Wednesday, July 8, 2020


"Science" is a word. Some self-purported secularists and rationalists seem to believe "science" is a spell, an incantation which calls wisdom and vanquishes superstition.

I remember some years ago Richard Dawkins and Roger Scruton debated the merits of religion as a social feature on BBC. Agnostic Scruton said Christianity merited its place through its patronage and inspiration for the great arts, namely the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Dawkins, in a trill of intellectual and rhetorical mediocrity, predictably made the platitude that it could have been even more beautiful if a scientist had built it. Applause roared from the mental midgets in the rafters.

Blame the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment philosophers championed a return to the Greek understanding of reason, at least as they read it, and believed science to be the purest expression of reason, despite the fact that hardly any of them were scientists or mathematicians. The romance with science began with Newton. "God said, 'Let Newton be!' and there was light," saith Alexander Pope. Voltaire and his mistress would translate Newton from Latin or English into French before committing the carnal act, the implication being the the gravitational constant drew Émilie to Francois.

At its heart science is not "truth" in a conventional sense. Pure science, the sort that can be tethered to mathematics—like physics and astronomy—is a systemic description of physical phenomena. The scientist is a person of unique talents, but also of a narrow temperament that does not equate well outside his sphere. Newton shook the Baroque world with his seemingly ex nihilo theories about gravity, mechanics of movement, and derivative calculus. Those things may be true, but are they truth?

The Enlightenment writers never said the definition of the derivative is the Truth in such a way as could replace Christ, God, the Church, and conventional morality, but they and their descendants certainly believed that such a mechanical understanding, a discursive sort of deduction could be applied to social and philosophical questions, too.

In following this thought, philosophers have consigned themselves to total irrelevance in the world. The last brilliant philosopher may have been Wittgenstein. The last meaningful one was Nietzsche. Neither one quite fit the Enlightenment mold, although both could be said to have essayed to find their own place and Mankind's place in a world in which rationalism has killed God. The philosophers' bromide, "science", made scientists into social commentators and pop celebrities, men like Hawking, Dawkins, and Tyson (the value of the contributions to science of these three are very different). None of them has added anything of value to government, to morality, to inspiration for quotidian life, nor have they pointed the direction for a shining future for Mankind, despite some cheer-leading. Common people who today say they "believe in science" and who a century ago said they "believe in reason" and five centuries ago said they "believe in the Scriptures" have no more idea what Darwin really wrote about evolution than they know about Aristotle or the Book of Job. All of this would be fine if only we were not told that science is a model of behavior and thinking fit for all problems and questions.

History, as Americans are learning today, is an important subject. It is also a very human and hence personal subject. Science has some place to contribute to History as far as testing the age of the documents or digitally recreating events to test purported narratives, but generally reason and understanding are totally different modes of thinking. The former relies on an objective hypothesis, tests it against available facts, and then sets a precedent for the future that others must accept. Understanding is far less linear, far calmer, and far more nuanced. Information can be destroyed or re-discovered. History is often based on a received understanding that forms modern beliefs and attitudes and which hence, even if scarcely documented, must be accepted as the de facto narrative. It is also a subject which is very personal, that is, involving persons and their reasons and hence involving right and wrong. Were the Senators right to kill Julius Caesar? Or for Catholics, what was the understanding of Holy Orders in the first few centuries of the Church? And because progressives love carnal questions, is homosexuality, as we know it today, something that can be found in every society and generation in the past? Science does not purport to have an answer and "science" certainly wants to have an answer.

Enlightenment thinkers believed reason, and hence science, could answer all Mankind's questions and reform societies in a peaceful, egalitarian manner. They similarly believed education should be more broadly available because it diffused this mechanism for thought. What no Enlightenment writer thought was that reason and the scientific approach was fit for every man. Voltaire wondered what would happen if people ceased to believe in God. Religion became seen as a behavioral educator for the masses while reason was for the educable elite. This understanding of religion and of the non-rational is still espoused by the likes of Jordan Peterson, who still has his merits.

Instead, religion is gone and "science", or scientism, is a widely believed and un-practiced dogma of the new faith of our day, Materialism. It is like a ejaculatory prayer to be uttered against a demon Christian. How hopeless these people would be if they took the time to believe in it.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Fancy Catholics

Are you "fancy"?

