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Commentary from 
Rivingtons, London, 1884


The Octave of Pentecost has been observed in honour of the Blessed Trinity from a very early age of the Church.  In the Lectionary of St. Jerome the same Epistle and Gospel are appointed which have always been used in the Church of England; and the Collect is from the Sacramentary of St. Gregory.  But the name "Trinity Sunday" was not general until a later period, though it has been used in the English Breviary and Missal since the time of St. Osmund, and may have been adopted by him from still earlier Offices of the Church.  In the Eastern Church this day is the Festival of all holy Martyrs; a festival which appears to have been observed at this time in the East, even in the days of St. Chrysostom and the Emperor Leo, who have left respectively a Homily and an Oration upon it.  It appears to have been regarded as a separate Festival in the Western world only by the Church of England, and those Churches of Germany which owe their origin to the English St. Boniface, or Winfrid.  Both in the ancient English and in the ancient German Office books, all the Sundays afterwards until Advent are named after Trinity; whereas, in all Offices of the Roman type they are named after Pentecost.  It seems probably that this distinctive ritual mark is a relic of the independent origin of the Church of England, similar to those peculiarities which were noticed by St. Augustine, and which were attributed by the ancient British Bishops to some connection with St. John.  In this case it is, at least, significant that it was St. John through whom the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was most clearly revealed; and also that the early Church of England appears never to have been infested by the heresies on this subject which troubled other portions of the Christian world. 

The general observance of the day as a separate festival in honour of the Blessed Trinity was first enjoined by a Synod of Arles in A.D. 1260.  [HARDUIN, Concil. iii. 514]  In Micrologus it is stated [cap. lx.] that the feast was then observed in some parts on the Octave of Pentecost, and in others on the Sunday next before Advent; but that the Roman Church had no such custom, for it honoured the Blessed Trinity in its daily worship by Doxologies and the Memoria, our present Collect.  It seems to have become generally observed by the Roman as well as other Churches at the end of the fourteenth century; but the Sundays after it are still named from Pentecost in all the Catholic Churches of the West, except those of England and Germany. 

The significance of the festival, as the end of the cycle of days by which our Blessed Lord and His work are commemorated, is very great.  The beginning of His acts was associated with a revelation of the Three Persons of the Trinity, and His last command to His Apostles was a commission to make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  The perfect revelation of the Holy Three in One may also be considered to have been made on the day of Pentecost, when to the work expressed by our Lord in the words, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," was added that further operation of the Holy Ghost which was previously unknown even to holy men, but has ever since been familiear to the whole world.  On Whitsunday, therefore, we see the crowning point of the work of redemption; and the feast of Trinity, on the Octave of Pentecost, commemorates the consummation of God's saving work, and the perfect revelation to the Church of the Three Persons in One God, as the sole objects of adoration.  The love of each Person had been commemorated in the separate Festivals which memorialize before God and man the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord, and the sending forth by the Father and the Son of the Blessed Spirit on Whitsunday.  In the festival of Trinity all these solemn subjects of belief are gathered into one act of worship, as the Church Militant looks upward through the door that is opened in Heaven, and bows down in adoration with the Church Triumphant, saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Which was, and is, and is to come...Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created." 

The form of the latter part of the Collect until 1661 was that of the ancient Latin and English: "We beseech Thee that through the stedfastness of this faith we may everymore be defended from all adversity."  Why it should have been altered to its present disjointed and pointless form is inexplicable. 

[Note that the latter part of the Collect listed on our main page is a variation of the 1662 Collect that is found the Canadian 1962 Book of Common Prayer.]