Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

The Fiftieth Day
The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” Like Easter, it is tied to a Jewish feast. The 50th day of Easter, being 49 days (7 weeks, or “a week of weeks”) after the second day of Passover, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot).

Passover celebrates the freeing of the Jews from slavery; Shavuot celebrates their becoming God’s holy people by the gift and acceptance of the Law; and the counting of the days to Shavuot symbolises their yearning for the Law. From a strictly practical point of view, Shavuot was a very good time for the Holy Spirit to come down and inspire the Apostles to preach to all nations because, being a pilgrimage festival, it was an occasion when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from many countries.

Symbolically, the parallel with the Jews is exact. We are freed from the slavery of death and sin by Easter; with the Apostles, we spend some time as toddlers under the tutelage of the risen Jesus; and when He has left, the Spirit comes down on us and we become a Church.


Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from Thy celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come Father of the poor!
Come source of all our store!
Come within our bosoms shine!

Thou, of comforters the best;
Thou, the soul's most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine
Shine within these hearts of Thine.
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, man has naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sev'nfold gift descend;

Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them Thy salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia

Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Regina Caeli Prayer

Pentecost, May 31, 2009

Dear brothers and sisters!

The Church spread throughout the whole world relives today, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, the mystery of its own birth, its own "baptism" in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1,5), which took place in Jerusalem 50 days after Easter, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost itself.

The resurrected Jesus had told His disciples: "Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Lk 24,49).

This took place in sensible form in the Cenacle, while everyone was gathered in prayer with Mary, the Virgin Mother. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, suddenly the place was filled with an impetuous wind, and tongue-like flames settled on each one present. The Apostles went forth thereafter and started to proclaim in various languages that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God, who died and was resurrected (cf. Acts 2,1-4).

The Holy Spirit, who with the Father and the Son, created the universe, who guided the history of the people of Israel and who spoke through the prophets, and who in the fullness of time cooperated in our redemption, descended on Pentecost on the nascent Church and made her missionary, sending her forth to announce to all peoples the victory of divine love over sin and death.

The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Without Him, what would she be reduced to?

It would certainly be a great historical movement, a complex and solid social institution, perhaps a kind of humanitarian agency. In fact, that is how it is thought of by those who consider her without the eyes of faith. However, in reality, in her true nature and even in her most authentic historical presence, the Church is ceaselessly formed and led by the Spirit of her Lord. She is a living body, whose vitality is precisely the fruit of the invisible divine Spirit.

Dear friends, this year, the Solemnity of Pentecost falls on the last day of the month of May, on which we normally celebrate the beautiful Marian Feast of the Visitation.

This fact invites us to allow ourselves to be inspired and instructed by the Virgin Mary, who was a protagonist in both events. At Nazareth, she received the annunciation of her singular motherhood, and, shortly after, conceived Jesus by the action of the Holy Spirit by the same Spirit of love that urged her to go assist her aged relative Elizabeth, who was in the sixth month of a pregnancy that was itself miraculous.

The young Mary, who carried Jesus in her womb, oblivious of herself, ran in aid to her neighbor, is the stupendous icon of the Church in the perennial youthfulness of the Spirit, of the missionary Church of the incarnate Word, called to bring it to the world and to bear witness to it, especially in the service of charity.

Let us invoke therefore the intercession of the Most Blessed Mary, so that she may obtain for the Church of our time that it may be powerfully reinforced by the Holy Spirit.

In a particular way, may the ecclesial communities who suffer persecution in the name of Christ feel the comforting presence of the Paraclete participating in their sufferings, so that they may receive the Spirit of glory in abundance (cf. 1 Pt4,13-14).

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