometimes avariation on the custom of Stations is employed where the procession stops at several points for  benediction and adoration.By its very nature, the Corpus Christi procession encouraged
pageantry
. In addition to thegrandeur mentioned above, vivid
symbolic reenactments
of various teachings became a part of the procession. During the height of baroque piety, people impersonating demons would runalong aside the Blessed Sacrament, pantomining their fright and fear of the Real Presence.Others would dress as ancients gods and goddesses to symbolize how even the pagan past mustrise and pay homage to Christ. Still others would carry all sorts of representations of sacredhistory: Moses and the serpent, David and Goliath, the Easter lamb, the Blessed Virgin, etc. Butthe mostpopular of all these was the custom of having
children dress as angels
. Appearing inwhite (with or without wings), these boys and girls would precede the Blessed Sacrament assymbols of the nine choirs of heavenly hosts who ever adore the
 Panis Angelicum
, the Bread of Angels.At Holy Trinity German Church, the Corpus Christi procession was the most important of theyear. One witness to the procession of 1851 wrote:
The girls, clad in white, with lilies in their hands, groups of symbolic figures, withbanner and flags, the boys with staffs and rods, all the associations of the parishwith their signs and symbols and burning candles, finally the flower-strewing little children preceding the clergy --all these made a fantastic impression
(from
 Holy Trinity German Catholic Church of Boston: A Way of Life
, Robert J.Sauer (Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing, 1994), p. 49)

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