Sunday after Pentecost—19 November AD 2017
Readings of the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany—Supplemental Mass #1 or
Additional Mass #4
for the repose of the souls of Anthony Perez and Cecile Maceli,
who died during this month of November
for Alfie Evans, 15 Months old ,
another hostage of socialized medicine in Britain.
Astronomical explanation of why you had trouble
finding today's Mass in your missal
The calendar used by Jesus Christ
and the Jewish people of his time was based on the revolution of the Moon.
Each month began when the new moon became barely visible, continued through
the full moon on the 14th, on to the day on which no moon could be seen. A
revolution of the Moon takes about 29½ days, so the Jewish calendar had
alternating months of 29 and 30 days. That works out to only 354 days a
year, so in seven years out of nineteen an extra month was added to the
year. Being an agricultural people, the Jews could not ignore the solar
year, for it controlled the growing and harvest seasons. The extra month
was added in the spring time if the authorities determined that the crops or
the new born animals required more time to mature for Passover.
When Christianity became legal in
the Empire, it adopted the Roman calendar which was based directly on the
solar year and had months of 30 and 31 days to avoid adding extra months to
the normal twelve. In some cases, Christians tried to base the date for
Easter on the Jewish calendar—on the full moon of the third (or sometimes
the fourth) month—but that might place Easter on any day of the week, rather
than on Sunday, the day on which our Lord rose from the dead.
In 325 A.D. the Council of Nicaea
determined that the whole Church would observe Easter on a Sunday determined
by astronomical observation. The day selected would be the first Sunday
after the full moon on or after the “vernal equinox”—the day on which day
and night were of equal length—the first day of spring. With the equinox
designated as March 21, Easter could fall as early as March 22 and as late
as April 25.
When Easter falls on the earlier
dates the number of “Sundays after Epiphany” can be as few as one or two,
but then the Sundays at the end of the year—the “Sundays after Pentecost”
may be as many as twenty-eight. Conversely, if Easter falls later, the
Sundays after Pentecost may be as few as twenty-three.
This year (A.D. 2017) Easter was
relatively late, allowing time for five Sundays after Epiphany before it was
time to begin Lent. The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany was thus postponed and
is being added back today as a Sunday after Pentecost.
Those of you who are
purists will note that only the collects and the readings of the
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany are read today, for all of the Masses from the
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost to the Last Sunday after Pentecost share
the same set of “Psalm chants” (Introit, Gradual, Offertory and Communion
Additional confusion has been added by the publishers of hand
missals for the laity, with some numbering the four “moveable “
Sundays after Epiphany from fourth to first, and others numbering
them from first to fourth!
As I mentioned earlier, the Jews of
Jesus’ time were an agricultural people. We tend to be city dwellers, so
let me say just a thing or two about today’s Gospel parable.
If you have never seen a mustard
seed, understand that it is extremely small. Go to a bakery and buy a
Kaiser‑roll decorated with poppy seeds. These tiny black seeds are similar
to, but larger than, the mustard seed that will literally grow to the size
of a tree.
Few of us city dwellers bake our own
bread. But even if we do, the vast majority will buy our ingredients at the
grocery store, and one of those ingredients will be a little yellow packet
labeled “Fleischmann’s Yeast.” Many of us will not understand why we add
the yellow packet to our bread mix apart from the recipe telling us to do
so. In Jesus’ time it was universally understood (by all the women and
most of the men) that yeast (or leaven) was a living organism that would
grow within the dough, and by its respiration would fill the dough with
little bubbles, thereby “raising” the dough, and giving it the soft and
spongy quality we like in our bread.
Today, we know that the bubbles are
carbon dioxide, one of God’s miraculous gifts—a gas that keeps life abundant
here on earth. CO2 is not a pollutant!!
In Jesus’ time you could not go to a
store and buy the “little yellow packet.” But the bakers of the time were
pretty good scientists, and recognized the living nature of the yeast. They
knew that if they took some of the earlier yeast-leavened-dough and mixed it
with a new batch of flour, the yeast would continue to grow and leaven the
Our Lord is giving us hope for the
future. No matter what the “clowns” have done to the Church in modern
times, they cannot destroy Her. The Church is the kingdom of heaven. She
will grow like the mustard seed into a tree, strong and stable. Like leaven
She will permeate living organisms—making them holy and making them capable
of passing on holiness to future generations.