EXPAND YOUR READING!!

"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Saturday, 7 June 2014

PENTECOST SUNDAY: POPE FRANCIS AND THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL



Feast of Holy Pentecost
INTRODUCTION

The Feast of Holy Pentecost is celebrated each year on the fiftieth day after the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha (Easter) and ten days after the Feast of the Ascension of Christ. The Feast is always celebrated on a Sunday.

The Feast commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, a feast of the Jewish tradition. It also celebrates the establishment of the Church through the preaching of the Apostles and the baptism of the thousands who on that day believed in the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Feast is also seen as the culmination of the revelation of the Holy Trinity.

BIBLICAL STORY

The story of Pentecost is found in the book of The Acts of the Apostles. In Chapter two we are told that the Apostles of our Lord were gathered together in one place. Suddenly, a sound came from heaven like a rushing wind, filling the entire house where they were sitting. Then, tongues of fire appeared, and one sat upon each one of Apostles. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as directed by the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).

This miraculous event occurred on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, celebrated by the Jews on the fiftieth day after the Passover as the culmination of the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). The Feast of Weeks began on the third day after the Passover with the presentation of the first harvest sheaves to God, and it concluded on Pentecost with the offering of two loaves of unleavened bread, representing the first products of the harvest (Leviticus 23:17-20; Deuteronomy 16:9-10).

Since the Jewish Feast of Pentecost was a great pilgrimage feast, many people from throughout the Roman Empire were gathered in Jerusalem on this day. When the people in Jerusalem heard the sound, they came together and heard their own languages being spoken by the Apostles (Acts 2:5-6). The people were amazed, knowing that some of those speaking were Galileans, and not men who would normally speak many different languages. They wondered what this meant, and some even thought the Apostles were drunk (Acts 2:7-13).

Peter, hearing these remarks, stood up and addressed the crowd. He preached to the people regarding the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Holy Spirit. He spoke about Jesus Christ and His death and glorious Resurrection. Great conviction fell upon the people, and they asked the Apostles, "What shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38-39).

The Bible records that on that day about three thousand were baptized. Following, the book of Acts states that the newly baptized continued daily to hear the teaching of the Apostles, as the early Christians met together for fellowship, the breaking of bread, and for prayer. Many wonderful signs and miracles were done through the Apostles, and the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).

OUR ASCENT INTO DARKNESS
The life of Moses by Gregory of Nyssa
a talk by Archimandrite Irenei
click HERE



POPE FRANCIS AND THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL


Pope Francis discovers charismatic movement a gift to the whole church

By Francis X. Rocca

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- During World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, July 23-28, many worshippers in the crowds could be seen swaying from side to side, arms raised in the air, wearing rapt or joyous expressions on their faces.

Such scenes, along with on-stage appearances by celebrities such as Father Marcelo Rossi, a mega-church pastor whose records and movies regularly top the charts in his native Brazil, testified to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal's strong influence on the church in Latin America today.

As the church continues to lose members in the region with the world's largest Catholic population, the charismatic movement stands out as a source of hope, not only for fending off the formidable competition of Pentecostal Protestantism but for raising morale among the faithful as a whole.



Though not even half a century old, the movement claims that at least 120 million Catholics in 238 countries have been "baptized in the Holy Spirit," according to a 2012 document published by International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. The movement, which started in the United States, reports fast growth in Asia and Africa. But the world's largest concentration of charismatics today is in Latin America, where 16 percent of Catholics identify themselves as participants.

One of the movement's pioneers was Jesuit Father Edward Dougherty, founder of Brazil's Seculo 21 Catholic satellite television channel.

When the Louisiana native moved to Brazil in 1966, he discovered a country where, as in most of Latin America, vocations and Mass attendance rates had languished. He also learned that a recent Catholic movement to promote social justice in the region had led, in some cases, to neglect of otherworldly values.

"I felt very much a strong emphasis on liberation theology, which I say is very horizontal," Father Dougherty told Catholic News Service in Rio. "There was a need for spirituality."

