The Feast of Pentecost Sunday, Whit Sunday
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”–Acts ii, 4.
“And He commanded that they should not depart from Jerusalem; but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard,” said He, “by My mouth, that you may give testimony of Me, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth.” Thus runs the admonition of the Lord before His ascension. (Acts i, 4-8.)
The Apostles, therefore, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and many of His disciples, obeying the command of Christ, remained at Jerusalem, united in prayer; and, behold, after ten days, the promise of Christ was fulfilled: “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting; and the Holy Ghost came down upon them in the form of fiery tongues, and sat upon every one of them.”
Then did this Spirit of light replenish their souls with knowledge, power, and love; and enrich them with His sevenfold gifts. St. Paul says of himself, that the same Lord Who decreed that there should be light, caused the light of knowledge in holy faith to irradiate his soul; and so it was with the disciples assembled at Jerusalem. Their understanding seemed darkened; they were faint-hearted and timid since the ascension of Him Who was at once their Lord, their Saviour, and beloved Friend. They remained secluded–“behind bolt and bar,”–not daring to appear in public; but, lo! that fear suddenly vanished, for seven new and most precious gifts were bestowed upon them.
With unfaltering courage they went forth to proclaim the truths of Christianity, and to preach “Christ crucified” to the same people who had been guilty of His death upon the cross; and the grace of God touched the hearts of that vast multitude, as they listened, with rapt attention, to their inspired words. Thousands were converted on the spot; and the Church celebrated her birthday on earth, and extended her mission, from that very day, to the utmost limits of the globe.
There can be no greater happiness on earth, beloved in Christ, than the privilege of belonging to the true Church–the only one in which salvation is to be found. But mere external membership will not confer it upon us. We must become living temples of the Holy Ghost, letting our faith shine forth in our lives with a luster so brilliant that it will attract numberless souls to the fold of Christ. The seven gifts, with which the Holy Ghost enriches all who worthily receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, will produce this effect in our souls.
Let us consider today in what essentially consists each one of these, and see in what manner they influence the uninterrupted duration of the kingdom of God in our souls. O Mary, obtain for us, from the Holy Ghost, thy divine Spouse, the grace to retain in our hearts the influence of His sevenfold gifts! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
St. John says: “Thus spoke Christ of the Holy Spirit, whom every one that believes in Him shall receive.” The miracle which God vouchsafed to work on Pentecost Sunday, namely, the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, was a peculiar grace conferred upon those companions of Jesus Christ, as was also the extraordinary gift of speaking in divers tongues, and penetrating, with prophetic vision, the mysteries of the future. Yes, my brethren, these were gifts of the Holy Ghost, indeed, but reserved for the Apostles alone, apart from those sevenfold gifts which that divine Spirit confers upon all who worthily receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Through this Spirit of love, the Apostles communicated them to all the faithful, to whom, after their baptism, they administered this Sacrament, as the Acts of the Apostles certify.
What are the effects of this Sacrament? It strengthens us in our determination to belong to the kingdom of Christ–the kingdom of God–the Holy Church; to live as her children; to propagate the faith according to our strength and ability; and even, should God require it of us, to sacrifice life itself rather than be false to its teachings. That we may be enabled to do all this, we must not only receive the Sacrament of Confirmation exteriorly; but the graces it confers must penetrate to the very depths of our hearts.
Let us consider today in what the essence of each of these gifts consists; and we will arrive at a clearer understanding of the relation which each one of them bears toward the continuance and increase of the kingdom of God in our hearts.
The first gift–in the order in which they are imparted to us–is “Fear of the Lord” which so disposes our hearts that we entertain no fear whatever, except of God, and the possibility of offending that Divine Being by sin. This gift implies a heart free from sin and filled with a true, sincere, and effective resolution to avoid the most trivial venial sin and imperfection.
