‘God calls all sorts of people to his Kingdom – literally all sorts. Our different gifts, like our differing degrees of virtue and sin, are inseparable from our common citizenship of Christ’s realm. God uses us as we are, that our virtues might be properly directed, and our sins, once acknowledged, forgiven. The Holy Spirit is the infusion of many gifts, and they match and correspond to the many types of talent, expertise and experience which men and women accumulate in life. Instead of being frustrated because the world does not appear to want them, it should be our joy to realise that the very essence of calling in the Spirit is all about different gifts being employed, not in earthly advancement, but in preparation for an eternal citizenship. As usual, we bring suffering upon ourselves when we trust our own evaluation of our worth. Whitsun is an occasion of great spiritual serenity, for the simplest person with the most residual gifts now finds that the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, that things of lowly recognition in the world are loved by God in eternity’.
Dr Edward Norman (Canon Chancellor of York Minster, 1999-2004)
now a layman in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
‘The heart of Pentecost is spontaneity. Pupils are always to be overshadowed by their tutor’s wisdom, and what if that tutor is divine? The disciples of Jesus had their learning first; the moments were all too few and precious in which they could study the words and ways of a divine master. Then like the good master that he was, he saw that he could teach them no more by word and presence; so he turned to another business he had on hand, he went and died for them; having told them of an inward teacher who would finish their education by a different sort of instruction; by truth springing from the heart, not entering through the ear. The loss of their first teacher left them powerless, without direction or aim, except to pray and wait for the new teacher from heaven. And then, and then when the day of Pentecost was fully come, their bodies and the air surrounding them trembled with spiritual thunder. A rushing wind sang in their ears, the fire ran out in tongues, their lips moved, and sound broke out as by a power not their own. This was the new teaching from heaven; but what did it say? To what did it move? The Spirit would show in due time; but meanwhile at least here was spontaneity, here was life’.
Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
Come with birds’ voices when the light grows dim
Yet lovelier in departure and more dear:
While the warm flush hangs yet at heavens’ rim,
And the one star shines clear.
Though the swift night haste to approaching day
Stay Thou and stir not, brooding on the deep:
Thy secret love, Thy silent word let say
Within the senses’ sleep.
Softer than dew. But where the morning wind
Blows down the world, O Spirit! show Thy power:
Quicken the dreams within the languid mind
And bring Thy seed to flower!
from the Letters of Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941
For those able to join me, it was a joy to be to resume public Masses yesterday, the last day of Eastertide and the great solemnity of Whitsunday. We had good numbers for both Masses, with blustery wind blowing through my domestic oratory at the morning Mass to add to the atmosphere and drama of the occasion. The afternoon Mass - our first in church since mid-March - was a particularly special moment. The light was clear and bright, the air crisp, and there was an overwhelming sense of calm and peace over the whole church. The choir, assembled in their (socially distanced!) loft, sang Hassler’s Missa Secunda, and motets by Palestrina and Attwood, and the final Regina Caeli was sung lustily by all, with a palpable sense of joy and relief. And now the Octave - Whit Week - begins!
Whitsuntide by Emily Manning, 1845-1890
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
from Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot OM, 1888-1965
‘The activity of the Holy Spirit is a ceaseless energy affecting the individual members of the body of the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, even as He made that company the principal medium of His energy at the Day of Pentecost, and has been with the Church in abiding love ever since. The world is not left without the Holy Spirit, but in the world the Church is the sphere in which we have the right to expect the working of the Holy Spirit, and in the Church are groups, Religious Orders, congregations, and in such are individuals, and of such are we ourselves.
If we have a religious vocation, it means that the Holy Spirit has especially separated us from the world that we may be taught and given power to yield ourselves to the reception of and the propagation of the life of the Spirit. A religious will love silence and solitude, and will gladly accept humiliation and suffering, for he is continually learning how such things make him a more loyal disciple of the Holy Spirit. It is a travesty of the religious state to think of it as an asylum of repose to which disillusioned people may retire. It is a condition of intense spiritual development, wherein the subject becomes the client of God the Holy Ghost, separated by Him from the world to become a centre of spiritual life.