Meanwhile, Pentecostal Protestants were enthusiastically spreading their message to great success among the traditionally Catholic population.

Pentecostals "talk about the spiritual needs of the people," Father Dougherty said. "Often their churches, their temples, are more open than the Catholic churches," and their pastors more willing to visit people in their homes than Catholic clergy are.

Some Pentecostal churches, especially non-denominational institutions such as Brazil's Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, also preach the "prosperity gospel" of material well-being through faith in Jesus Christ. It was a message with obvious appeal in a country such as Brazil, where, despite recent economic growth, the per-capita gross national product is only $12,100.

The Pentecostal movement has continued to rise, from 6 percent of Brazil's population in 1991 to 13 percent in 2010, according to a recent Pew Research Center study based on Brazilian census data. In the same period, the Catholic share of the country's population fell from 83 percent to 65 percent. A 2006 Pew survey of Pentecostals in Brazil found that 45 percent were converts from Catholicism.

Although the Catholic charismatic renewal has strong ecumenical roots, and its members have often worshipped together with Pentecostals, it also functions as a vehicle for retaining or winning back Catholics tempted by the Protestant alternative.

Like Pentecostalism, charismatic Catholicism emphasizes the Holy Spirit, features faith healing and speaking in tongues and is spread by door-to-door evangelists. But the important roles it gives to Mary and the Eucharist ensure that charismatic devotion has a clear Catholic identity.

The movement also encourages social service, Father Dougherty said, noting that it draws its inspiration from the church's foundational event, the first Pentecost, when Jesus' disciples "went out to the streets" to preach and help the needy as soon as they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Strong Catholic identity has been crucial to the movement's acceptance by the church's hierarchy in Latin America, many of whom had initial reservations about its unfamiliar forms of worship and largely lay leadership.

One early skeptic was Argentine Jesuit Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.

"Back at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, I had no time for" charismatics, the pope told reporters on the plane returning from Rio July 28. "Once, speaking about them, I said: 'These people confuse a liturgical celebration with samba lessons!'"

"Now I regret it," he said. "Now I think that this movement does much good for the church, overall."

"I don't think that the charismatic renewal movement merely prevents people from passing over to Pentecostal denominations," Pope Francis said. "No! It is also a service to the church herself! It renews us."

"The movements are necessary, the movements are a grace of the Spirit," the pope added, speaking of ecclesial movements in general. "Everyone seeks his own movement, according to his own charism, where the Holy Spirit draws him or her."

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ROME Meeting more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics in Rome's Olympic Stadium, Pope Francis admitted he was not always comfortable with the way they prayed, but he knelt onstage as they prayed for him and over him by singing and speaking in tongues.

"In the early years of the charismatic renewal in Buenos Aires, I did not have much love for charismatics," the pope said June 1. "I said of them: They seem like a samba school."

Little by little, though, he came to see how much good the movement was doing for Catholics and for the church, he told a gathering organized by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.

Pope Francis invited the crowd, which included charismatics from 55 countries, to come to St. Peter's Square for Pentecost in 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movement. The Catholic charismatic movement traces its origins to a retreat held in 1967 with students and staff from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

"I expected all of you, charismatics from around the world, to celebrate your great jubilee with the pope at Pentecost 2017 in St. Peter's Square," the pope said.


The celebration in Rome's Olympic Stadium began with the song, "Vive Jesus, El Senor," ("Jesus, the Lord, Lives") a Spanish-language song which Francis -- who claims he is tone deaf -- joined in singing with his hands open like many in the crowd. The pope said he likes the song, which charismatics in Argentina also sing.

"When I celebrated the holy Mass with the charismatic renewal in the Buenos Aires cathedral, after the consecration and after a few seconds of adoration in tongues, we sang this song with such joy and strength," he said.

At another point, when the crowd prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill Francis, he knelt on the bare floor of the stage, while they sang with their hands raised toward him. After the song, many in the crowd kept their hands raised as they prayed in tongues, speaking in unfamiliar languages.

