Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost

"For our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29

The fiftieth day after the Pasch is Pentecost. In the old dispensation Pentecost commemorated the fiery theophany on Mt. Sinai when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, establishing the Law for the Chosen People. (Exodus 19, 20) For Christians, the solemnity celebrates the birth of the New Israel, the Church, on the day when the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, accompanied by tongues of flame, upon the Apostles. The frightened, ordinary men were given the fortitude and courage to preach the Gospel in unknown tongues and to endure suffering and death for the name of Jesus. (Acts 2) "The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of fire because He consumes the dross of our sins, drives the darkness of ignorance out of our souls, melts the icy coldness of our hearts, and inflames us with the love of God and love of our neighbor...." (Fr. Spirago The Catechism Explained, p.220) The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity has never ceased to be poured out upon the Church; He is the soul of the Church, guiding her throughout the ages.

The Holy Spirit comes to each of us at our baptism and later at our Confirmation, which is our own personal Pentecost. There is much discussion today of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, of prophecy, of discernment of spirits, of visions, etc. but they are extraordinary gifts given in special circumstances to benefit the Church and souls. The "ordinary" gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to each of us through the sacraments and it is for us to use and develop them. The seven gifts are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord; it is these gifts which will make us into saints. They increase in proportion to the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. In the words of St. John of the Cross: "For the purer and the more refined in faith is the soul, the more it has of the infused charity of God; and the more charity it has, the more it is illumined and the more gifts of the Holy Spirit are communicated to it, for charity is the cause and means whereby they are communicated to it." (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Book II, Ch. 29)

It is through prayer, the sacraments, and good works that we nourish the precious gifts of the Holy Spirit, invoking the Divine Paraclete Himself to inflame us with the fire of perfect charity. "If we do not become saints, it is not because the Holy Spirit does not will it-- He was sent to us and comes to us for this very purpose-- but it is because we do not give full liberty to His action." ( Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, p.563) The Holy Spirit will Himself remove all obstacles to His work from our souls if we ask Him with perseverance and confidence. "Thus you, O Holy Spirit, when You come down from Heaven with the fiery dart of your divine love, You do not repose in proud hearts or in arrogant spirits, but You make Your abode in souls that are humble...in their own eyes." (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi, quoted in Divine Intimacy, p.559)

O Lux beatissima Reple cordis intima! "O Most Blessed Light, fill the inmost hearts of Thy faithful!" (The Golden Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus)

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