"[Rad Trad], you are verrrrry fancy," I was told by a coworker, chewing and spitting out the words in his deep drawl.

An old classmate heard that I began attending the Divine Liturgy some years ago and snarled, "Did those babushka ladies and their fancy liturgy win you over from reality?"

It is with a sense of bedlam and near-resentment that people condescend that which they do not understand as "fancy." Anyone who has attended Vespers at my parish with the Rad Trad himself cantoring knows how very un-fancy the Byzantine rite can be. I was once forbidden to sing the Regina coeli before Mass at the Oxford Oratory, but the Greek rite singing loud is preferable to singing well, making me an ideal cantor for lesser services.

The concept of an ordered taxis is offensive to some Catholics born a generation ago, reared during the post-Vatican II "liturgy wars" between parishes that did not rip out their pipe organs and the more modern parishes with priests refusing to don the chasuble and singers strumming guitars. The general calming down since those days and the revival of the real Roman Mass exposed a new generation to an altogether different type of worship, where order regulates each step and each office dictates ontologically who does what. The choir sings the Introit in the Roman Mass, the subdeacon sings the Epistle in the Roman Mass, the cantor chants the stichera at Greek Vespers. There is no question of which opening song, who lectors, and which cantor will wave her arms during the responsorial psalm. Indeed, the music isn't much harder than secular musical styles, they just require a few months of patience to learn.

So how did liturgically minded Catholics, especially the Traditionalists, get so "fancy"?

It was in part our own making. In order to retain the old Mass during the years betwixt Missale Romanum and Summorum Pontificum, mainstream Catholics had to concoct some reason, other than those expounded by the likes of Michael Davies and Mgr. Lefebvre, to continue the old Mass. In places like France the Liturgical Movement baked the liturgy into the piety of those who wished to continue it. In the Anglosphere this was untrue and required a different approach.

The solution was to champion the old Mass for its cultural value, its great aesthetic beauty, and its unique features like periods of quiet. This is certainly how many American Catholics had to approach their bishops following the 1984 and 1988 "liberalizations" under John Paul II and it was similar to the approach of the the writers of the "Agatha Christie" indult:
"Today, as in times gone by, educated people are in the vanguard where recognition of the value of tradition in concerned, and are the first to raise the alarm when it is threatened. We are not at this moment considering the religious or spiritual experience of millions of individuals. The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts - not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians. In the materialistic and technocratic civilisation that is increasingly threatening the life of mind and spirit in its original creative expression - the word - it seems particularly inhuman to deprive man of word-forms in one of their most grandiose manifestations. The signatories of this appeal, which is entirely ecumenical and non-political, have been drawn from every branch of modern culture in Europe and elsewhere."
Thus, we did not wish to be "fancy," but became fancy for a time nonetheless. Anyone who has ever attended spoken Mass at an FSSPX church or in a pre-Summorum indult Mass at 3pm in a ghetto knows how very un-adorned the old Mass and its attendees really are, unadorned with silly instruments and bored people wanting to take their turn in front.

We have all heard this canard before, but I hear it less and less with each passing year. That is some cause for optimism.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Marital Admonitions: Tradition or Liturgical Abuse?

The wedding went off without too many hitches, the Mass very a well sung Missa cunctipotens Genitor Deus, and Arcadelt's Ave Maria graced the offertory. As a silver lining, we did not have to endure a sermon! The Mass did have one tiny feature that I have only seen at nuptial ceremonies conducted by the FSSP, that of inserting "admonitions" into the liturgical texts of the Nuptial vows and votive Mass.

I have attended several pre-1970 wedding Masses and the three or four I have heard at FSSP parishes are the only ones which contain this particular practice. Indeed, it is somewhat hard to equivocate what this practice is because it varies a little every time I attend a wedding in such a setting. This past wedding, a solemn high Mass, the "admonition" was a speech or instruction read from a print-out prior to the vows laid out in the Rituale Romanum. It contained the familiar "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today....", the secular "If anyone knows any reason why these two should not be joined....", a some good words on the nature of marriage as a Sacrament of God and for His own ends. Then followed the straightforward exchange of vows, the blessing of the ring[s], and the solemnization by the priest dictated in the Rituale. As a preface to the actual rites of marriage and as a means of sprucing up the rather bare Roman rites of nuptial, one could do worse. On the other hand, one could do more.