Responding to a married couple, who spoke about the renewal's positive impact on their family life, Francis said the family is the "domestic church," the place where Jesus' presence grows in the love of spouses and in the lives of their children. "This is why the enemy attacks the family so hard; the devil doesn't like it, and tries to destroy it."

"May the Lord bless families and strengthen them during this crisis when the devil wants to destroy them," the pope prayed.

In a speech, Francis told the charismatics that they their movement was begun by the Holy Spirit as "a current of grace in the church and for the church."

He pleaded with charismatic groups not to try to organize everything or create a bureaucracy that attempts to tame the Holy Spirit.

The temptation "to become 'controllers' of the grace of God" is a danger, the pope said. Group leaders, sometimes without even meaning to, become "administrators of grace," deciding who should exercise which gifts of the Holy Spirit. "Don't do this anymore," Francis said. "Be dispensers of God's grace, not controllers. Don't be the Holy Spirit's customs agents."

From the beginning, he said, charismatics were known for their love of and familiarity with the Scriptures; the pope asked those who lost the habit of carrying their Bible with them everywhere to "return to this first love, always have the word of God in your pocket or purse."

Francis also said Catholic charismatics have a special role to play in healing divisions among Christians by exercising "spiritual ecumenism" or praying with members of other Christian churches and communities who share a belief in Jesus as lord and savior.

Pope Francis Speaks to the Renewal in the Spirit Conference in Rome
my source: Catholic Online




Dear brothers and sisters!

I thank you so much for your welcome. No doubt someone told the organizers that I very much like this song, "The Lord Jesus Lives" . When I celebrated holy Mass in Buenos Aires with the Charismatic Renewal, after the consecration and after a few seconds of adoration in tongues, we sang this song with so much joy and force, as you did today. Thank you! I felt at home!

I thank Renewal in the Spirit, the ICCRS and the Catholic Fraternity for this meeting with you, which gives me so much joy. I am grateful also for the presence of the first who had an intense experience of the power of the Holy Spirit; I believe that it was Patty, here . 

You, Charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord. You were born of the will of the Spirit as "a current of grace in the Church and for the Church." This is your definition: a current of grace.

What is the first gift of the Holy Spirit? The gift of Himself, who is love and makes you enamored of Jesus. And this love changes life. Because of this it is said: "to be born again to life in the Spirit." Jesus said it to Nicodemus. You have received the great gift of the diversity of charisms, diversity that leads to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, to the service of the Church.

When I think of you  Charismatics, the image of the Church herself comes to me, but in a particular way: I think of a great orchestra, where every instrument is different from another and the voices are also different, but all are necessary for the harmony of the music.  Saint Paul says it in chapter XII of the First Letter to the Corinthians. 

Therefore, as in an orchestra, no one in the Renewal can think of being more important or greater than another, please! No one can say: "I'm the head." You, as the whole Church, have only one head, only one Lord: the Lord Jesus. Repeat with me: who is the head of the Renewal? The Lord Jesus! Who is the head of the Renewal? [those present]: the Lord Jesus! And we can say this with the strength that the Holy Spirit has given us, because no one can say "Jesus is the Lord" without the Holy Spirit.

As you perhaps know - because news spreads - in the first years of the Charismatic Renewal I did not like Charismatics much. And I said of them: "They seem like a school of samba!" I did not share their way of praying and the many new things that were happening in the Church. 

Afterwards, I began to know them and in the end I understood the good that Charismatic Renewal does to the Church. And this story, which goes from the "school of samba" forward, ends in a particular way: a few months before taking part in the Conclave, I was appointed by the Episcopal Conference spiritual assistant of Charismatic Renewal in Argentina.

Charismatic Renewal is a great force at the service of the proclamation of the Gospel, in the joy of the Holy Spirit. You received the Holy Spirit that made you discover the love of God for all his children and love of the Word. 

In the early times it was said that you Charismatics always carried the Bible with you, the New Testament . Do you still do it today? [the crowd]: Yes?! I'm not so sure. If not, return to this first love; always carry in your pocket, in your bag the Word of God! And read a little piece -- always with the Word of God.

