‘Ember week’s thanksgiving day! It is the night between Saturday and Sunday as in the spirit of the ancient Church we gather at St Peter’s, the station for all Christendom. For the Offertory we bring our tithe from the past quarter year (in certain communities and parishes wheat for the altar bread is presented) and joyously voice our gratitude over the spiritual harvest marking the close of Easter time.
“The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, alleluia, by His Spirit who dwells within us, alleluia, alleluia”. These inspiring words from St Paul are, one may say, the Ite, missa est to Pentecost’s octave. They summarise all that the Church teaches concerning the Holy Spirit. The charity of God is divine sonship, is sanctifying grace, is spiritual transfiguration, is participation in Christ’s glorified life. The charity of God is the quintessence of our holy religion. To become ever more deeply rooted in the love of God is our life’s main task, and to enable us to attain this end is the liturgy’s raison d’etre’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified:
receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and godly serve thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Ember Saturday in Whitsun Week from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Many have wished that Our Blessed Lord had remained on earth, that we might have heard His voice, seen His compassionate eyes, and brought our children to be blessed by His hands. But He said “I can say truly that it is better for you I should go away; He who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go, but if only I make my way there, I will send Him to you”. If our Lord remained on earth, He would have been only a symbol to be copied – not a life to be lived. By returning to his heavenly Father, He could then send both from the Father and Himself the Holy Spirit that would make Him live on earth in His new Body, which is the Church. The human body is made up of millions of cells, and yet is one because vivified by one soul, presided over by a visible head, and governed by an invisible mind. So on Pentecost, the Apostles, who were like the cells of a body, became Christ’s Mystical Body, because vivified by His Holy Spirit, governed by one visible head, Peter, and presided over by one invisible head, Christ in heaven. Our glorious Church is not an organisation, but an organism. As our Lord once thought, governed, and sanctified through a human body, which He took from the womb of His blessed Mother, so now he teaches, governs, and sanctifies through his Mystical Body, the Church, which He took from the womb of humanity overshadowed by His Holy Spirit. Christ was infallible when He talked through a human body; He is still infallible when he teaches through a mystical Body. Christ sanctified when he forgave sins with human lips; He sanctifies still when he forgives sins through the power of His priests. Christ governed through His human Body, and he governs still. “He that heareth you, heareth Me”. As a drop of blood can live in the body, but the drop of blood cannot live apart from the body, so neither can any of us live the fulness of the Christ Life except in His Mystical Body, the Church’.
from The Meditations of the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, 1944
by Venerable Fulton Sheen, 1895-1979
‘‘“Having accomplished the work that the Father had entrusted to the Son on earth, on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify the Church forever, so that believers might have access to the Father through Christ in one Spirit. He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water springing up to eternal life, the One through whom the Father restores life to those who are dead through sin, until one day he will raise in Christ their mortal bodies”.
In this way the Second Vatican Council speaks of the Church's birth on the day of Pentecost. This event constitutes the definitive manifestation of what had already been accomplished in the same Upper Room on Easter Sunday. The Risen Christ came and “brought” to the Apostles the Holy Spirit. He gave him to them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit”. What had then taken place inside the Upper Room, “the doors being shut”, later, on the day of Pentecost is manifested also outside, in public. The doors of the Upper Room are opened and the Apostles go to the inhabitants and the pilgrims who had gathered in Jerusalem on the occasion of the feast, in order to bear witness to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way the prediction is fulfilled: “He will bear witness to me: and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning”.
We read in another document of the Second Vatican Council: “Doubtless, the Holy Spirit was already at work in the world before Christ was glorified. Yet on the day of Pentecost, he came down upon the disciples to remain with them for ever. On that day the Church was publicly revealed to the multitude, and the Gospel began to spread among the nations by means of preaching”.
The era of the Church began with the “coming”, that is to say with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, together with Mary, the Lord’s Mother. The time of the Church began at the moment when the promises and predictions that so explicitly referred to the Counsellor, the Spirit of truth, began to be fulfilled in complete power and clarity upon the Apostles, thus determining the birth of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles speak of this at length and in many passages, which state that in the mind of the first community, whose convictions Luke expresses, the Holy Spirit assumed the invisible - but in a certain way “perceptible” - guidance of those who after the departure of the Lord Jesus felt profoundly that they had been left orphans. With the coming of the Spirit they felt capable of fulfilling the mission entrusted to them. They felt full of strength. It is precisely this that the Holy Spirit worked in them and this is continually at work in the Church, through their successors. For the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles gave to their collaborators through the imposition of hands continues to be transmitted in Episcopal Ordination. The bishops in turn by the Sacrament of Orders render the sacred ministers sharers in this spiritual gift and, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, ensure that all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit are strengthened by this gift. And thus, in a certain way, the grace of Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church’.
from Dominum et Vivificantem: On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, 1986
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Comforter who proceedeth from thee may enlighten our minds: and lead us, as thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth wih thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Ember Wednesday in Whitsun Week from Divine Worship: The Missal.
