Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday, first Sunday after Pentecost, observed as a feast of the Trinity. It was an innovation in medieval England and spread through the Western Church in the 14th cent. The Sundays until Advent are counted from either Pentecost or Trinity.
Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost in the Western Christian liturgical calendar, and the Sunday of Pentecost in Eastern Christianity. Trinity Sunday celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the three Persons of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Western Christianity

Trinity Sunday is celebrated in all the Western liturgical churches: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist.

The church year

The Sundays following Pentecost, until Advent, are numbered from this day. In traditional Roman Catholic usage, the First Sunday After Pentecost is on the same day as Trinity Sunday. In the revised Roman rite, Ordinary Time resumes one week earlier, on the Monday after Pentecost, with the Sundays that would otherwise fall on Pentecost and Trinity Sunday omitted that year. In the Church of England, following the pre-Reformation Sarum use, the following Sunday is the "First Sunday after Trinity", while the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) now follows the Catholic usage, calling it the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The liturgical colour used on Trinity Sunday is white.

Roman Catholic practice

In the Roman Catholic Church it is officially known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, it marked the end of a three-week period when church weddings were forbidden. The period began on Rogation Sunday, the fifth Sunday after Easter. Trinity Sunday was established as a Double of the Second Class by Pope John XXII to celebrate the Trinity. It was raised to the dignity of a Double of the First Class by Pope Pius X on 24 July 1911.

In the traditional Divine Office, the Athanasian Creed (Quicunque vult) is said on this day at Prime. Before 1960, it was said on all Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost which do not fall within Octaves or on which a feast of Double rank or higher was celebrated or commemorated, as well as on Trinity Sunday. The 1960 reforms reduced it to once a year, on this Sunday.

The Thursday after Trinity Sunday is observed as the Feast of Corpus Christi. In some countries, including the United States, Canada and Spain, it may be celebrated on the following Sunday, when parishioners are more likely to attend Mass and be able to celebrate the feast.

Anglican practice

The Creed of Saint Athanasius, part of the Book of Common Prayer, although not often said, is said in certain Church of England churches, particularly those of High Church tendency, only on Trinity Sunday.

Trinity Sunday has the status of a Principal Feast in the Church of England and is one of seven principal feast days in the Episcopal Church.

Thomas Becket (1118-70) was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on the Sunday after Whit Sunday, and his first act was to ordain that the day of his consecration should be held as a new festival in honour of the Holy Trinity. This observance spread from Canterbury throughout the whole of Christendom.

Dates for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is the Sunday following Pentecost, and eight weeks after Easter Day. Following are the dates of Trinity Sunday in the Western Churches (for the dates of Trinity Sunday in the Eastern Churches, see Pentecost):

The earliest possible date is May 17 as in 1818 and 2285. The latest possible date is June 20 as in 1943 and 2038.

History

In the early Church no special Office or day was assigned for the Holy Trinity. When the Arian heresy was spreading the Fathers prepared an Office with canticles, responses, a Preface, and hymns, to be recited on Sundays. In the Sacramentary of St. Gregory the Great (P.L., LXXVIII, 116) there are prayers and the Preface of the Trinity. The Micrologies (P.L., CLI, 1020), written during the pontificate of Gregory VII (Nilles, II, 460), call the Sunday after Pentecost a Dominica vacans, with no special Office, but add that in some places they recited the Office of the Holy Trinity composed by Bishop Stephen of Liège (903-20). By others the Office was said on the Sunday before Advent. Alexander II (1061-1073), refused a petition for a special feast on the plea, that such a feast was not customary in the Roman Church which daily honoured the Holy Trinity by the Gloria Patri, etc., but he did not forbid the celebration where it already existed. John XXII (1316-1334) ordered the feast for the entire Church on the first Sunday after Pentecost. A new Office had been made by the Franciscan John Peckham, Canon of Lyons, later Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1292). The feast ranked as a double of the second class but was raised to the dignity of a primary of the first class, 24 July 1911, by Pius X (Acta Ap. Sedis, III, 351). Since it was after the first great Pentecost that the doctrine of the Trinity was proclaimed to the world, the feast becomingly follows that of Pentecost.

Eastern Christianity

In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, the Sunday of Pentecost itself is called Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost is All Saints Sunday). The Monday after Pentecost is called Monday of the Holy Spirit, and the next day is called the Third Day of the Trinity. Though liturgical colours are not as fixed in the Eastern practice (normally there are simply "festive" colours and "somber" or Lenten colours), in some churches, green is used for Pentecost and its Afterfeast.

Famous composers celebrate the Trinity

Johann Sebastian Bach composed a number of chorales relating to the Second Sunday of the Great Trinity.

BWV 1 - "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern"

  • Category: Cantatas
  • Subcategory: Church
  • Movements:
    • Chorus: Wie Schön leuchet der Morgenstern
    • Recitative (tenor): Due wahrer Gottes und Marien Sohn
    • Aria (soprano): Erfüllet, ihr limmlischen göttlichen Flammen
    • Recitative (bass): Ein irdscher Glanz, ein leiblich Licht
    • Aria (tenor): Unser Mund und Ton der Saiten
    • Choral: Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh
  • Instrumentation: choir (soprano, tenor, bass), orchestra (horn, oboe da caccia, violin, viola, cello, continuo)
  • Year: 1725
  • Occasion: Annunciation
  • Text adapted from the hymn by Philipp Nicolai
  • English Text: Complete Vocal Works - Z. Philip Ambrose
  • German Text: Bach Cantatas - Walter F. Bischof

BWV 2 - "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein"

  • Category: Cantatas
  • Subcategory: Church
  • Movements:
    • Chorus: Ach, Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein
    • Recitative (tenor): Sie lehren eitel falsche List
    • Aria (alto): Tilg, o Gott, die Lehren
    • Recitative (bass): Die Armen sind verstort
    • Aria (tenor): Durchs Feuer wird das Silber rein
    • Choral: Das wollst du, Gott, bewahren rein
  • Instrumentation: choir (alto, tenor, bass), orchestra (trombone, oboe, violin, cello, continuo)
  • Year: 1724
  • Occasion: Second Sunday after Trinity
  • Text adapted from hymn by Martin Luther (adaptation of 12th psalm)
  • English Text: Complete Vocal Works - Z. Philip Ambrose
  • German Text: Bach Cantatas - Walter F. Bischof

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