In a year in which Lent saw penances imposed the likes of which no one could foretell, and in which Holy Week and Easter were at best a virtual event, Pentecost may seem something of an anti-climax. We have not really celebrated the antecedent feasts this year. How then can we truly celebrate Pentecost without their foundation?
Amidst our grief and in our seemingly abandoned state, in the gospel of the Vigil of Pentecost Our Lord speaks to us clearly: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (Jn 14:18)
Whether our grief be for loved ones lost, for sins and vices not fought and arrested with the help of the grace of the sacraments – or even grown worse – be it for due worship not having been rendered to God by His Church, or for whatever of these past months, in the midst of our grief, amidst these very circumstances, Almighty God will not leave us orphans. He will come to us with His consolation and His assistance.
This is precisely what we celebrate in the feast of Pentecost. We have done so many times, year in, year out, but perhaps this year we do so more poignantly, with much greater need than hitherto.
Thus, in our particular need at this time, in our circumstances howsoever less than ideal, as we sing in the Sequence of the Mass of Pentecost imploring the gift of the Holy Spirit today, let us open our hearts, minds and souls to the “Consolator optime, dulcis hospes animae, dulce refrigerium” – to the greatest consoler, to the soul’s sweetest guest and refreshment. (If Mass is not available, then let us pray this sequence with even greater fervour.)
What is this consolation, this refreshment? In his homily at matins this morning St Gregory the Great teaches us that “the Holy Spirit is love” – the love of God, that is: the love that is God (cf. 1 Jn 4:8).
Indeed, the love that is God dwells within us by the grace of our Baptism and Confirmation – howsoever we may have impeded it through our sins and lack of full cooperation with these singular graces. Pentecost, then, is the day to implore the renewal of those graces, the day on which, with God’s own help, to push aside all that blocks the action of God’s love in us, and to begin anew. We may not have access to the Sacrament of Confession as we would wish or need. (In this case a sincere act of contrition is necessary, including the resolve to go to individual confession as soon as is possible.) But even this difficulty is no reason for delay. God’s love, His consolation and refreshment are at hand. We simply need to welcome them, indeed Him.
Our Pentecostal renewal is not simply for ourselves. God the Holy Spirit was sent to the Church for a purpose – to both “vos docebit omnia” (to teach you all things) as St John’s Gospel teaches “et renovabis faciem terrae” (and to renew the face of the earth) as Psalm 103, sung in the Alleluia of today’s Mass, makes clear.
The suffering and grief endured these past months have done much damage at many levels, including to the life and practice of the Catholic Faith in many places and for many people. There have even been great sacrileges in respect of the sacraments, betraying an incredible and appalling lack of formation and understanding of their nature on the part of their ministers which is itself a scandal, the roots of which go very deep. We have very great need indeed for profound renewal and rebuilding.
In the light of our recent experiences we have much to learn and to relearn. To that end, today, on this Solemn Feast of Pentecost God the Father sends us nothing other than His Love personified in the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Let not today pass without our doing all that we can and must to welcome Him efficaciously, that we might ourselves be renewed in our monastic vocation and thereby become instruments of His renewal on the face of the earth. And let us not cease in our prayer that our brothers and sisters throughout the world, our oblates, associates, benefactors, family and friends shall themselves be similarly renewed and receive the strengths and gifts they so need to be ever faithful and bear good fruit in their own particular vocations. +