This Sunday, May 23, our churches in union with the universal Church celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. Jesus before ascending to Heaven said to His apostles: “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Jesus’ promise is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, ten days after ascending to the Father; fifty days after His resurrection. With the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Church, the Lord strengthens it and prepares it for the apostolic and evangelizing mission that endures through the centuries. On this day, the First Communion and Confirmation are held for many, who, alongside Baptism, are considered the beginnings of the whole Christian life.
At the Last Supper Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would lead the Church – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
Luiz da Rosa, a Biblical Scholar, tells us that Pentecost is a Jewish festival. “It is part of the Old Testament tradition, and its origin is explained in Leviticus 23:15-22. We remember it as a Christian feast, the feast that celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the apostles gathered in the upper room. They are two different things. In fact, we sometimes hear ‘Christian Pentecost’ and ‘Jewish Pentecost’.” Rosa concludes: “it is a word that recalls the number 50, specifically linked to the 50 days. The Christians, 50 days later after Christ’s resurrection, received the Holy Spirit. The Jews celebrated Pentecost 7 weeks after Easter.”
St Luke the Evangelist left us what happened in the Book of Acts of the Apostles. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts, 2:2-4).
St. Peter proclaimed on the morning of Pentecost that “in the last times” the Spirit of the Lord will renew the hearts of men, engraving in them a New Law; it will bring together and reconcile the dispersed and divided peoples; it will transform the first creation, and God will dwell in it with men in peace.
The gifts and graces, with which the Holy Spirit fills the Church and the Christian soul, are innumerable: there is no language that can specify them. The Holy Spirit is love and mercy; he is the one who started and will finish the work of our sanctification. It began when, by its operation, the divine Word became flesh in the immaculate bosom of Mary Most Holy.
All theologians consider the mystery of the Incarnation, that is, the union of divinity with humanity in one person, as the greatest work of the wonders of the Holy Spirit, to whom it must be attributed, the masterpiece of love; and the Mother of the Lord participates in it.
Veni Sancte Spiritus! – Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love! Amen! (Image: Painting: Pentecost by Jan Joest, 1508. St Nicholas Church in Kalkar, Germany).
António dos Santos