You, people of God, people of the Charismatic Renewal, be careful not to lose the freedom that the Holy Spirit has given you. The danger for the Renewal, as our dear Father Raniero Cantalamessa often says, is that of excessive organization: the danger of excessive organization.

Yes, you need organization, but do not lose the grace of letting God be God! "However, there is no greater freedom than that of letting oneself be carried by the Spirit, refusing to calculate and to control everything, and allow Him to illuminate you, lead you, guide you, and push you where He wishes. He knows well what the need is in every age and moment. This calls to be mysteriously fruitful!" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 280).

Another danger is that of becoming "controllers" of God's grace. So often the leaders (I prefer the name "servants") of some group or some community become, perhaps without wanting it, administrators of grace, deciding who can receive the prayer of the effusion or Baptism in the Spirit and who, instead, cannot. If some do so, I beg you not to do so anymore, don't do it anymore" You are dispensers of the grace of God, not controllers! Don't be a customs office to the Holy Spirit!

You have a guide in the Documents of Malines, a sure course not to mistake the way. The first document is: Theological and Pastoral Guideline. The second is: Charismatic Renewal and Ecumenism, written by Cardinal Suenens himself, great protagonist of Vatican Council II. The third is: Charismatic Renewal and Service to Man, written by Cardinal Suenens and Bishop Helder Camara.

This is your task: evangelization, spiritual ecumenism, care of the poor and needy and hospitality for the marginalized. And all this on the basis of adoration! The foundation of the renewal is to adore God!

I have been asked to tell the Renewal what the Pope expects from you.

The first thing is conversion to the love of Jesus, which changes life and makes of the Christian a witness of the Love of God. The Church expects this witness of Christian life and the Holy Spirit helps us to live the coherence of the Gospel for our holiness.

I expect from you that you share with all, in the Church, the grace of Baptism in the Holy Spirit (expression that is read in the Acts of the Apostles).

I expect from you an evangelization with the Word of God which proclaims that Jesus is alive and loves all men.

I expect that you give witness of spiritual ecumenism with all those brothers and sisters of other Churches and Christian communities who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

That you remain united in the love that the Lord Jesus asks of us for all men, and in the prayer to the Holy Spirit to come to this unity, necessary for evangelization in the name of Jesus. 

Remember that "the Charismatic Renewal is by its very nature ecumenical . Catholic Renewal rejoices over what the Holy Spirit carries out in the other Churches" (1 Malines 5, 3).

Be close to the poor, the needy, to touch in their flesh the flesh of Jesus. Be close, please!

Seek unity in the Renewal, because unity comes from the Holy Spirit and is born of the unity of the Trinity. From whom does division come? From the devil! Divison comes from the devil. Flee from internal fights, please! They must not exist among us!

I want to thank the ICCRS and the Catholic Fraternity, the two organizations of Pontifical Right of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, at the service of global Renewal; be committed to preparing the world meeting for priests and Bishops, which will be held in June of next year. 

I know that you have also decided to share the office and to work together as a sign of unity and to manage the resources better. I rejoice greatly. I also want to thank you because you are already organizing the Great Jubilee of 2017.

Brothers and sisters, remember: adore the Lord God: this is the foundation! To adore God. Seek sanctity in the new life of the Holy Spirit. Be dispensers of the grace of God. Avoid the danger of excessive organization.

Go out into the streets to evangelize, proclaiming the Gospel. Remember that the Church was born "in going forth" that Pentecost morning. Be close to the poor and touch in their flesh the wounded flesh of Jesus. Let yourselves by led by the Holy Spirit, with that freedom and, please, do not cage the Holy Spirit! With liberty!

Seek the unity of the Renewal, unity that comes from the Trinity!

And I await you all, Charismatics of the world, to celebrate, together with the Pope, your Great Jubilee in Pentecost of 2017, in Saint Peter's Square! Thank you!


