Alleluia! The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world. Come, let us adore him, alleluia.
Year: A(II). Liturgical Colour: Red.
The fiftieth day
The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” Like Easter, it is tied to a Jewish feast. 49 days (7 weeks, or “a week of weeks”) after the second day of Passover, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot).
Passover celebrates the freeing of the Jews from slavery; Shavuot celebrates their becoming God’s holy people by the gift and acceptance of the Law; and the counting of the days to Shavuot symbolises their yearning for the Law.
From a strictly practical point of view, Shavuot was a very good time for the Holy Spirit to come down and inspire the Apostles to preach to all nations because, being a pilgrimage festival, it was an occasion when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from many countries.
Symbolically, the parallel with the Jews is exact. We are freed from the slavery of death and sin by Easter; with the Apostles, we spend some time as toddlers under the tutelage of the risen Jesus; and when he has left, the Spirit comes down on us and we become a Church.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Irenaeus (130 - 202)
Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, in Asia Minor (now Izmir in Turkey) and emigrated to Lyons, in France, where he eventually became the bishop. It is not known for certain whether he was martyred or died a natural death.
Whenever we take up a Bible we touch Irenaeus’s work, for he played a decisive role in fixing the canon of the New Testament. It is easy for people nowadays to think of Scripture – and the New Testament in particular – as the basis of the Church, but harder to remember that it was the Church itself that had to agree, early on, about what was scriptural and what was not. Before Irenaeus, there was vague general agreement on what scripture was, but a system based on this kind of common consent was too weak. As dissensions and heresies arose, reference to scripture was the obvious way of trying to settle what the truth really was, but in the absence of an agreed canon of scripture it was all too easy to attack one’s opponent’s arguments by saying that his texts were corrupt or unscriptural; and easy, too, to do a little fine-tuning of texts on one’s own behalf. Irenaeus not only established a canon which is almost identical to our present one, but also gave reasoned arguments for each inclusion and exclusion.
Irenaeus also wrote a major work, Against the Heresies, which in the course of denying what the Christian faith is not, effectively asserts what it is. The majority of this work was lost for many centuries and only rediscovered in a monastery on Mount Athos in 1842. Many passages from it are used in the Office of Readings.
Liturgical colour: red
Red is the colour of fire and of blood. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate the fire of the Holy Spirit (for instance, at Pentecost) and the blood of the martyrs.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 Corinthians 12:13 ©|
In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Titus 3:5,7 ©|
God saved us by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.
|Afternoon reading (None)||2 Corinthians 1:21-22 ©|
Remember it is God himself who assures us all, and you, of our standing in Christ, and has anointed us, marking us with his seal and giving us the pledge, the Spirit, that we carry in our hearts.