Tag Archives: Pentecost

Pentecost

May 17, 2018

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PentecostThe Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is a solemnity, the highest ranking liturgical feast, and it celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. It serves as the grand and glorious conclusion to the fifty-day Easter Season, seven continuous weeks that celebrate the greatest mystery of the Christian faith, the Resurrection. It brings the Paschal Mystery to completion.

Special Liturgical Features. The vestments are red which symbolize the Holy Spirit. There are two special Masses for Pentecost, a vigil Mass for Saturday evening and the Mass during the day for Sunday. A sprinkling rite is optional. There is a Sequence between the second reading and the gospel which may be sung or proclaimed. Infant baptisms are highly appropriate within the celebration of the Mass. There is a special solemn blessing for the dismissal that ends with a double Alleluia. The Easter Season is finished at the conclusion of Evening Prayer or Vespers at which time the Easter Candle is removed from the sanctuary and taken to its regular place, usually near the Baptismal font. If Evening Prayer is not celebrated, the Easter Candle usually is moved after the last Mass.

A Magnificent Moment. Pentecost recalls how the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of a strong driving wind and tongues as of fire which parted and came to rest on each of them. Immediately they were filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-4). It was an outpouring of the Spirit on each apostle individually and the Church collectively. The Spirit imbued the apostles with great love, led them to the truth, set their faith ablaze, and filled them with great zeal. This immeasurable grace was the birth of the Church. Through the Spirit the Church is sanctified or made holy, and by the power of the Spirit each person is united to Christ and the peoples of every nation, race, and language are unified in the profession of one faith. The annual celebration of this feast makes the graces first bestowed upon the apostles available to every believer in every subsequent generation.

C+ Apostles in Need of Improvement. The apostles were average performers at best and they needed to make major upgrades. Jesus spent countless hours with them. He gave them his warm friendship and personalized instruction, invited them to be his companions and performed amazing miracles before them. In spite of this, the apostles were terrified during the storm at sea, failed to understand the parables, were unable to expel some demons, fought among themselves over who was most important, and abandoned and betrayed their Master. They were unable to comprehend who Jesus was or what he expected of them. Even after the Resurrection they remained bewildered, isolated, afraid, and silent.

The Transformative Moment. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit galvanized the apostles’ faith. It was a metamorphosis of epic proportions. The apostles emerged from the cocoon of the Upper Room completely remade. They were on fire with love for Jesus! Once fearful, they became bold and courageous. Once silent, they became assertive and outspoken. Once cautious, they took tremendous risks. Once followers, they became leaders. Once weak, they performed great and mighty deeds in Jesus’ name. Once concerned with safeguarding their own lives, they became willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of Jesus and the gospel.

Catch the Spirit! The Holy Spirit that transformed the apostles on the first Pentecost has the power to transform each of us. The Spirit outpoured on the first apostles is also outpoured on us in the celebration of Pentecost, the sacraments, prayer, and multiple other ways. Pentecost is an invitation to be bold! Catch fire! Shed inhibitions! Love! Forgive! Share! Serve! Speak the truth! Do great and mighty deeds! Make the name of Jesus known and loved!

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The theophany of Pentecost

June 2, 2017

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Pentecost

On Pentecost “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house” (Acts 2:2).  It was sudden, startling.  It came up like a storm.  The noise was loud.   The wind roared.  Presumably, the house shook.  For the disciples, it was frightening yet awesome, glorious and enthralling.  They were immersed in a mystical experience, the powerful presence of almighty God in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  It was a theophany.

A theophany is an appearance of God accompanied by astounding signs and wonders that attest to God’s divine majesty, supreme authority, and infinite power.  A theophany involves one or more major forces of nature:  an earthquake, crushing rocks, dark clouds, storm, thunder, lightning, torrential rain, hail, howling winds, raging fire, billowing smoke, and blaring sounds.

The theophany of Pentecost recalls the great theophany of the Hebrew Scriptures, the appearance of God when Moses and the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai.  The sequence of occurrences was phenomenal:  peals of thunder, lightning, a heavy cloud, and a very loud blast (Ex 19:16); rising smoke, fire, and a quaking mountain (Ex 19:18); and the blast of the shofar that grew louder and louder, and yet more thunder (Ex 19:19).

The combination of natural signs pointed to a supernatural reality, that the omnipotent God was truly with Moses and the Israelites in the desert, and that this would be an encounter of epic proportions.  God created the world with a mighty wind (Gn 1:2) and put into place all of the forces of nature.  Then, with the forces of nature making a dramatic and impressive display, God confirmed Israel as the Chosen People and renewed the covenant through the conferral of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law.

On Pentecost the disciples were all together in one place for a theophany that was similar, yet different.  God had appeared in the desert.  This time God appeared in Jerusalem.  The former appearance took place at Mount Sinai.  This appearance took place on Mount Zion.  Previously the Lord came down upon the mountain in fire.  This time the Holy Spirit came down over the heads of the disciples as tongues as of fire.  The former appearance enabled Moses to speak on God’s behalf.  This appearance enabled Peter and the other disciples to serve as God’s spokesmen.  The former involved spectacular natural signs.  This appearance involved fewer and smaller natural signs.

Like the appearance at Sinai, this appearance would be an event of epic proportions.  The coming of the Holy Spirit established the Church as the People of God.  After Jesus, both priest and victim, sealed the new and eternal covenant with the blood that he shed on the Cross, the Holy Spirit joined the Son in the institution of an everlasting unbreakable covenant extended to all of the nations on earth.

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