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GOD BREAKS RULES!!

These words of Charles Whitehead in the above video should be engraved in all our hearts, especially in the hearts of all Catholics, Orthodox and Pentecostals.  It should be engraved in the hearts of all those who are perfectly content with the Liturgy for their public worship and a pattern of traditional prayer and piety to help them to celebrate the interior liturgy of their hearts.   It should be engraved in the hearts of all whose relationship with God is expressed in spontaneous worship, in tongues, in the exercise of the charisms, in charismatic worship.   It should be engraved in the hearts of all who look for Christ in community, and for all those who go out alone into the desert to pray.

Rules are important. Through them, Christian experience or Tradition helps us to advance on our way to God; but they are never good for judging others.  For one thing, we are forbidden to judge others by the One who knows what he is talking about; and, for another, when we judge others, we forget that, when human beings pray, it is not they who have the initiative, but God who, as the Good Shepherd, seeks them out where they are, and leads them, little by little, to the place where he wants them to be.   And this process may well begin in this life and reach completion in the next.   Who are we to interfere in God's process with our judgement?   Fools jump in where angels fear to tread.

There is real contradiction in Christian behaviour: the more we rejoice in God's gifts to us, the more apophatic becomes our prayer, the more we become convinced that others who do not share these gifts in the way we have received them are wrong and deprived.   The more we are blessed, the more others are seen to be lacking in blessing.   We forget that the good Lord who has sought us out is doing the same to them.   " ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector," is not a Christian prayer.   As a Christian, I know in faith that God loves me in Christ; but this implies that God loves everybody else just as much, even if they don't know it; and I need His love just as much as they do.   Moreover, He takes the initiative in their salvation just as much as he does in mine.  

 And He breaks the rules. He is without scruples because he loves  He is the Good Shepherd I do not understand, whom I cannot dissect, whose love keeps the universe in being, whose process of reconciling the world to himself in Christ is infinitely greater than both the universe it sustains and the human race he is bent on saving.   However, the more I believe this, the more I make my own ecclesial experience the measure of his saving work.   

In contrast, like St Isaac of Nineveh, let us bow down before his infinite Love and let it light up everything we know and every doctrine we believe in.  The more we believe something to be true, the more we accept a truth to be revealed by God and are willing to die for it, the more we must be convinced that our grasp of it is limited, precisely because it comes from God.    Hence, we must stay alert. 

  I am not a liberal who believes that all religions are the same, but a Catholic who believes that, in accepting all that the Catholic Church teaches, I am merely scraping the surface.

This means that I must keep my eyes open for signs of grace, even in the most unlikely places.   God has made us inter-dependent and a means of grace for each other.   Blessed Charles de Foucauld was challenged by grace through the behaviour of Muslim Bedouin tribesmen. If this can happen between Christians and non-Christians, how much more can it happen between Christians.   Of those who were martyred with St Charles Lwanga in Uganda, some were Catholics and others Anglicans. Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans learned to love one another and were sustained by each other under Nazi oppression; and so-called Uniates and Orthodox came to love one another in the Russian gulags.  If this can happen between Christians of different confessions, how much more can there be a free flow of grace among Catholics!!   This brings us, once more, to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Once upon a time, I was parish priest of Negritos, a Charismatic parish.   The sisters in the parish, taking advantage of the arrival of a new priest, urged me to introduce Catequesis Familiar as the preparation for First Communion.   It is a two year course in which the parents of the candidates are prepared to teach their own children - and an excellent course it is too.   The families are divided into groups, each group under a pareja guia or married couple chosen to guide them.   On Tuesdays, the parejas guias meet to go through the pamphlet that deals with that aspect of Christian family life that is going to be discussed that week.   In the next couple of days, the parejas guias lead their groups in discussing the subject.   The meeting is divided into three parts: SEE, JUDGE and ACT; and, in the second part, a passage of Scripture is discussed that throws light on the subject.  When they have decided on the action for the week, the pamphlet they will share with their children is discussed.   It requires answers that have to be filled in by the children with the help of their parents.  On Saturday, the children of each group meet under a young adult or teenager who receives from them their completed answers, who listens to the children when they talk about the classes they have with their parents, and who organises songs, dynamics, games, dramas, to illustrate the theme.   They then report to their pareja guias on Mondays on how everything went.  The course covers all aspects of family life, in which faith and ordinary life are well integrated.

