Saturday, May 22, 2010

Propers for Pentecost Sunday (Extraordinary Form)

            For this Sunday we celebrate Pentecost Sunday.  Many refer to this day as the true “birthday” of the Church.  It was in this moment that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in the upper room, giving them the power to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  Through this day we conclude our Easter season. 
            Like the Apostles, we spent our time with the Risen Lord with exceeding joy.  Yet our life is not all about joy.  As members of Christ’s Kingdom and His Church, there is much work to be done.  Our Risen Lord commanded the faithful to “preach the Gospel to all nations” and that this would be made possible by his sending of the Paraclete “to guide us into all truth.”  When he ascended into heaven, we began our time of deep prayer and preparation for this mission.  As the Apostles went to the upper room in prayer, so we spent our time in deep reflection upon the power of the Holy Ghost.  As the Blessed Mother stayed by the Apostles side the entire time with them in prayer, so she stands with us, praying that we may use this most wonderful gift!
            We begin our celebration of the Mass with a prayer of confidence during the chanting of the Introit, which proclaims:
The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world, alleluia! And that which contains all things has knowledge of His voice, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Ps. 67:2. Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Him flee before Him.
It is here that the Pslamist acts as a herald of God.  He pronounces to the world God’s coming victory in the battle over the powers of darkness.  As we shall see in our epistle reading, the Apostles take up the call “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered” in their first proclamation of the Gospel.  Many people have a concept of the Holy Spirit as simply the force which causes miracles, speaking in tongues, and various other grandiose manifestations.  This sells the Spirit short.  Rather, the purpose of the Spirit’s indwelling within the Church is something far greater.  He is that which gives us courage and sanctification, in any way that is required.  Whether it be through the tongues of fire and judgment, or the stillness of silent affirmation, we are emboldened by the voice of the Spirit that we hear if we know the Father.  This line of thought is continued within the Collect (Opening Prayer) which states:
O God, who this day instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that through the same Holy Spirit we may always be truly wise and rejoice in His consolation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.
            We see here that the roles of the Spirit are many.  First and foremost, He offers us instruction.    It is through the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, that we know the truth of the Gospel.  Like the Apostles, we hear many things from our Lord on our own account that is hard to understand.   Is this not manifested by all the divisions within Christianity?  Just as the Apostles could not figure out the fullness of truth on their own, so Christians throughout history on their own accord have erred. 
            The Holy Spirit changes this.  Upon His descent, the Apostles finally understood everything that Christ had taught them.  As a result, they were far more effective witnesses in the Gospel.  Likewise today, when the Catholic Church heeds the voice of the Spirit, we are able to pronounce the Gospel without contradiction.  That Spirit is only found within the fullness of the Catholic Church.  Knowing this, we are able to experience great joy, and have a source of great courage.  The reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us an example to imitate and follow:
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. And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire: and it sat upon every one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost: and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded in mind, because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: "Behold, are not all these that speak Galilean? And how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians: we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."
            If one wishes to build a truly universal kingdom on earth, you inevitably run into a problem, that problem being the language barrier.  Ever since the foolishness of Nimrod and his Tower, the languages of nations have been confused.  Temporal Kings got around this fact by imposing their language upon the conquered.  For example, Latin and especially Greek was the primary language of the area the Apostles were.  Though Hebrew was spoken, one would need to speak Greek when dealing with those from around the world.
            The Kingdom of God is no different, and yet completely different.  They, like the Kings of yore, provide a unifying language.  The difference is that this language is the language of the Spirit.  Though the Apostles spoke their native tongues, the entire gathering from the four corners of the earth heard everything as if in their own language.  Christ told us this would happen.  Did he not say “When the Son of Man is lifted up, I will draw everyone unto myself?”  Here we see the first representation and fulfillment of that promise.  The diverse nations, representing the entire world, are drawn to The Church and her spouse.  This was foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, who proclaimed of the New Covenant:
 For I will take you from among the Gentiles, and will gather you together out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land.  And I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, 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 dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.  And I will save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for corn, and will multiply it, and will lay no famine upon you.  And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that you bear no more the reproach of famine among the nations.  And you shall remember your wicked ways, and your doings that were not good: and your iniquities and your wicked deeds shall displease you.
            As we know, Our Lord stated that the Holy Spirit would convict the world.  With the illumination of the Spirit, we recognize our sins.  We flee from those sins, fleeing from the Kingdom of this world, and instead turn to the Kingdom of God, where it is the Holy Spirit that ensures that great unity He symbolizes in the uniting of languages.  This message is confirmed in the Gospel (John 14:23-31) and in the Secret (Prayer over the Gifts) in which the priest prays:
Bless our offering, O Lord, and cleanse our hearts by the light of the Holy Spirit. Through our Lord . . .
            We conclude this Mass with the Postcommunion, in which the priest beseeches:
May the coming of the Holy Spirit cleanse our hearts, and, as a heavenly dew, water them to bring forth good fruit. Through our Lord
            The final prayer of the Mass gives us something to take into the world.  Mere forgivness of sin and atonement is not enough.  All the world’s religions have a ritual of attonement.  Christianity is set apart by the fact that the Spirit not just restores us to communion through the forgivness of sins, but rather renews our hearts.  Just as the water of baptism brings forth good fruit for the child making him a servant of heaven, so does the Holy Spirit’s continued work within the soul by the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist) give us holiness anew.  The Divine Gardener destroys the devastated vineyard of our hearts, and in her place creates a beautiful composition of grace and truth.  Let us always be encouraged  by the Spirit.  For as we sing during this Mass:
Unto all your faithful just,
Who in you confide and trust,
Deign the sevenfold gift to send.
Grant us virtue's blest increase,
Grant a death of hope and peace,
Grant the joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia!
            Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth!

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