O MOST HOLY SPIRIT, thou comest,
as once came Christ to Bethlehem,
to a most mean dwelling, even to me.
But thou canst cleanse and make it a temple,
THY temple, full with holiness, love and joy.
So come, O Spirit of GOD,
with GOD the Father’s love;
by Christ's Body and Blood;
in the new birth of thine own breath.
Come to cover my littlenesses and consume my sins,
to direct all my desires and doings;
come with counsel on my perplexities,
with light from thine everlasting scriptures;
come to reveal the deep things of GOD,
and what he prepareth for them that love him;
come with thy prayers into mine.
O most Holy Spirit,
possess me by thy peace,
illuminate me by thy flame,
enable me by thy power,
be made visible in me by thy fruits,
lift me by grace upon grace
from glory to glory,
O Spirit of the Lord;
who art with the Father and the Son one GOD,
world without end.
from My God, My Glory: Aspirations, Acts and Prayers on the Desire for God, 1959
by Eric Milner-White OGS CBE DSO, 1884-1963
Hark! how the merry bells ring jocund round,
And now they die upon the veering breeze
Anon they thunder loud
Full on the musing ear.
Wafted in varying cadence, by the shore
Of the still twinkling river, they bespeak
A day of jubilee,
An ancient holiday.
And lo! the rural revels are begun,
And gaily echoing to the laughing sky,
On the smooth shaven green
Resounds the voice of Mirth.
Alas! regardless of the tongue of Fate,
That tells them 'tis but as an hour since they
Who now are in their graves
Kept up the Whitsun dance.
And that another hour, and they must fall
Like those who went before, and sleep as still
Beneath the silent sod,
A cold and cheerless sleep.
Yet why should thoughts like these intrude to scare
The vagrant Happiness, when she will deign
To smile upon us here,
A transient visitor?
Mortals! be gladsome while ye have the power,
And laugh and seize the glittering lapse of joy;
In time the bell will toll
That warns ye to your graves.
I to the woodland solitude will bend
My lonesome way-where Mirth’s obstreperous shout
Shall not intrude to break
The meditative hour.
There will I ponder on the state of man,
Joyless and sad of heart, and consecrate
This day of jubilee
To sad reflection’s shrine;
And I will cast my fond eye far beyond
This world of care, to where the steeple loud
Shall rock above the sod,
Where I shall sleep in peace.
Henry Kirke White, 1785-1806
‘The word “Comforter”, used in earlier versions of the Bible to describe the office of the Holy Spirit, has changes its meaning. In doing so, it has given us a false picture, at the back of our minds, about the switch-over from Ascension Day to Whitsunday. We think of the Apostles as bereaved of their Master and needing consolation; we almost think of it, heaven help us, a pis aller. That is not what our Lord says. “It is better for you that I should go away; he who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go; but if only I make my way there, I will send him to you”. The Ascension is represented as a means to an end; the end, eminently desirable, is the comforting or strengthening of the Apostles to fulfil their world-mission. Consolation does not enter into the picture at all.
In reality, we ought not to think of Ascension Day and Whitsunday as two separate feasts celebrating two separate events. Only one event is in question, the sending of a Divine embassy and its successful accomplishment, with an interval of nine days' prayer, the first and greatest of all novenas.
Why must our Lord be taken up before the Holy Spirit can come down? It is not for us to ask: we only know it was part of the Divine plan. Was? Or is? In this world of probation, God does not want things to be made too easy for us; we are not to be spoon-fed. The disciples must be weaned away from their dependence upon the visible, tangible presence of their Master, must learn to stand, Spirit-filled, on their own feet. And we, when prayer seems difficult, are not to conclude that God has taken away his Holy Spirit from us. Rather, our Lord has gone away so as to send the Holy Spirit to us, insensibly present, yet life-giving. And even, on a more human plane, when we lose those we loved - is it possible we are being comforted?'
from Lightning Meditations, 1959, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit:
grant to us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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