Again and again in the history of the Church the Holy Spirit has made religious vocations the weapons with which He warred against the enemies of the Church. St Benedict and St Francis are eminent examples of this. What is true of the religious is true of every soul in its own degree. Every soul that God has created has some part, however humble, to bear in the great scheme of the eternal purpose of God, and to fit and enable each soul for its own particular vocation is the work of the ceaseless activity of God the Blessed Spirit’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously pour the Holy Ghost into our hearts: by whose wisdom we were created, and by whose providence we are governed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There is in the Divine Nature a Fatherhood and a Sonship, and we may certainly think of the Holy Spirit under the figure of Motherhood. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that our Lord was born of Mary, through His overshadowing that our Lady conceived and that of her and in her was created the Sacred Humanity.
Through His operation the Church came into being. After the Gospels come the Acts of the Apostles: those who had seen the Light were to live as children of the Light: those who had heard the Word were to preach the Word. But to do this they needed light and strength. There were many things our Lord had said they would forget, many they would not understand, many they would fear to act upon. They needed that things should be brought to their remembrance and interpreted, and they needed the courage of love to act upon them. All this the Holy Ghost brought them. He filled the apostles with power for their ministry. As He brought the world out of chaos, brooding over the waters, so He brooded over the sinful world, and brought the Church into being, and will at last bring it to perfection.
It is through the power of the Holy Ghost that the Eucharist is consecrated. Even as by His power the Divine Son became present on earth, so by His power our Lord becomes present on the Altar. We must remember that the Holy Ghost Who accomplishes this mystery is Himself always with us. It is the Holy Spirit Who mothers a soul. He bears with us patiently, checks us quietly and sometimes sternly, but, if we will go wrong, like a patient mother He goes with us where we go’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Most merciful God, we beseech thee: that thy Church, being gathered together in the Holy Ghost, may nevermore be disquieted by the assaults of her enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘God the Holy Trinity has had three great dealings with the world: God the Father in creating it, God the Son in redeeming it, God the Holy Spirit in bringing to fruition the work of redemption.
We are living under the dispensation of God the Holy Ghost. He is the power within us that fights against sin. The yearning after God in prayer, all the soul’s travail as it searches after God, is His secret. Through Him we feel contrition, and triumph over the temptation to despair. Through His grace we make good confessions. It needs a good deal of patience to be a true penitent. We get so tired of falling. It often seems as if we were going back instead of forward, as though it would have been much better if we had never started. But the Holy Spirit gives the strength of true penitence, which will not stay in that state of acquiescence with sin, and helps us to get up again, however many times we fall.
We know how hard it is to witness for Christ. St Peter broke down before that test. It is not strange if we find it very hard. Yet if we do witness to Him how happy we feel, and that happiness is the joy of the Holy Ghost. The supreme witness is that of the martyr. Often in life we are faced with a choice. Shall we spare ourselves and live quietly, keeping ourselves free of troubles and toil, or shall we deliberately choose to do that which we know will in the end wear us out and shorten our life? Since the Holy Ghost came at Pentecost the same power is with us that enabled our Lord to set His face as a flint and go up to Jerusalem’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Almighty God, who as at this time didst open the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of thy Holy Ghost: shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Why should one think it necessary to belong to the Church at all, and not content oneself with any group of Christian-minded people whose ways suit one’s temperament? There is, for instance, something very attractive about the methods and manners of the Quakers, with their direct sincerity, their really wonderful history, and their succession of saintly souls.