"Nothing could be more different from the Charismatic Renewal," the nun in charge of Catequesis Familiar told me.
"If you want to make a success of this programme, you must get rid of the Charismatic Renewal."
"You are wrong," I said, and she was.
"It is they who are going to organise it!"
No one received this new way of using the Scriptures with greater joy than the Charismatics.   They became the backbone of the Catequesis Familiar with no threat whatsoever to their identity as Charismatics.   They were as unaware of any contradiction between the two as I was.   Where the Holy Spirit is concerned, diversity is divine: only division is diabolical.

Charles Whitehead points out that the Charismatic Renewal is radically different from the other ecclesial movements like the Focolare and the Neo-catechumenate.   Kevin Ranaghan, in the early seventies, said that it is a movement like the Liturgical Movement and the Biblical Movement in the Church: it works to make itself redundant.   In fact, the Liturgical movement, the Biblical movement and the Charismatic movement are inter-related.  When the liturgy is integrated into the life of the ordinary members of the Church and is seen by all as the Church's meeting with God, then the liturgical movement will have achieved its purpose.   When lectio divina has become a normal dimension of Catholic piety, there will no longer be any need for the Biblical movement.   When the full range of New Testament charisms are commonplace in the Church, and when new charisms abound, then it will be time to call a halt to the Charismatic Renewal. Reading Pope Francis' sermon on the Renewal's constant use of Scripture, and remembering that the foundation of the Charismatic Renewal came only a short time after the inclusion in the Latin Rite of the epiclesis, the prayer that asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit onto the bread and wine to make them the Body of Christ, and onto the Church to renew it and to make it one, then we realise how intimate is the connection between them.  All three movements seek renewal in essential features of the Church, realities that are wider than they are; and, by so doing, are continuing work of Vatican II. 

Thus, Pope Francis tells the Charismatics " I expect from you that you share with all, in the Church, the grace of Baptism in the Holy Spirit (expression that is read in the Acts of the Apostles)."   The movement exists in and for the Church: they must never become a sect, nor is their task to seek for others to join them.   It is their function to wake people to a reality they already have, often without realising it.  "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" is the moment when people wake up  to and get in touch with an old grace, one they received at Baptism, not the acquiring of a new one, distinct from the sacraments; though it may seem like that at the time.

Here is a quotation from "Teach Us To Pray", by Abbot Andre Louf, late Abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Mont des Cats in northern France.   I am purposely using a source outside the Charismatic Renewal to describe a phenomenon they know so well.
Each person has been given by the creator an organ primarily designed to get him praying.   In the creation story we read how God made man by breathing into him his living spirit (Gen. 2:7) and - St Paul goes on - man became a living soul (1 Cor. 15:45).   Adam was the prefiguration of Him who should come: Jesus, the second Adam,  after whose image the first man had been created.   This means that being in relation with the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a fundamental part of our nature.   The living spirit of God is the fount of prayer in us....

Ezekiel announces God's word "I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed...I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead.   I shall put my spirit in you (Ez. 36: 25 - 27).   Only a heart of flesh can really beat, can give life to the whole body.   Only into such a heart can the Spirit make his entry....

It is the main enterprise for every individual to find his way back to the heart.   He is an explorer, moving into that unknown inner region.   He is a pilgrim in search of his heart, of his deepest being.   Everyone carries within him - to repeat the marvellous expression by St Peter in his first letter - "the hidden man of the heart (3:4).   That "man" is our deepest and more real being: he is who and what we are.   There God meets us; and it is only from there we in our turn can encounter people....But so far we have not reached that point.   We are only on the road towards our heart.   Still, the marvellous world that awaits us there makes taking the greatest trouble worthwhile.