During another wedding at the same parish, a low Mass celebrated by a different priest, the same opening "admonition" was read before the vows. Then prior to the blessing of the bride which follows the Pater noster yet another vernacular admonition was read. Then came the blessing for fecundity following the Placeat tibi, which was again preceded by several paragraphs of vernacular admonitions—textually forgotten to this writer. Yet another wedding attended months early had an even different pattern.

Consultation with a 1910 Missal, a Baronius hand Missal, a 1945 St. Joseph Missal, the Ecclesia Dei (RIP) hand booklet, and the Paul V and Pius XII editions of the Rituale Romanum reveals no mandate or precedent for this practice. The closest thing is a warning that contracting marriage prior to denouncing heresy does not invalidate the union. Interestingly, pastors were warned against marrying cohabitants, but were allowed to marry the homeless under certain conditions.

So are extensive "admonitions" a tradition, an elaboration of the Nuptial rites, or an outright abuse?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Should You Fall in Love?

Should you love your fiancée? Most people think you should these days, although what that entails is somehow less clear. Adducing the Angelic Doctor's obvious belief that love is "to will the good of another" falls like a cymbal on the ears of the faithless and even on some of the faithful.

Tomorrow I have the unique opportunity to attend a marriage that was neither arranged nor the result of a protracted period of dating and wooing. In short, it fits into neither the modern nor historical modes of contracting a bond to a significant other. The two parties have decided that their union is a matter of spiritual welfare, of necessity for both to live out their lives meaningfully. In some sense they have followed the millennial tendency to look for "relationships" rather than to "fall in love". But is this right?

It would be hard to fault millennial for refusing to repeat the sins of their parents and grandparents in the realm of marriage. Despite their general proclivity for supporting homosexual unions, they statistically are less promiscuous than the prior two generations and are less apt to divorce. As children of the Great Recession and ex-students burdened with crushing student loan debt, they marry later than the previous generations if they wed at all. While miles off the ideal, they have sought stability rather than the impulse of "falling in love," and for that they deserve some small degree of commendation.

But is it right to seek a "relationship" instead of "love"? A "relationship" today is a functional arrangement. Both parties have compatible values, they have similar or non-conflicting goals, they can lean on each other for emotive comfort. This is in contrast to those who just "fall in love."

"Falling in love" has its roots in the wealthier medieval city states, places with robust mercantile classes who needed neither the family alliances of the nobles nor the stable expectations of the feudal vassals. They could afford to marry because they wanted to marry. One might assume that the Montague and Capulet families of Romeo and Juliet were members of this class rather than the landed aristocracy.

Some centuries into the future post-War American children are compelled to marry at the youthful ages of their parents and yet they are disposed to listlessness owing to an historically unprecedented wealth and security. Teenage angst isn't real, it was invented in the 1950s along with Rock & Roll and songs about puppy love, "unconsummated lust" as Harold Bloom called it. The Beatles, Beach Boys, Elvis, the Isley Brothers, Four Seasons, Phil Spectre, and every other recording outfit beamed tunes to the same theme as And Then He Kissed Me: boy meets girl, girl likes boy, girl loves boy, boy marries girl. This generation discovered that unlike their parents' initial meetings in churches and familial settings, lusting after someone at prom was not a substantial basis for marriage.

Today's "relationship" outlook on dating is much more in accord with the arranged unions and familial ties of past times. It does not mean these people did not grow to love each other and did not become genuine partners in life. It does mean that marriage includes a vow to love another and does not codify existing attractions. In this sense marriage is much more difficult than we like to imagine. Unions in which the husband and wife are best friends, lovers, and parents are really rare and always have been. By contrast, the "blessed continence" and consideration of the "blessed life" extolled by Saint Augustine as much easier to follow faithfully than the long term consequences of "And then he asked me to be his bride/ And always stand right by his side/ I felt so happy I almost cried/ And then he kissed me". Like all things with our fallen nature, there is no perfect formula, but there is the power of God within the Sacraments to make it work.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

In Octavam

We are in the midst of yet another octave, the third in four weeks and the first, depending on which kalendar you use, of four in the coming weeks. June is a celebratory month in contrast to the starkness of the following month of July, perhaps intended by the Church as a gradual easement into green season after the timely joy of Paschaltide.