But when we take up our New Testament, it is altogether impossible to escape the conclusion that our Divine Lord revealed Himself to a society. Christ did not broadcast certain sentences for the crowd to interpret, each in his own way. He did not give to the world disjointed teaching about the Father, and leave the world to form its own conclusions about that teaching. He did quite certainly reveal Himself to a group of people, to a society. He had an inner circle of disciples, and an innermost circle of apostles. He prepared these latter for the catastrophe of the last days, and admitted a chosen three to the innermost sanctuary of His soul, letting them see Him transfigured in His prayer on the mountain and disfigured by the agony of His prayer in the garden. When the catastrophe had accomplished itself, and He had been crucified, and they had forsaken Him and fled, it was back to them that He came in the power of His Resurrection life and continued to teach them in the light of that Resurrection the true significance of the darkness of Calvary. When, with the august ritual of the Ascension, the Sacred Humanity was withdrawn from the sphere of sight and sense and sound, it was upon this group, whom our Lord had trained and to whom alone He had manifested Himself in the great forty days between His Crucifixion and His Ascension, that the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Comforter who proceedeth from thee may enlighten our minds: and lead us, as thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘It was in the spring-time in Galilee, when the flowers appeared upon the earth, that the Resurrection of our Lord took place, and it is in the spring that, to nations of the Western world, the tidings of the Resurrection always come. Just then, when all nature is chanting songs and shouting messages of life resurgent, in the midst of the young leaves, with a carpet of glad flowers, set in a scene of blossom and beauty, is given to us the vision of the Risen Christ. Later, when the promise has been fulfilled and spring has become summer, and the blue sky already holds the secret of the Ascension, comes the messages of the revelation of Pentecost and the power of the Spirit, to rouse those who believe in Him to think of the Christ of power and prevailing purpose.
It is the gospel of the rise of man that is being preached to us now. Goethe once said to a friend, “Tell me of your faith. I have doubts enough of my own”. To us, weary with the knowledge of our many falls, comes our Lord to tell us of a power to rise that may be ours. His end in coming was not to judge but to save the world, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.
The Church is not just an ark from a drowning world, or a place of refuge from a merciless conflagration. It is the power-house wherein we have sacramental points of contact with the Life behind our life. The power behind life is not just force, but purposive creative Personality, and our sacramental communion is contact with the Resurrection life of Christ our Lord’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God: that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Ghost, may manifest thy power among all peoples to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Listen sweet Dove unto my song,
And spread thy golden wings in me;
Hatching my tender heart so long,
Till it get wing, and fly away with thee.
Where is that fire which once descended
On thy Apostles? thou didst then
Keep open house, richly attended,
Feasting all comers by twelve chosen men.
Such glorious gifts thou didst bestow,
That th’earth did like a heav’n appear;
The stars were coming down to know
If they might mend their wages, and serve here.
The sun which once did shine alone,
Hung down his head, and wisht for night,
When he beheld twelve suns for one
Going about the world, and giving light.
But since those pipes of gold, which brought
That cordial water to our ground,
Were cut and martyr’d by the fault
Of those, who did themselves through their side wound,
Thou shutt’st the door, and keep’st within;
Scarce a good joy creeps through the chink:
And if the braves of conqu’ring sin
Did not excite thee, we should wholly sink.
Lord, though we change, thou art the same;
The same sweet God of love and light:
Restore this day, for thy great name,
Unto his ancient and miraculous right.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
The white dove cooeth in her downy nest,
Keeping her young ones warm beneath her breast:
The white moon saileth thro’ the cool clear sky,
Screened by a tender mist in passing by:
The white rose buds, with thorns upon its stem,
All the more precious and more dear for them:
The stream shines silver in the tufted grass,
The white clouds scarcely dim it as they pass:
Deep in the valleys lily cups are white,
They send up incense all the holy night:
Our souls are white, made clean in Blood once shed:
White blessed Angels watch around our bed: —
O spotless Lamb of God, still keep us so,
Thou Who wert born for us in time of snow.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
‘Ember week’s thanksgiving day! It is the night between Saturday and Sunday as in the spirit of the ancient Church we gather at St Peter’s, the station for all Christendom. For the Offertory we bring our tithe from the past quarter year (in certain communities and parishes wheat for the altar bread is presented) and joyously voice our gratitude over the spiritual harvest marking the close of Easter time.