For our heart is already in a state of prayer.   We received prayer along with grace at our baptism.   The state of grace, as we call it, at the level of the heart, actually signifies a state of prayer. From then on, in the profoundest depths of the self, we have continuing contact with God.   God's Holy Spirit has taken us over, has assumed complete possession of us, he has become breath of our breath and Spirit of our Spirit.   He takes our heart in tow and turns it towards God.   He is the Spirit, St Paul says, who speaks without ceasing to our spirit and testifies to the fact that we are children of God. This state of prayer within us is something we carry about, like a hidden treasure of which we are not consciously aware - or hardly so.   Somewhere our heart is going full pelt, but we do not feel it.   We are deaf to our praying heart, love's savour escapes us, we fail to see the light in which we live.   For our heart, our true heart, is asleep, and it has to be woken up, gradually - through the course of a whole lifetime.   It was given us long since.   But very seldom are we conscious of our own prayer...

Prayer then, is nothing other than the unconscious state of prayer which in the course of time hasa become completely conscious.   One condition  is therefore that our heart comes awake...As a monk of the Byzantine period once taught: "Anyone who starts attending to his heart, letting no other notions and fantasies get in, will soon observe that in the nature of things his heart engenders light.   Just as coals are set ablaze and the candle is enkindled by the fire, so God sets our hearts aflame for contemplation, He who since our baptism has made our heart His dwelling-place."  

Another monk of that period used a different metaphor to say the same thing.   He was to an extraordinary degree a man of prayer, which was his constant occupation.   He was asked how he had reached this state.   He replied that he found it hard to explain.   "Looking back," he said, "my impression is that for many, many years, I was carrying prayer within my heart, but did not know it at the time.   It was like a spring, but one covered by a stone.   Then at a certain moment Jesus took away the stone.   At that the spring began to flow and has been flowing ever since."

TAKING AWAY THE STONE 

.  Baptism of the Spirit is an awakening, a discovery, an uncovering of a reality in the very depths of the Christian, a reality which he shares with all who have been baptised into the Church, but which is still waiting to be discovered in the lives of so many people. As can be seen in the effects of this "baptism", he or she is given a new energy because both in prayer and in apostolic action, the charismatic become, quite consciously, an instrument of the Spirit who works in and through him, but also in harmony with the movement of Grace throughout the Church.

The Charismatic Renewal arose in the Church and exists for the the Church.

Because the Charismatic Renewal works in the Church:
  • .Charismatics must recognise, love, learn from and cooperate with all in the Church who have awakened to the treasure they have within or are in the process of awakening to that reality.  That is how the Charismatics in my parish reacted to Catequesis Familiar to the great enrichment of the local Church.
  • Precisely because the Charismatic Renewal did not found itself and was a surprise, both to the Church at large and even to those who were "baptised in the Spirit" at its foundation, it should not set itself up as the arbiter of what is and what is not charismatic.   It must remain open to surprise.  It must not impose rules on the Holy Spirit!   The awakening has been initiated by the gift of tongues in many circumstances; but the Fathers of the Desert regarded the gift of tears as the clearest indication of authenticity. I have known people who have been made awake by the practice of lectio divina.   Many people, like St Elizabeth at the Visitation, have received the Spirit through human contact with a Spirit-filled individual; while others have been awakened by the Liturgy.   With the Holy Spirit be prepared to be surprised!! 
  • I know someone who had a very strong and dramatic annointing during a prayer meeting.   He  didn't like the charismatic way of praying and continued to dislike it afterwards.  Of course, he didn't disagree with it.  He of all people accepts its authenticity and value: only it has never attracted him.   His very strong experience awoke his Christianity; but he was led, not into the Charismatic Renewal, but into the monastery; and his particular charism is icon painting.   Another, after the experience of the Holy Spirit, was led by his urge to pray constantly into a hermitage.   Of course, others, just as authentically, have continued in the way of the Charismatic Renewal and are nourished spiritually in it.
  •  The Charismatic Renewal exists for the Church, and there  are many examples of charismatics who work within the Catholic community as a whole.   A few years ago, I was at a Charismatic conference where the main speaker (and pray-er) was Sister Briege McKenna whose chief work is among priests in general, rather than among charismatic priests (who are not excluded!).   Two years ago, I met a priest from the Sion Community, the largest home mission organisation in Britain.  Its spirituality is charismatic but its mission field is the whole of Britain.   Many priests, religious and laypeople with the charismatic experience and spirituality are working outside the movement. There are also communities, like the Friars of Renewal, who enthusiastically join in projects which have been inspired by the Charismatic Renewal, such as "Nightfever", but who consider the Charismatic Renewal so normal that it isn't even mentioned.  In these ways, the Charismatic Renewal is becoming a dimension of normal Catholicism, which is what is was always meant to be.