When this gift fills our hearts, then indeed the kingdom of God is firmly established therein, and we are temples of the Holy Ghost. But, alas! how many there are who receive not this heavenly gift in its plenitude; who waver and falter in the service of God; and who, so far from being inspired by a holy fear of offending Him, rather allow the fear of men, or human respect, to take entire control of their actions.
The second gift of the Holy Ghost is Piety, which leads us to a state of perpetual prayer, so that we not only perform our prescribed devotions at certain times, but, through them, become united in so intimate a manner with God that we walk constantly in His presence, and live so that the salutation of the angel to the Immaculate Virgin: “The Lord is with thee,” might well be applied to us.
As long as prayer is regarded by us only in the light of an obligation, we are yet very imperfect children of God; but if, on the contrary, we find it an absolute necessity–if it be for our spirits, what breath is to the body–then is the kingdom of God firm in our hearts;. then are we indeed confirmed in the service of our Creator, and living temples of the Holy Ghost. O how many are there who waver in this holy service! The spirit of prayer is wanting in them; their devotions bring them no nearer to God, whereas they should tend to promote an intimate union with Him.
The third gift of the Holy Ghost is Knowledge, through which we become versed in the science of salvation, and thoroughly impressed with the truth, that the great affair of our eternal welfare should first rank in our estimation; and become fully resolved that nothing shall prevent the permanent establishment of the kingdom of God in our hearts. This heavenly knowledge renders us fully alive to the perils which threaten the salvation of those who, while living in the world, strive always, according to the spirit of the world, to possess and to enjoy; and this always in an ever-increasing degree, and for as long a time as possible.
Not so the Christian whose soul, enriched by God the Holy Ghost, is filled with this holy science. He will continually have in view the warning of our Lord: “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” And when the tempter places before him some favorite, though forbidden, pleasure, or paints in glowing colors the joys of yielding to some darling sin, he will pause and ask himself that question, Will I spurn the tempter from my heart or not?
When the charms of earthly pleasures and temporal enjoyments were held up to St. Aloysius, by those who wished to make him waver in his resolution to dedicate himself to God in the religious state, he would silence them by asking: “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? “–Such a soul recognizes the value of time, and employs it accordingly, knowing well that death, which is most surely approaching, is but the pathway to an eternity, which it depends upon him to make happy or miserable.
The Christian who entertains such sentiments will remain firm and unshaken amid the tempests of life, and may feel assured that the kingdom of God is established in his heart. But by far the greater number who call themselves children of the one true Church, and have even received the Sacrament of Confirmation, do not respond to the dignity of their vocation. Carried away entirely by the affairs of the world, their only anxiety is for pleasure, or for gain–for the things of earth which pass away.
The fourth gift, with which we are favored by the munificence of the Holy Ghost, is Counsel. This gift floods the soul with celestial light sufficient to discern what is pleasing to God in the various circumstances of life. It guards us against the evil of seeking advice from vain and worldly minds, and inspires us to go directly to the representatives of Christ on earth. The life of the Christian who receives this gift is blessed with that peace which the world can not give, and, God reigning in his heart by His grace, the divine kingdom is firmly established therein.
But too many go in quest of advice from those who are filled with the spirit of the world, and who can not impart what they do not possess; and instead of receiving benefit, the petitioner wavers in the service of God; nay, sometimes abandons it entirely.
The fifth gift of the Holy Ghost is Fortitude, which enables the recipient to embrace, and bear patiently, all the crosses which are inseparable from that state of life, to which he has been called by the most holy will of God, and to fulfill the duties connected therewith, in spite of every obstacle. From this gift also arises that disposition which inspires the soul with an esteem for tribulations, a love of sufferings, and an ardent desire to bear the cross for the sake of Jesus Christ. Whoever is thus disposed may enjoy the blessed assurance that the kingdom of God is confirmed in his heart, and that, by a faithful correspondence with divine grace, he will combat valiantly and bear away the palm of victory.
