In an article entitled, “The Glory of the Church”, Pierre-Marie Dumont, publisher of the popular Magnificat writes, “…At Pentecost, the Apostles underwent a kind of baptism. Like Catechumens, they have cast off their old clothes to be robed anew in white.” The reference to being robed in white reminds us of Christ’s Transfiguration at Tabor, “And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white” (Lk 9:29). We can see a parallel between Christ’s transfiguration at Tabor and the Church’s transformation at Pentecost. The latter is an everlasting gift of God and perennial transfiguration.
The grace of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, radically changes everything! The Holy Spirit sanctifies us, and perpetuates our sacramental baptism as a river of grace. Saint John Paul II expressed this on 30 May 1998 in Rome:
Whenever the Spirit intervenes, he leaves people astonished. He brings about events of amazing newness; he radically changes persons and history. …It is not only through the sacraments and the ministrations of the Church that the Holy Spirit makes holy the people, leads them and enriches them with his virtues. Allotting his gifts according as he wills (cf. 1 Cor. 12:11), he also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank…He makes them fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church” (Lumen gentium.12).
Pope John Paul II invited all ecclesial movements to Rome for the 1998 celebration of Pentecost events and I was present for this historical meeting. The half million people gathered in St. Peter’s Square heard these words from the lips of the Polish pontiff:
Today, I would like to cry out to all of you gathered here in St. Peter’s Square and to all Christians: Open yourselves docilely to the gifts of the Spirit! Accept gratefully and obediently the charisms which the Spirit never ceases to bestow on us! Do not forget that every charism is given for the common good, that is, for the benefit of the whole Church.
True charisms cannot but aim at the encounter with Christ in the sacraments. The ecclesial realities to which you belong have helped you to rediscover your baptismal vocation, to appreciate the gifts of the Spirit received at Confirmation, to entrust yourselves to God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Reconciliation and to recognize the Eucharist as the source and summit of all Christian life. Thanks to this powerful ecclesial experience, wonderful Christian families have come into being which are open to life, true “domestic churches”, and many vocations to the ministerial priesthood and religious life have blossomed, as well as new forms of lay life inspired by the evangelical counsels. You have learned in the movements and new communities, that faith is not abstract talk, nor vague religious sentiment, but new life in Christ instilled by the Holy Spirit.
Today from this upper room at St. Peter’s Square, a great prayer rises: Come, Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth! Come with your seven gifts! Come, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Communion and Love! The Church and the world need you. Come, Holy Spirit, and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us. Give us new strength and missionary zeal to these sons and daughters of yours who have gathered here. Open their hearts; renew their Christian commitment in the world. Make them courageous messengers of the Gospel, witness to the risen Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of man. Strengthen their love and their fidelity to the Church.
Let us turn our gaze to Mary, Christ’s first disciple, Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Church, who was with the Apostles at the first Pentecost, so that she will help us to learn from her fidelity to the voice of the Spirit.
Today from this square, Christ says to each of you: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). He is counting on every one of you, and so is the Church.
Dear English-speaking friends, on the vigil of this great feast of Pentecost, I pray that the Holy Spirit will increase the flame of his love in your hearts so that you may be ever more effective in bringing the Gospel message to the world of the new millennium. The Church needs your commitment and your love!
In that Tabor moment and Pentecost event, the Holy Spirit intervened and stirred up the fire of divine love that moves us to bear joyful witness to Christ. The Holy Spirit radically changes everything as an Orthodox bishop once articulated in the following way:
Without the Holy Spirit: God is far away, Christ stays in the past, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is simply an organization, authority a matter of domination, mission a matter of propaganda, liturgy no more than an evocation, Christian living a slave morality.
But with the Holy Spirit: the cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth pangs of the Kingdom, the risen Christ is there, the Gospel is the power of life, the Church shows the life of the Trinity, authority is a liberating service, mission is a Pentecost, the liturgy is both memorial and anticipation, human action is deified.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI, following the example of his friend and predecessor, again invited the ecclesial movements to Rome for the celebration of Pentecost events. I was present among four hundred thousand people in St. Peter’s Square. Memorable and profound were Pope Benedict’s words also:
We want the true, great freedom, the freedom of heirs, the freedom of children of God. In this world, so full of fictitious forms of freedom that destroy the environment and the human being, let us learn true freedom by the power of the Holy Spirit; to build the school of freedom; to show others by our lives that we are free and how beautiful it is to be truly free with the true freedom of God’s children.
The Holy Spirit gives believers a superior vision of the world, of life, of history, and makes them custodians of the hope that never disappoints.
Let us pray to God the Father, therefore, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that the celebration of the Solemnity of Pentecost may be like an ardent flame and a blustering wind for Christian life and for the mission of the whole Church.
Years before attending the above-mentioned1998 Pentecost events in Rome, I read my first book on the person of the Holy Spirit entitled, The Sanctifier by Archbishop Martinez. When I finished reading the book I was moved to kneel down and pray that Archbishop Martinez would become my spiritual father so that I might make the Third Person of the Holy Trinity more known and loved. The Archbishop’s explanation of the espousal of Mary and the Holy Spirit thoroughly convinced me that devotion to the Holy Spirit is essential.
Cardinal Mercier articulates the secret of sanctity and our great need for the Holy Spirit in the renowned prayer:
I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctuary of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit) speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him: O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that you desire of me and to accept all that you permit to happen to me. Let me only know your will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.
On this Solemnity of Pentecost may the Holy Spirit intervene in our lives and leave us astonished as he brings about events of amazing newness and radically changes persons and history. Veni Creator Spiritus!