Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday of the Holy Trinity

Yesterday, one week after Pentecost sunday, Orthodox Christians who follow the Western Rite began the longest season on the Church's calendar: Trinitytide. The feast itself is celebrated one day, with no octave, recalling the unity of the Godhead, but it also initiates, for those congregations influenced by English ussage, a whole season that lasts until Advent.

From the earliest centuries of the Church, the doctrine of the Trinty has figured prominently in the life of the Church, as the foundation of Christian belief and practice; thus, every liturgy is a liturgy to the Holy Trinity, just like every Sunday liturgy is a celebration fo the Paschal mystery of Our Lord's resurrection. But just as the Church dedicates one day of the year to highlight the paschal mystery, so also, in the western half of Christendom, one day is set aside in order to contemplate the central, incomprehensible mystery of God's triune being. This celebration rounds out all the feasts relating to our Lord's earthly life-His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and then, the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

When the formal celebration of Trinity Sunday began is not clear, but it became especially popular in England, primarily because the day of Thomas Beckett's martyrdom occured on that Sunday, in 1162. By then, it had already become a fixture in the Sarum Missal, spreading throughout Northern Europe, down through Normandy, and into Northern Italy, until Pope John XXII decreed its observance throughout the Western Church in 1334.

All Sundays are reckoned from Trinity Sunday in the Sarum Missal, as well as in the Book of Common Prayer. While the Roman practice was to reckon all Sundays after Trinity as Sundays after Pentecost (until the liturgical "reforms" of 1969), all Sundays are reckoned after Trinty in the Carthusian, Dominican and Carmelite breviaries.

The usual color for this season is green, which brings to mind our Lord's words in Revelation 21:5: "Behold, I make all things new..." We entered into the Paschal mystery, now brings us into the life of the Holy Trinity, the eternal peace of God, who, in His Triune goodness, gives life to His whole creation. The lectionary from this time forward will contain the scriptural lessons from the whole year, thus bringing to mind that all things are brought together in God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Benedicta sit Sancta Trinitas!

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