Where, however, this steadfast love of sufferings through love of Christ exists not, the prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” arises not as much from the heart, but from the lips only; and the kingdom of God is often endangered.
The sixth gift which the Holy Spirit offers us, in the Sacrament of Confirmation, is Understanding, which enables man to look at, and judge every thing in this world, through the light of holy faith, and to live accordingly. In this way his confession of faith will not proceed from the lips only, but all its teachings will appear, in a manner most clear and distinct, to his spiritual vision. The kingdom of God is truly and firmly established in that blessed soul, and grace will constantly increase therein, to enable her to resist all the attacks of the infernal enemy. Then will the purity of her intention exalt and multiply the merit of her good works before God. O that all would endeavor, by a worthy preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, to receive this gift in its plenitude! But too often it is not the case.
Finally, the seventh gift is the gift of Wisdom, which is essentially the gift of well-ordered love to God and our neighbor, by which the Christian finds his delight in the fulfillment of the precept which enjoins upon us to love God above all, and our neighbor as ourselves. Of such love it is written that it is stronger than death. It induces us to give up all earthly joys and worldly treasures for Christ’s dear sake; and whoever is aware of possessing it, may well exclaim, with St. Paul: “What can separate us from the love of Christ? Hunger, misery, poverty, death; we overcome them all through Him whom we love.”
But, beloved Christians, when every portion of the heart is engrossed by self, there can be no thought of faithful perseverance amid the storms and temptations of life. What weighty and all-powerful motives should on this glorious day, the birthday of our Holy Church, inspire us to assemble in spirit, with the Mother of Jesus and the holy Apostles and disciples of the Lord, as they awaited the descent of the divine Spirit. From the very depths of our hearts let us cry out: “Come, Holy Ghost, replenish our hearts with Thy love, that its ardent fire may animate our souls. Banish therefrom all aversion to prayer, and that spirit of the world which seeks our ruin. Banish from our hearts all unrest, faint-heartedness, forgetfulness of the truths of faith; above all, of the four last things which await us: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Cast from our hearts the spirit of self-love, and lead us, through thy sevenfold gifts, to love God above all, and in Him all whom He has created for Himself; and so confirm these dispositions in our hearts, that we may become, and remain Thy living temples, sanctified through thy love for all eternity.”–Amen.
“For the Prince of this world cometh, and in Me he
hath not any thing.” –John xiv, 30.
The Church of God, the kingdom of light, celebrates today the feast of her establishment on earth, of her birthday, for the blessing and benefit of the human race. Although, my dear brethren, all mankind have been, since the day of creation, universally called to honor God, to love and serve Him, and He has vouchsafed to them messengers to lead them to the way of salvation, there is, on the other hand, a kingdom of darkness which opposes the kingdom of light with all its powers,–blinds, and endeavors to destroy souls, and makes every effort to propagate the kingdom of evil.
The Prince of the realm of light is Christ; the ruler of the region of darkness is Satan. The latter is fittingly styled by the fathers, the “Ape of God;” and daring to look with an envious eye upon “the honor” which belongs to the Lord, he seeks to attract a similar homage to himself knowing well that God works in the most efficacious manner to attain the end for which He created man, Satan tries to imitate Him in His plans, not for the welfare, but for the damnation of souls. He leaves nothing untried to accomplish this darling project, seeking continually new victims to draw into his toils, hardening their hearts, and leading their souls to perdition.
As the Holy Ghost seeks, by the characteristic gifts which He imparts, to confirm the good in all that is pure and holy; so does Satan endeavor, through gifts of an entirely opposite nature, to confirm the bad in every thing vile and wicked. Today we will consider this diabolical confirmation, and the seven gifts which strengthen those who receive it in every thing bad. O Mary, dearest of mothers, obtain for us grace to secure our salvation while God grants us time for the work! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
“But the sinner, when he falls into the depths, despises.” These are the words of the Holy Ghost, and it is the constant aim of the evil one to drag him into such fathomless depths, that at last he cares not whether he is saved or not. Day and night goes about this spirit of malice seeking whom he may confirm in malice. Yet do not lose courage, beloved in Christ! Even though he should induce you to sin, call upon God, repent, and you can regain what you have lost. But to prevent this the devil will try to ruin you with his seven vile gifts, entirely different to those of the spirit of light.