ABBOT PAUL'S HOMILY
Pentecost 2014      Belmont Abbey, UK 
            “In one Spirit we were all baptised and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.” That was the life-shattering experience of St Paul, which he wrote about in so many wonderful ways. In Acts we are simply told that, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” while in St John’s Gospel, it is Jesus himself who breathes on the apostles and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Whether they are baptised or filled with living water or receive the Spirit as breath and life, one thing is clear from the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is a gift of God given us through and by the Risen Christ, a gift that brings about a radical change in our lives, a gift which unites us to God as his sons and daughters, a gift that enables us to live in Christ and do his redeeming work of preaching the Christian faith by proclaiming the wonders of God not just in word but in deed: for we forgive those who sin against us, while through the gifts of the Spirit we are able to carry out every ministry needed in the Church, complementing one another as the Spirit sees fit. Thus we proclaim the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ to all those who are searching for God and have the humility to repent and believe.
            If in the four Gospels it is Jesus of Nazareth, incarnate Son of God, who takes centre stage as, moved by the Spirit, he makes known the Father’s love and reveals the face of God in human form, in the Acts and the Epistles of Paul, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires every thought, word and deed of the early Church and enables the first Christians to understand and acknowledge the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, in whose Name alone can men be saved and reconciled with God. Early Church fathers, such as Irenaeus, spoke of the Son and the Spirit as being the right and left hands of God. Trinitarian theology is always heady stuff, so we had better steer clear of that this morning. Suffice it to say that today, the Feast of Pentecost, we focus in a special way on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, while recognising that the Holy Trinity, being three Persons in one God, is truly one undivided and indivisible God, whose threefold Being has been shared with us, his creatures, created, as we are, in his image and likeness.
            One thing that always strikes me about the mentioning and appearing of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is the joy and excitement his presence brings to individuals, families and communities, indeed to the whole Church. Then there is the element of surprise. Who more surprised, even shocked, than Our Lady when the Archangel Gabriel informed her of the Holy Spirit’s work and her role in the Mystery of the Incarnation? Where the Spirit is, there is Jesus.
Think of the Sacraments: it is the Spirit who sanctifies the water, but Jesus who baptises; it is the Spirit who is received, but Jesus who confirms; it is the Spirit who consecrates, but Jesus who is present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar; it is through the power of the Spirit that Jesus absolves us of our sins; it is the Spirit who brings a man and a woman together, yet Christ who blesses their union, the Spirit making it fruitful; it is the Spirit who is ordains a priest to become alter Christus, another Christ; it is the Spirit who anoints, yet Christ who heals. You can see where the idea of the right and left hands of God came from. We live (if only we are aware of it and allow God to be God in us), we live entirely in his embrace. There is no aspect of our lives that God does not touch and make holy through the coming and indwelling of the Spirit. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the mind and heart of Christ and so makes us pleasing to the Father. It is the Spirit who enables us to pray and to cry out. “Abba, Father.” Today, not only do we give thanks for the gift of the Spirit: we ask to become more conscious of his presence within us and so live each day guided only by the Holy Spirit.

ON THE MYSTERY OF PENTECOST
by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpactos
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