The octave we now hold, that of Corpus Christi, is generally like most other octaves in the traditional kalendar and somewhat unlike the three retained in the 1962 kalendar. The Mass and Office are repeated every day that is not a feast of nine lessons, and the octave is commemorated when such a feast does fall within the octave. On the eighth day the Mass is resumed with solemnity and no unnecessary commemorations and the Office returns to a Duplex formula. It concludes the festivity by re-iterating the feast itself in most cases, although there are exceptions such as the unique Mass on the Octave Day of Ss Peter & Paul, retained in the 1962 Missal at least as a votive Mass of the Saints.

Our three most unique octaves, however, which survived Papa Pacelli's scissors, really do not follow this pattern very well at all. Pascha and Pentecost admit no feasts whatsoever. The Nativity octave need not concern itself with this since it is already both de tempore and sanctoral. What is most extraordinary is that their octave days resemble the feast very little.

White Sunday is a privileged Double with the Dominical Office of 18 Mattins psalms, the return of hymnody, no Victimae paschali laudes at Mass, and no Alleluia appended to the dismissals. At first glance it might appear that the Holy Saturday Mass and is in fact more Paschal than the Paschal Octave Day. In fact in these eldest rites the eighth day marks a point of departure in bringing the character of the feast back into normality. By contrast, the Holy Saturday Mass anticipated the Resurrection without explicitly making it present.

In a like manner, the last day of the Christmas octave synthesizes the Nativity of Christ, the Circumcision, and the motherhood of Our Lady. The Office is completely different from that of the preceding Nativity days and those of the comites Christi, instead following the psalmnody of a Marian feast. Only the collect of Mass, however, reflects this Marian character. The Introit is that of the third Mass of Christmas day, but the readings are of Christ's circumcision. The hymns are not those of the Nativity itself, but the purpose of the feast is clearly the end of celebration of His birth.

Pentecost does not appear to have a proper octave day, although Trinity Sunday could reasonably be considered a crowning point of the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the life-giving Trinity now revealed and manifested. The compunction of Alleluias from Paschaltide is gone as is the Regina coeli. Indeed, the Byzantine rite also ends its Pentecost—on Sunday—with a transition back to normality with "kneeling" Vespers, reviving the prostrations in the Office and after the epiclesis during the Liturgy. And yet in the Byzantine rite the week following Pentecost is not an official extension of the feast, but it is called Trinity Week and fasting is banned.

Perhaps those Orientalizing, archaeologizing vitiations weren't so wise after all?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Dealing with Urban Questions

No, not the self-inflicted chaos hitting most American cities, but rather some more relevant to our season of Pentecost.

Urban VIII's classicizing revision of the Latin hymns has received more attention in recent years thanks to examples on New Liturgical Movement. The Michaelmas hymn was so altered that it adapted to an entirely different meter and verse structure. The hymn for the octave of Pentecost, Veni, Creator Spiritus, received a more modest revision, with hardly anything changing until the Doxology.

The choice to revise this hymn at all is curious in light of the changes Urban's committee of Jesuits, priests unbound to the communal Office, decided to make. Almost all the changes, except for one line, were to word order and not to vocabulary or verse. Why, for instance, change "donum Dei altissimi" to "altissimi donum Dei"? In the older order the shift from donum to Dei coincided with the melody, making a more seamlessly singable text than the slightly awkward result for that line. The only noticeable difference was the change of "dexterae Dei tu digitus" to "digitus paternae dexterae".

Then comes the doxology. According to the generally reliable, but not always current, Catholic Encyclopedia the Congregation of Sacred Rites did not decide until 1899 that the Paschal doxology would be used on all occasions for this hymn. The oldest doxology given for this hymn ("Sit laus Patri cum Filio / Sancto simul Paraclito / Nobisque mittat Filius / Charisma Sancti Spiritus") fell out of use during the Middle Ages. Certainly the Congregation for Rites' decision was not very innovative, as 19th century laymen's books generally note the Paschaltide ending is always used.

As an interesting aside, the 1875 Serving Boy's Manual and Book of Public Devotions gives the pre-Urban proper doxologies for all hymns. With Gregorian chant out of style in favor of polyphony and choral music throughout the Counter-Reformation and Baroque ages, the older texts may have benefited from the fact the better music of those styles was generally written before Papa Barberini. Much like Pius XII's psalter, Urban's hymnody may have been more widely ignored than most are aware.