The first gift of the Holy Ghost is fear of the Lord, which casts out all other fear, save that of offending God, and confirms the Christian in all that is good, leads him on to the practice of every virtue, and brings him at last to eternal life. Now, what course does Satan pursue to confirm and strengthen the sinner in malice? He first seeks to persuade him that sin is only a pardonable weakness: so trifling indeed, that, unless temporal loss is connected therewith, it is not worth even a thought. He fills his heart with human respect, so that a craven fear makes him prefer displeasing God, to offending man. Woe to the unhappy beings to whom Satan bestows this disposition; for they are confirmed in malice and sin!
The second disposition of the soul which leads to salvation is fervor in prayer, union with God, a perpetual remembrance of His holy presence. Satan strives to animate the soul with feelings the very reverse, until prayer becomes so distasteful to man, that at last he entirely neglects it, does not even think of God, but, like an irrational animal, goes through the world, caring only for the companionship of men as wicked, or, perhaps, more so than himself. Woe to the wretch who lives in this total neglect of prayer; for he is confirmed by Satan in his service probably forever!
The third disposition of the heart, which assures us of perseverance in virtue, is knowledge; that heavenly knowledge, which teaches us that our eternal salvation, and the most fitting means to attain it, should be kept constantly in view, as the most important and only really essential affair for the faithful child of the Church and for every man on earth. But Satan seeks to ensnare him in the net of earthly desires and schemes, even as the spider keeps the fly moving its little feet and wings, until at length it can move them no more. Men thus become so entangled in worldly affairs, that they lose power to act for the good of their souls, and even grow spiritually blind so as to think they are acting a most wise and prudent part. Woe to that sinner who is thus entangled by Satan, and held fast in the thralldom of temporal cares; for he will be dragged hither and thither at the will of this spirit of evil, and prevented from using the heavenly means by which he might escape from the toils.
The fourth gift of the Holy Ghost to confirm and strengthen us in good, is counsel. It so disposes the soul that the recipient can discern how he can best labor, not only for his own salvation, but also for the welfare of others; advising them how to advance in the science of the saints. But Satan is a rebellious spirit, whose delight it is to fish in troubled waters. If, thereby, he can deprive the sinner of the assistance of divine grace, thus rendering him confused and helpless, what more is needed to confirm him in sin? Think of Judas! When Satan took possession of him, he knew no more what to do; and even on that day when Jesus offered Himself for the salvation of mankind, he gave way to the blackest despair.
The fifth gift of the Holy Ghost is fortitude, which enables us to persevere in good to the end. Lucifer, on his part, leaves nothing untried to shake this celestial courage which inspires the Christian with the most heroic resolves; he seeks to turn him from the path of right, and leads him to abuse the graces bestowed upon him by a merciful God. When the sinner seeks forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, he tempts him to relapse, after which his confirmation in evil is easy. Alas! for the relapsing sinner who thinks he has no cause for fear, because he has confessed his sins, and received absolution for them! That is a fatal delusion, which will lead to final impenitence. Constant relapses weaken his will, and confirm him forever in the service of hell.
The sixth gift of the Holy Ghost, by which the children of the Church are confirmed in good, is that living faith by which man is not satisfied to confess his belief with the lips, and merely through habit, or to fulfill his religious duties because he has been so taught, but which makes him do it from an inward consciousness of the dignity of his vocation as a child of God, and of the admonitions of that divine grace which he never resists, and which invites him to lead the life of a zealous Christian, and obtain eternal bliss.
