Pentecost Mystery

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In chapters 14 and 16 of John’s Gospel we learn about Jesus leaving his apostles and returning to his Father, not to abandon his church but that he and his Father might send them the Holy Spirit. His leaving them in this way would not be a loss for them but would be a great advantage to them. When God the Father and his Son would send the Spirit upon them at Pentecost they would then know that Jesus was in the Father and the Father was in him. They would receive the Holy Spirit who would take of what Jesus had and give it to them. The Holy Spirit would reveal God’s plan for his church and direct the apostles in their mission to proclaim the Gospel to the world. The Spirit of God would defend them against their enemies and direct and inspire their work of revealing Christ in his Pascal Mystery to the world. The Holy Spirit would be the power of God in their preaching and in their administrations of Baptism, Eucharist and Penance. In the gift of God’s Spirit at Pentecost the Church of God would take shape and reach to the ends of the world. We who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord confess all this at our baptism and in our recitation of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”

When Jesus in the resurrected body left them in his Ascension, the apostles were told to gather with the mother of Jesus and the holy women and the brothers of Jesus to pray those ten days for the gift of Pentecost. And when the Holy Spirit descended on them on that Sunday morning, the work of preaching, baptism and Eucharist began for the salvation of the world. In the Acts of the Apostles, often called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit, we read of 57 foundational events instigated by the Holy Spirit for man’s salvation. In the letters of Saint Paul we have 157 instances of the Holy Spirit directing and perfecting the work of the apostolic church. Is it no wonder, then, that St. Iranaeus of the second century emphasized the two great festivals of God’s church, the Easter Festival and that of Pentecost. God the Father, he wrote, had two hands, that of Jesus and that of the Holy Spirit. Or as we say in song, “You can’t have one without the other.”

Since the Second Vatican Council of the nineteen sixties, we Catholics have had an opportunity to restore the Holy Spirit to proper reverence and attention. Through the council Documents, the writings of Yves Congar, Cardinal Suenens of Paris, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul IT, we have received instruction in the proper preparation of the Feast of Pentecost. As we prepare with prayer and penance for the celebration of Christmas and Easter, so are we to prepare for the celebration of Pentecost. We can do more in our local Church. In most of our parishes, the feast of Pentecost is a one day affair. The weeks of preparation given to the feasts of the Incarnation and Easter are somehow absent, as if Pentecost were not the climax to the renewal of mankind. The commands of the Second Vatican Council in which there are 252 references to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church, and the writings of our recent popes seem to have no effect on our celebration of Pentecost. Are these writings not an invitation to a more intense, prayerful and studious preparation of the Feast of Pentecost? The last sentences of Yves Congar’s masterful work/ Believe in the Holy Spirit reminds us of the essential presence of the Holy Spirit in the activity of the church. He insists that the life of the church is basically an epiclesis, the constant prayer that the Holy Spirit give power to its sacramental activities. As Jesus prayed for the efficacy of his mission, so does the church pray that the work it is doing will “well up to eternal life; it has to pray for the grace of the one who is uncreated Grace, that is, the absolute Gift, the Breath of the Father and the Word. I believe the holy Church is conditioned by the absolute ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit.’ This dogma means that the life and activity of the Church can be seen totally as an epiclesis.” It is with humility that Bishop Thomas Tobin with his priests and with The Rhode Island Catholic offer these essays and homilies on the Holy Spirit as an aid to our common celebration of the Holy Spirit in the life of our church. The Holy Spirit makes the past of Jesus present, especially his Passover, his victorious passage from death to life. As St. Simeon who was called the New Theologian wrote: “It is the Spirit who unites us to Christ and brings us to the Father.” As one of the oldest prayers of the church asks: “Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.” We are helpless without the Holy Spirit, for as St. Paul wrote, ‘’No one can say Jesus is Lord except in the power of the Holy Spirit.” We don’t know how to pray or act without with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Or as the saying goes: “No Spirit, No Church!”