Traditional Text
Urban VIII Revision
Veni, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.

Qui Paraclitus diceris,
donum Dei altissimi,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.

Tu septiformis munere,
dexterae Dei tu digitus,
tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.

Accende lumen sensibus,
infunde amorem cordibus,
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.

Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio,
vitemus omne noxium.

Per te sciamus, da, Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium,
te utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

Gloria Patri Domino,
Natoque, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
Veni, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.

Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.

Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.

Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Vigil of Pentecost

Pentecost is too big, too vast, too intimidating for any singular explanation, but the Roman liturgy's rich vigil for this feast nurtures the faithful with some food for thought. Let us consider the liturgy of the Roman rite for this great feast, second only to the Sunday of the Resurrection in importance.

The vigil commences with the celebrant—vested in a violet chasuble—kissing the altar and following the lectors, who read six prophecies from the Old Testament, interspersed with collects sung by the celebrant. The first lesson is the familiar story of Abraham ascending a mountain with his son Isaac, prepared to sacrifice his only child in obedience to God. An angel intervenes and tells a relieved Abraham that God would never really do such a thing. All of this was proclaimed on Holy Saturday, prefiguring Christ's willingness to sacrifice everything to the Father on behalf of the world. Pentecost enters this passage late at the point when God rewards Abraham's fidelity by promising "I will bless thee and multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the seashore.... and in thy seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because thou hast obeyed My voice."

The second prophecy is an extraction from Exodus 14, wherein the Pharaoh's forces chase the Israelites through the desert and into the Red Sea, which St. Moses has just parted by the Lord's command. The Lord then tells Moses to close the Sea and drown the Egyptians, which he does. The tract continues the passage:
"Let us sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously magnified: the horse and the rider He hath thrown into the sea: He is become my helper and protector unto salvation...."
These two prophecies speak of the same thing, Baptism. Water is a symbol of creation and the essential ingredient of all that lives. Yet water is also uncertain, difficult to control. Genesis chapter 1 speaks of water roaming the earth before it had form. God used water to protect the Israelites from the Egyptians. Egypt itself is a type, a parallel, an example of sin and loss and here God saves His people—fulfilled and most perfectly expressed in the Church—through water. Through water He will "multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven," only He will no longer multiply Abraham's progeny through obedience, but Christ's Church through Sacrament. The second collect of the vigil demands this interpretation:
"O God, who by the light of the New Testament hast made clear to us the miracles wrought in earliest times, prefiguring unto us the Red Sea as an image of the sacred font, and Who in the deliverance of Thy people from the bondage of Egypt, hast foreshadowed the sacraments of the Christian dispensation; grant that all nations who have merited by faith the privilege of the children of Israel, may be born again by partaking of Thy holy Spirit."
The third prophecy, take from Deuteronomy 31, compares and contrasts closely with the Ascension of Christ. Moses, nearing death, has taken care to write down his encounters and history with God. He abjures and confronts his fellows Israelites for their infidelity to God, "For I know that, after my death, you will do wickedly, and will quickly turn aside from the way that I have commanded you." The scripture, excluded from this passage, goes on to tell us that his bones were never found. This is extraordinary. Moses joins Elijah, Enoch, and the Blessed Mother among those whose bones have not been found and the others were taken bodily by the Lord, Elijah in a chariot of fire and our Lady after her death in Jerusalem. Moses, a prefigurement of Christ who leads God's people out of bondage, many believe, Jews included, was also taken up by God. Should he have been assumed by God then an strong parallel with the Ascension presents itself. Christ of course was not assumed into heaven, but rather ascended through His own power as God. Moses brought people forth from human bondage and Christ from spiritual bondage. Both died and were raised, so to speak, and rebuked their followers for their lack of faith. Moses's followers would continue to fail God, even if they would eventually reach the promised land and create a kingdom of Israel. Christ, in a marked contrast, promises something perfect that will never be lost, a "Helper" (meaning of the word Paraclete) to preserve the faithful "in all truth." He ascends telling the Apostles to "baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.... For I am with you always, even until the end of the world." Moses's deliverance from slavery is made perfect in Christ's words.

The fourth prophecy again anticipates the inception of the Church in the Baptism of its members, "the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Sion, and shall wash away the blood of Jerusalem out of the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isaiah chapter 4). At this point perhaps the faithful should consider what Baptism is. It is the movement of water over a person's skin with a Trinitarian formula, yes, but it is so much more, too. "Baptism" derives from a similar Greek word meaning "to immerse" or "to plunge." To be "plunged" into Christ and in the name of the Trinity is more than to enter a visible community or lose a sentence of punishments condine to one's sins. To be "plunged" into Christ is to be immersed and filled with the very life of Christ given by the Holy Spirit, Who, St. Gregory reminds the Church of Rome during Mattins of the feast, is the love of God Himself. The Holy Spirit, to be simplistic, is God's love working and doing something, creating or renewing. The Holy Spirit accomplishes this rebirth in Baptism through water, the physical essential in life and the material, again referencing Genesis chapter 1, which formlessly covered the earth before creation. Water is also like the Holy Spirit, or "Holy Wind" to take a very literal translation, in that water is not easily contained, limited, narrowed, or defined. It enters through crevices unseen and can also be lost by poor care through other unanticipated openings. It is this in water that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, renews His creation. It is for this reason so many commentators have adduced the psalm from the Vidi aquam "I saw water flowing from the right side of the Temple, alleluia; and all to whom this water came were saved...." Therefore the Church uses as her last prophecy in the vigil Ezekiel 37:1-14:
"Thus saith the Lord God, Come, spirit, from the four winds, and blow upon these slain, and let them live again. And I prophesied as He had commanded me; and the spirit came unto them; and they lived; and they stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.... Thus saith the Lord, I will open your graves, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O My people, and will bring you into the land of Israel.... and you shall have put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall make you rest upon your own land; saith the Lord almighty."
A procession then brings the sacred ministers to the baptistry where the font's waters are again blessed and infused with chrism, itself a priestly thing, as on Holy Saturday. The Paschal candle, extinguished on Ascension Thursday after the Gospel, reappears. Let not the importance of its reappearance be lost. As Dr. Laurence Hemming adumbrates in his Worship as Revelation, all the fires in a church are to be lit from the Paschal fire much as the Presence of Christ in the Sacraments comes from Christ's Incarnation and work on earth. The Paschal candle is extinguished at the end of forty days because, as with Christ and the Sacraments, its purpose, to diffuse holy fire, is accomplished. The fire remains without the candle's use just as Christ remains in the Church without a bodily physical presence. The candle returns because it symbolizes the Resurrection, the event which made this new life in the Holy Spirit possible. The celebrant plunges the candle into the font, almost baptizing the font with the candle rather the other way around. The celebrant sparges the faithful with the blessed water, infuses the chrism, and baptizes catechumens into Christ and His Resurrection. More adept parishes will also have the good sense to administer confirmation at this time, giving the neophytes the Holy Spirit and His "sevenfold gifts."

After the baptisms all who have been "baptized into Christ" on earth sing the Litanies of Saints, imploring the intercession of those in heaven who are the perfection of God's promise to Abraham, "multipl[ied] as stars of heaven." The saints, together with those on earth baptized into Christ, form the Church and carry that same Spirit and fire found on Holy Saturday. Pentecost makes the Resurrection permanent on earth, preserved in the Church unto ages of ages.

Mass follows immediately during the vigil. The lesson, taken from Acts of the Apostles, recounts Paul's preaching of the Baptism of Christ, or into Christ, to the Ephesians, hitherto only aware of St. John the Baptist's baptism of repentance. The alleluia is the same as on Holy Saturday. And in the Gospel St. John tells of Jesus saying "If you love me, keep my commandments." What is the Holy Spirit other than the strength to do this? This simple, demanding sentence of Christ calls to mind James 2:18, "I will show you my faith by my works." The Holy Spirit creates, re-creates, renews, strengthens, and preserves the Church in Christ, of Christ, and for Christ, as foretold to the prophets long ago. He makes all things anew, fashioning a new, holier creation out of the materials and persons of the existing, fallen creation. And He will remain with us until the very end.

In a rare moment the Byzantine tradition has a far simpler and more understated take than the Roman Church. The Greek theology of this feast can be found in the troparion of Penteost, which I heard today at Divine Liturgy and last evening at Vespers:
"Blessed are You, O Christ our God, You have filled the fishermen with wisdom by sending down the Holy Spirit upon them, and Who through them have caught in Your net the whole world. O Lover of mankind, glory to You!"