But Satan tries to weaken the influence of faith upon the life of man, or to destroy it entirely. He, too, often succeeds, so that many, who exteriorly lead lives in conformity with the requirements of the Church, give themselves no trouble as to how they stand before God, and what they can answer on the day of terror and doom at the judgment-seat of Christ. There, they must account for graces neglected, by which, if they had availed themselves of them, they would have attained the most exquisite joy in heaven. Alas! for the Catholic whom Satan can persuade that faith alone is sufficient for salvation; that because he is a Catholic, he will never be lost! He is confirmed by the spirit of darkness, and belongs to those of whom it has been written: “And the children of the house will be cast out.”
The seventh disposition, by infusing which into the soul the Holy Ghost would ensure its eternal salvation, is a degree of divine love which impels us to love God above all, and to embrace all mankind in a truly fraternal affection. It is that heavenly wisdom which is a pledge of final perseverance in the service of God. In direct opposition to this the ruler of the kingdom of darkness tries to instill into the heart of the sinner disgust and indifference to God, aversion and hate to his neighbor, or, perhaps, fills his whole being with a passion so vile, that he commits sins of the most shameful kind.
Alas! how many there are whom Satan thus confirms in his service, who, chained in the thralldom of lust, grow too weak to sever the bonds of some unchaste attachment. Yes, strange as it may seem when we consider the weapons with which God has provided us in the combat with Satan–the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost–that diabolical spirit too often steps in with his seven vile gifts, and with one or another, so hardens man’s heart, that there is, we might almost say, no means of bringing him back.
The enemies of Christ beheld Him call Lazarus forth from the grave, and yet at the question: “What shall we do, for this man worketh many miracles?” the answer came back: “Away with Him! away with Him! crucify Him! crucify Him!”
Thus it is, beloved in Christ, with sinners who, having received the seven gifts of the spirit of evil, have been confirmed in wickedness. They behold signs and wonders, and the Holy Ghost withholds not His divine inspirations; yet they harden their hearts, and remain impenitent unto the end.–Amen!
“And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire.”–Acts ii, 3.
Christ promised to send the Holy Ghost not only to the Apostles, but to all who would believe in Him, “to dwell with them forever.” And, indeed, when on the great festival of Whitsunday He fulfilled this promise, and the divine Spirit appeared in the form of parted tongues, as it were of fire, He rested not only on the heads of the Apostles, but on all who were there assembled, among whom were many of the female sex too.”
This should serve as an admonition that, although the Apostles were first and immediately chosen by Christ to announce the word of salvation over the whole earth, it is alike the duty and the privilege of every Catholic to contribute to the propagation of the kingdom of God on earth, and to lead souls to Christ by teaching them the truths of faith; if they are already members, but cold or tepid children of the Church, then it is the duty of every Christian to win them, by word and example, back to God.
It is true that Christ intrusted the apostleship of preaching only to those divinely appointed, who, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, are ordained to be ministers of the altar; but there is also an apostleship of encouragement, of example, of prayer, and of desire, which all can frequently exercise. None should fail in this duty, and how it can be fulfilled shall be the subject of my sermon today.
O Mary, Queen of Apostles, who didst so richly merit that title–not indeed through preaching, but through zeal for the salvation of souls–obtain for us some portion of that zeal which burned in the hearts of the early Christians who received the Holy Ghost on this glorious day! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God.
In addition to the apostleship of preaching the word of God, my dear brethren, and the ministry of the priesthood in the sanctuary, there is still another–that of propagating the kingdom of Christ on earth, and to this we are all called by divine authority. In regard to the apostleship immediately connected with the Sacrament of Holy Orders, it is most certain that no one can dare to preach the word of God to man except those divinely appointed and ordained priests of the Most High.
We learn from the Acts of the Apostles that they exercised the utmost care lest any one, not thus commissioned, should preach; for, in the first Council they held at Jerusalem, they wrote: “We have heard that there are some who trouble and disquiet you by their preaching, whom we have not sent. Do not hear them.” To us, also, this admonition of the Apostles is of great importance; for, since the introduction of Protestantism, even the laity have taken it upon themselves to preach, and especially in America it is frequently done. Indeed, this abuse has reached such a point that even women pretend to expound the sacred text. This is usurping authority.