“The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, alleluia, by His Spirit who dwells within us, alleluia, alleluia”. These inspiring words from St Paul are, one may say, the Ite, missa est to Pentecost’s octave. They summarise all that the Church teaches concerning the Holy Spirit. The charity of God is divine sonship, is sanctifying grace, is spiritual transfiguration, is participation in Christ’s glorified life. The charity of God is the quintessence of our holy religion. To become ever more deeply rooted in the love of God is our life’s main task, and to enable us to attain this end is the liturgy’s raison d’etre’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified:
receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and godly serve thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Ember Saturday in Whitsun Week from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Many have wished that Our Blessed Lord had remained on earth, that we might have heard His voice, seen His compassionate eyes, and brought our children to be blessed by His hands. But He said “I can say truly that it is better for you I should go away; He who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go, but if only I make my way there, I will send Him to you”. If our Lord remained on earth, He would have been only a symbol to be copied – not a life to be lived. By returning to his heavenly Father, He could then send both from the Father and Himself the Holy Spirit that would make Him live on earth in His new Body, which is the Church. The human body is made up of millions of cells, and yet is one because vivified by one soul, presided over by a visible head, and governed by an invisible mind. So on Pentecost, the Apostles, who were like the cells of a body, became Christ’s Mystical Body, because vivified by His Holy Spirit, governed by one visible head, Peter, and presided over by one invisible head, Christ in heaven. Our glorious Church is not an organisation, but an organism. As our Lord once thought, governed, and sanctified through a human body, which He took from the womb of His blessed Mother, so now he teaches, governs, and sanctifies through his Mystical Body, the Church, which He took from the womb of humanity overshadowed by His Holy Spirit. Christ was infallible when He talked through a human body; He is still infallible when he teaches through a mystical Body. Christ sanctified when he forgave sins with human lips; He sanctifies still when he forgives sins through the power of His priests. Christ governed through His human Body, and he governs still. “He that heareth you, heareth Me”. As a drop of blood can live in the body, but the drop of blood cannot live apart from the body, so neither can any of us live the fulness of the Christ Life except in His Mystical Body, the Church’.
from The Meditations of the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, 1944
by Venerable Fulton Sheen, 1895-1979
‘‘“Having accomplished the work that the Father had entrusted to the Son on earth, on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify the Church forever, so that believers might have access to the Father through Christ in one Spirit. He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water springing up to eternal life, the One through whom the Father restores life to those who are dead through sin, until one day he will raise in Christ their mortal bodies”.
In this way the Second Vatican Council speaks of the Church's birth on the day of Pentecost. This event constitutes the definitive manifestation of what had already been accomplished in the same Upper Room on Easter Sunday. The Risen Christ came and “brought” to the Apostles the Holy Spirit. He gave him to them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit”. What had then taken place inside the Upper Room, “the doors being shut”, later, on the day of Pentecost is manifested also outside, in public. The doors of the Upper Room are opened and the Apostles go to the inhabitants and the pilgrims who had gathered in Jerusalem on the occasion of the feast, in order to bear witness to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way the prediction is fulfilled: “He will bear witness to me: and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning”.
We read in another document of the Second Vatican Council: “Doubtless, the Holy Spirit was already at work in the world before Christ was glorified. Yet on the day of Pentecost, he came down upon the disciples to remain with them for ever. On that day the Church was publicly revealed to the multitude, and the Gospel began to spread among the nations by means of preaching”.
The era of the Church began with the “coming”, that is to say with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, together with Mary, the Lord’s Mother. The time of the Church began at the moment when the promises and predictions that so explicitly referred to the Counsellor, the Spirit of truth, began to be fulfilled in complete power and clarity upon the Apostles, thus determining the birth of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles speak of this at length and in many passages, which state that in the mind of the first community, whose convictions Luke expresses, the Holy Spirit assumed the invisible - but in a certain way “perceptible” - guidance of those who after the departure of the Lord Jesus felt profoundly that they had been left orphans. With the coming of the Spirit they felt capable of fulfilling the mission entrusted to them. They felt full of strength. It is precisely this that the Holy Spirit worked in them and this is continually at work in the Church, through their successors. For the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles gave to their collaborators through the imposition of hands continues to be transmitted in Episcopal Ordination. The bishops in turn by the Sacrament of Orders render the sacred ministers sharers in this spiritual gift and, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, ensure that all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit are strengthened by this gift. And thus, in a certain way, the grace of Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church’.
from Dominum et Vivificantem: On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, 1986
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Comforter who proceedeth from thee may enlighten our minds: and lead us, as thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth wih thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Ember Wednesday in Whitsun Week from Divine Worship: The Missal.
O MOST HOLY SPIRIT, thou comest,
as once came Christ to Bethlehem,
to a most mean dwelling, even to me.
But thou canst cleanse and make it a temple,
THY temple, full with holiness, love and joy.
So come, O Spirit of GOD,
with GOD the Father’s love;
by Christ's Body and Blood;
in the new birth of thine own breath.
Come to cover my littlenesses and consume my sins,
to direct all my desires and doings;
come with counsel on my perplexities,
with light from thine everlasting scriptures;
come to reveal the deep things of GOD,
and what he prepareth for them that love him;
come with thy prayers into mine.
O most Holy Spirit,
possess me by thy peace,
illuminate me by thy flame,
enable me by thy power,
be made visible in me by thy fruits,
lift me by grace upon grace
from glory to glory,
O Spirit of the Lord;
who art with the Father and the Son one GOD,
world without end.
from My God, My Glory: Aspirations, Acts and Prayers on the Desire for God, 1959
by Eric Milner-White OGS CBE DSO, 1884-1963
Hark! how the merry bells ring jocund round,
And now they die upon the veering breeze
Anon they thunder loud
Full on the musing ear.
Wafted in varying cadence, by the shore
Of the still twinkling river, they bespeak
A day of jubilee,
An ancient holiday.
And lo! the rural revels are begun,
And gaily echoing to the laughing sky,
On the smooth shaven green
Resounds the voice of Mirth.
Alas! regardless of the tongue of Fate,
That tells them 'tis but as an hour since they
Who now are in their graves
Kept up the Whitsun dance.
And that another hour, and they must fall
Like those who went before, and sleep as still
Beneath the silent sod,
A cold and cheerless sleep.
Yet why should thoughts like these intrude to scare
The vagrant Happiness, when she will deign
To smile upon us here,
A transient visitor?
Mortals! be gladsome while ye have the power,
And laugh and seize the glittering lapse of joy;
In time the bell will toll
That warns ye to your graves.
I to the woodland solitude will bend
My lonesome way-where Mirth’s obstreperous shout
Shall not intrude to break
The meditative hour.
There will I ponder on the state of man,
Joyless and sad of heart, and consecrate
This day of jubilee
To sad reflection’s shrine;
And I will cast my fond eye far beyond
This world of care, to where the steeple loud
Shall rock above the sod,
Where I shall sleep in peace.
Henry Kirke White, 1785-1806
‘The word “Comforter”, used in earlier versions of the Bible to describe the office of the Holy Spirit, has changes its meaning. In doing so, it has given us a false picture, at the back of our minds, about the switch-over from Ascension Day to Whitsunday. We think of the Apostles as bereaved of their Master and needing consolation; we almost think of it, heaven help us, a pis aller. That is not what our Lord says. “It is better for you that I should go away; he who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go; but if only I make my way there, I will send him to you”. The Ascension is represented as a means to an end; the end, eminently desirable, is the comforting or strengthening of the Apostles to fulfil their world-mission. Consolation does not enter into the picture at all.
In reality, we ought not to think of Ascension Day and Whitsunday as two separate feasts celebrating two separate events. Only one event is in question, the sending of a Divine embassy and its successful accomplishment, with an interval of nine days' prayer, the first and greatest of all novenas.
Why must our Lord be taken up before the Holy Spirit can come down? It is not for us to ask: we only know it was part of the Divine plan. Was? Or is? In this world of probation, God does not want things to be made too easy for us; we are not to be spoon-fed. The disciples must be weaned away from their dependence upon the visible, tangible presence of their Master, must learn to stand, Spirit-filled, on their own feet. And we, when prayer seems difficult, are not to conclude that God has taken away his Holy Spirit from us. Rather, our Lord has gone away so as to send the Holy Spirit to us, insensibly present, yet life-giving. And even, on a more human plane, when we lose those we loved - is it possible we are being comforted?'
from Lightning Meditations, 1959, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit:
grant to us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr Lee Kenyon