Pentecost Sunday

Source: District of Great Britain

And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Act 2:1-2)

My dear brethren,

Pentecost (Whitsunday)

Pentecost is a feast of the universal Church which commemorates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the "feast of weeks" or Pentecost (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10).

Why did the Holy Ghost descend upon the Apostles?

  • To confirm their faith,
  • To sanctify them,
  • To enable them to establish the Church

Whitsunday is so called from the white garments which were worn by those who were baptised during the vigil; Pentecost, is the Greek for "the fiftieth" (day after Easter). As a Christian feast, it dates back to the first century. During the vigil, the catechumens who remained from Easter were baptized; consequently the ceremonies on Saturday are similar to those on Holy Saturday. The colour of the vestments is red, symbolic of the love of the Holy Ghost or of the tongues of fire.

In Italy, it was customary to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues; hence in Sicily and elsewhere in Italy Whitsunday is called Pascha rosatum. The Italian name Pascha rossa comes from the red colours of the vestments used on Whitsunday. In France, it was customary to blow trumpets during Divine service, to recall the sound of the mighty wind which accompanied the Descent of the Holy Ghost. In England, the gentry amused themselves with horse races. The Whitsun Ales or merrymakings are almost wholly obsolete in England. At these ales the Whitsun plays were performed. On Pentecost Sunday, the Russians carry flowers and green branches in their hands.

Veni Creator Spiritus

Not only is the feast a celebration of what happened 2000 years ago, it is a feast which gives us the occasion to ask for the same gifts that the Apostles and Our Lady received. This prayer of petition is most beautifully expressed by the hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus (attributed by most to Rabanus Maurus +856, Abbot of Fulda and Archbishop of Mainz). At Terce, the Veni Creator Spiritus is sung instead of the usual hymn, because the Holy Ghost descended at the third hour .

Here is a translation and commentary:

Fill Thy creatures with Thyself

“Come, Creator Spirit, visit the souls of Thy children, and fill with heavenly grace the hearts which Thou hast made.”

  • Creator: The three Divine Persons concur equally in their external operation; thus the Father created, the Son created, and the Holy Ghost created.

“Thou who art called the Paraclete, the gift of God most high, the living fountain, fire, love, and spiritual unction.”

  • Paraclitus: the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit; a Greek word signifying—the consoler, comforter. In the Scriptures the word occurs only in St. John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7.
  • Donum: The Holy Spirit is called the “gift of God most high.” To receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38) is equivalent to receiving the Holy Ghost with His gifts.
  • Fons vivus: Sed aqua, quam ego dabo ei, fiet in eo fons aquæ salientis in vitam æternam (John 4:14).
  • Ignis: Earthly fire illuminates, enkindles, consumes, and purifies from dross; so too, in its nature, is the fire of the Holy Spirit—enlightening, love-enkindling, sin-destroying, and purifying. This fire manifests itself in works of charity, and especially in preaching with zeal and fervor the word of God.
  • Caritas: Deus caritas est, et qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, et Deus in eo (I John 4:16).
  • Spiritalis = Spiritualis; The grace of God is called unction or anointing because the effects produced by it in the spiritual order are analogous to those produced by ointment in the natural order. It cools, refreshes, exhilarates, strengthens, heals, enriches, etc.

And with Thy gifts

“Thou are sevenfold in Thy gifts, the finger of the Father’s right hand; Thou art the express promise of the Father, endowing tongues with speech.”

  • Septiformis: The seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are enumerated by the Prophet Isaias: Et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini; spiritus sapientiæ et pietatis, et replebit eum spiritus timoris Domini (Is. 11:2-3).
  • Digitus Dei: The Holy Spirit is called the “finger of God” as may be seen from the following parallel passages: Si in digito Dei ejicio dæmonia (Luke 11:20). Si autem ego in Spiritu Dei ejicio dæmones (Matt. 12:28).
  • Rite, explicit, distinctly stated.
  • Promissum, i = promissio. Et ego mitto promissum Patris mei in vos (Luke 24:49). Sed expectarent promissionem Patris (Acts 1:4).
  • Sermone: A reference to the gift of tongues (Acts 2:4).

And with the virtues of faith and charity, and the cardinal virtues

 “Enkindle Thy light within our minds, infuse Thy love into our hearts; strengthen the weakness of our flesh by Thy never-failing power.”

Be our protector and our guide

“Drive far away our enemy, and forthwith grant us peace; so that while Thou leadest the way as our guide, we may avoid everything harmful.”

And our teacher so that we may know the Trinity

“Grant that through Thee we may know the Father; through Thee, the Son; and may we ever believe in Thee, the Spirit of Them both.”

Commitance of Grace

The word grace comes from the word “gift”; a gift is something freely given. The word grace, as we understand it, is a gift from God. Sanctifying grace (also called habitual grace) is a gift by which He dwells in our souls; or to put it more precisely, by which we share in His Divine Life. Now, whenever we receive sanctifying grace, we receive other gifts called the commitance of grace. We receive:

Supernatural Virtues

These are the supernatural habits by which the human will can pose supernatural acts:

  • Faith, Hope and Charity;
  • Prudence, Justice, Fortitude & Temperance
  • and all the other many virtues (generosity, affability, patience etc)

The Gifts of the Holy Ghost

These are supernatural habits by which the Holy Ghost acts directly within us:

  • Understanding: enables us to grasp the objects of our faith (e.g. divinity and humanity of OLJC)
  • Wisdom: enables us to discover in these objects that which is divine (e.g. the hypostatic union, the divine nature, the divine actions of OLJC)
  • Knowledge: enables us to discover the natural things of the object of our faith (e.g. the suffering of OL, his visible acts of virtue: kindness, penance, generosity, compassion)
  • Counsel: enables us to judge our own actions in the light of Knowledge.

Ordained to the perfection of the will:

  • Piety: Devotion
  • Fortitude:
  • Fear: Filial Fear

And so on Pentecost Sunday, Our Lady and the apostles received an increase in sanctifying grace along with the commitance of grace.

The Gift the Apostles didn’t receive

There appears to have been a strange gift which was probably local to the region which was certainly not received on the feast:

Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians: we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all astonished, and wondered, saying one to another: What meaneth this? But others mocking, said: These men are full of new wine. But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you and with your ears receive my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day (Acts 2: 11-15)

This passage is interesting because it implies that the new wine of that region makes people speak foreign languages….! 

Let us pray through the Blessed Virgin Mary that we may partake of that greatest Gift which is the Divine Life of the Trinity and may receive the Gifts of the Holy Ghost and supernatural virtues according to the Divine Will so that we may grow in that Life here below and be fixed in the fulness of that Life for all eternity. +