But there are ways and means entirely distinct from this by which the greatest good can be accomplished, and they are within the reach of all. To these ways belongs, first, the apostleship of instruction, of warning, of reproof, of consolation. A very essential obligation rests upon parents to exercise the above in regard to their children. Full of solicitude, they must, from the very earliest years of their little ones, see that they are well and thoroughly instructed in matters of faith, both by word and example. They must never weary in their watchful care, but admonish, when occasion requires, those whom God has placed under their charge, and place such books within their reach as will be of permanent benefit to the mind and heart. Parents should esteem it not only a duty, but a pleasure to visit and encourage Catholic schools.
What is particularly needed for America at the present day is a fundamental and thorough hometraining in all matters of faith; but the duty of parents has a still wider range. Here the apostleship of the word has proved more effective than when it is announced from the pulpit, and it consists in advising the children to faithfully fulfill their duties as good Christians, in whatever state of life they may be placed, and to live so as to attain perfection in this life, and eternal happiness in heaven.
Should it nevertheless happen that children or subjects do not correspond with the care bestowed upon them–that they become careless or indifferent, or indulge in some forbidden amusement or evil intercourse with wicked companions, thus exposing their souls to ruin–these suggestions will show parents the necessity of administering words alike of reproof and encouragement. Yes, and even punishment can be very effectively employed in this apostleship.
All this refers to intercourse between relatives and friends too. There may be among them those who have not heard a sermon for years, who willfully, and of their own accord, shun every opportunity of doing so, of speaking with priests, or seeking in any way to promote the interest of their souls. In such instances the kindly offices of friends to supply the word of the priest, become still more essential. On the last great day, when all hidden things shall be made manifest, it will be seen that, through the apostleship of the spoken and written Word, vast numbers of souls have been led to repentance and amendment of life, and finally have been saved.
To the apostleship of the word should be joined that of good example. “Words move, examples draw,” we are assured by a well-known proverb. If parents merely admonish their children to say their morning and evening prayers, but do not kneel down and unite with them, and, perhaps, even do not perform these necessary devotions, the children will, in all probability, neglect their own. But let parents lead the daily prayers, read every evening some portions from the ” Lives of the Saints;” and on Sundays select some other appropriate lesson, and question the children upon it, and the most beneficial results will appear. If parents never fail to assist at divine service on the days commanded, and receive monthly the Holy Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, they will set their children such a noble example that God will eventually bless them all. Let those tender souls given into your care by their Creator, see that you are zealous in the practice of humility, meekness, charity towards God’s beloved poor, and liberality to the Infant Jesus and His Immaculate Mother by remembering the necessities of the Church; this beautiful example will be regarded by them as a precious legacy, and will be most effectual in serving to keep them in the path of virtue long after those who gave it lie moldering in the dust.
A glorious testimony to the truth of this appears in the “Lives of the Saints.” Although centuries have rolled away since they passed from earth to heaven, they still encourage and assist mankind to labor for their sanctification and salvation. We particularly experience this in regard to SS. Benedict, Augustine, Dominic, Francis, Ignatius, and other founders of religious orders, and of those Saints who, by their preaching and missionary labors, propagated holy faith.
Christ says: “Let your light shine forth that men may see your works, and praise the Father in heaven for them.” We read in the life of St. Francis that he said to one of his brethren: “Let us go forth and preach.” They went through many streets of the city, silently, till they again reached the monastery gates. There the brother spoke and said: “Father, did you not say, ‘Let us go forth and preach? ‘ and now behold us at the very spot whence we set out, without having uttered a single word.” St. Francis replied: “Brother, we carried the sermon with us.” “How so, Father?” “The busy world beheld us in our voluntary poverty, and knowing us from earlier times, they know that we, for the love of God, have left everything. In that there is a most powerful admonition for them to detach their hearts from the world.”
To this apostleship of example, then, is united that of prayer and of desire.
First.–That our encouragement and example may be effective, we must pray. Prayer, indeed, is the means appointed by God to obtain graces through which we can do all, but without which we are powerless.
Secondly.–Although your children may leave the home of their youth, and, bidding you farewell, go to a strange and distant land, there still remains one means of assisting them, and that is, prayer. Father –Mother–Sister–Brother–Friend! pray for the eternal welfare of those dear to you; pray for the salvation of the whole world. It was revealed by our Lord to St. Catherine of Sienna, that, as a recompense for her zealous prayer, He had granted the grace of conversion to many thousands, and that her never-ceasing petitions had obtained their perseverance until the end.
In conclusion, beloved in Christ, there remains still another apostleship in which all can participate,–that of desire. If the desire be sincere, it possesses as much value before God as the act itself. It was the ardent wish of St. Francis Xavier to effect the conversion of China and Asia, to destroy the Greek schism, and to reconcile Protestant Germany with the Church; and then, returning to Rome, to embrace Ignatius, his spiritual father, and to receive his blessing. With these wishes burning in his heart, the saint yielded up his pure spirit into the embrace of Christ, and hastened to his eternal reward. God knows these desires, and accepts them for the glorious fulfillment.
These are the ways and means by which you can, each and every one, become Apostles of Christ on earth, that you may have a never-ending claim to that glory of which we read in the Prophet Daniel (xii, 5) which is awarded to those who instruct others to justice: “They will one day shine as stars in an endless eternity.”–Amen! (5)
The great Day is far spent: but, the Holy Spirit, Whom we received this morning at the Hour of Tierce, gives us the irresistible desire to prolong our study of the sublime Mystery. Let us, then, return to Jerusalem. The flame enkindled in the hearts of the Apostles has spread among the admiring crowd. The Jewish pride of these men, who, but a few weeks back, had followed the Divine Victim up the hill of Calvary, hooting him with their blasphemies, is now changed into contrition; they are heartbroken at the thought of their having crucified the Lord of glory (I. Cor. ii. 8). They only require to know the truth, believe it, and be baptized, and they will be true Christians. Whilst the Holy Spirit is working within them, Peter and his fellow-Apostles continue their instructions: “He that died upon the Cross, and rose again from the grave, is the very Son of God, born of the Father from all eternity; the Spirit, that is now sent among them, is the Third Person, one with the Father and Son in the unity of the Divine Nature.” The Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption, are revealed, in all their magnificence, to these disciples of Moses; the shadows of the ancient figures give place to the light and realities of the new Covenant. The time is come for the fulfillment of the prophecy uttered by St. John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan, a prophecy which many of the present audience heard him speak: There hath stood one in the midst of you, Whom ye know not. The same is He that shall come after me, Who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose. I baptize with water, but he shall baptize with the Holy Ghost (St. John, i. 26, 27, 33).”
And yet, this Baptism of Fire is to be administered by Water. The Spirit, Who is Fire, works by Water and is called the “Fountain of living Water.” The Prophet Ezechiel foresaw this great Day, when he spoke these words: “I will pour upon you clean Water, and you shall be cleansed from all your fithiness, and I will cleanse you from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart, and put a new Spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in the midst of you, and I will cause you to walk in my commandments, and to keep my judgments, and do them. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God (Ezechiel, xxxvi. 25, 28).”
Nothing could be clearer than this prophecy; when the Spirit came, there was to be a fount of water poured out upon men. We have already seen this Divine Spirit brooding over the Waters at the Creation. At the Epiphany, when celebrating the mystery of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, we saw the heavenly Dove uniting with the Word Incarnate in imparting a sanctifying power to the favoured element of Water. On Holy Saturday, at the blessing of the Font, the Pontiff plunged the Paschal Candle, (the symbol of Christ,) into the Water, and prayed thus: ” May the virtue of the Holy Ghost descend into all the Water of this Font!” And now, on this Day of Pentecost, the cleansing stream is poured out in Jerusalem: Peter and his Brethren plunge these children of Israel beneath the life-giving element, and lo! three thousand children are regenerated in Christ! How admirable are these ancestors of our Faith, in whom were first fulfilled the prophecies! We rejoiced at seeing the Magi dismount from their camels, enter the stable, and offer their mystic gifts at the feet of the King of the Jews; but oh! how gladder, and how grander, is our summer day of Pentecost! for now the mysteries are complete; we are redeemed, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father, the Holy Ghost has been sent to us, and is to abide with us forever. Those rich sources of grace, the Sacraments, which our Jesus instituted during his stay among us, must now be thrown open. Baptism is the first: the Spirit of the Father and the Son has opened it by His coming, nor will the sacred stream cease to flow, till time be swallowed up in eternity. But this same Divine Spirit is the “Gift of the Most High God;” the Apostles have received it, but they have received it in order to impart it to mankind. A second source is therefore opened, and the Sacrament of Confirmation gives the Holy Ghost to the three thousand Neophytes. It is administered by Peter and his fellow-Apostles, the Bishops of the New Law: by the power that is in them, they communicate to the newly baptized the heavenly strength they will henceforth need for confessing the Name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Even this is not dignity enough for these favored Christians: they have been regenerated to a life of grace, they are doubly crowned by a twofold character, and now they are to have union with Christ, the Institutor of the Sacraments, the Mediator and Redeemer of mankind. A third source must be opened: the new Priesthood, exercised for the first time by the Apostles, must produce the Bread of Life, that is, Jesus Himself, and feed the Neophytes with this Manna, which giveth life to the world (St. John. vi. 33). The Upper Chamber, still fragrant with the sweet Institution of the Eucharist, is the scene of its second celebration. Peter, surrounded by his Brethren, consecrates the Bread and Wine; and, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, the Body and Blood of Jesus are on the Altar. The New Sacrifice is inaugurated, and henceforth it shall be daily offered up to the end of time. The Neophytes approach, and receive from the hands of the Apostles the heavenly food which consummates their union with God, through Jesus, the Priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech (Ps. cix. 4; Heb. v. 6: vii. 17).
But, among those who communicate at this first celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, there is the Blessed Mother of Jesus, in whose virginal womb He took Flesh. The Holy Ghost has, by His coming, given a new consecration to the office entrusted to her by Jesus, when, dying upon the Cross, He made her Mother of Men; and now she is united, by the Mystery of Love, to that same dearest Jesus of hers, Who has ascended into heaven, leaving her to foster his infant Church. Henceforward, the Bread of Life will daily give her this her Beloved Son, until, at length, she herself shall be assumed into heaven, there to see and embrace him for endless ages.
What a happiness for those Neophytes who were privileged, above the rest, in being brought to the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin-Mother of Him Who was the hope of Israel! They saw this second Eve, they conversed with her, they felt for her that filial affection wherewith she inspired all the Disciples of Jesus. The Liturgy will speak to us, at another Season, of these favoured ones; we only allude to the incident now, to show how full and complete was the great Day, on which began our Holy Mother Church. The sacred Hierarchy was seen in Peter, (the Vicar of Christ,) in the other Apostles, and in the Disciples chosen by Jesus Himself. The seed of the word was sown in good soil, Baptism was administered to three thousand Israelites, the Holy Ghost was given to them to make them perfect Christians, the Son of God fed them with His own Flesh and Blood, and Mary adopted them as her spiritual Children.
Let us now unite our voices with that of the Church; let us sing, with her, the praises of that Holy Spirit, who made this first day of His Mission to be so rich in grace. (3)
Image: A mosaic representing Pentecost on the ceiling of the cathedral (12)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff