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"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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Friday, 13 May 2016

PENTECOST 2016



If you want to understand the Church more fully, you must come to know Mary, Mother of God.  What is true of her is what is true of the Church. Looking at her, you see the Church in its perfection.   The Church on earth is made up of people who share in Christ's Ascension by accepting Christ and then dying and rising with Christ.   She is the perfect exemplar of that.   Moreover, there was a time, the time between the Annunciation and the Nativity, when she alone was the Church, receiving the Holy Spirit and working by her humble obedience in perfect harmony with him so that Christ could be formed and thus come into the world.

We know that the Blessed Virgin could not possibly have become Mother of God by herself because "she knew not man",  "And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God."   What happened to Mary at the Annunciation happened to Christ's disciples at Pentecost, just as Jesus predicted, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  This implies that the way they shall be witnesses is as beyond their ordinary human abilities as Mary being Mother of God.  The only way we can be Christians is by humble obedience that works in synergy with the Holy Spirit.

The connection between the Annunciation and Pentecost is often implied in icons of Pentecost.    The disciples are all in different postures that show alarm or surprise.   The only one who is utterly calm and still, directly meeting the eyes of those who are looking at the icon, is Mary, Mother of God: she has been through it all before!  With Mary they have received the Holy Spirit, and the Church is complete.   

For ever afterwards, whenever the Eucharist is celebrated, this assembly in the upper room will be joined by the local church that celebrates.  As the Holy Spirit descends on the gifts of bread and wine and upon the participants, he welds them into the body of Christ, and unites them with angels and saints, and with all who are incorporated by grace into Christ, and presents them to the Father.  In this way, Pentecost continues to unite heaven and earth.

There is another text in Genesis that shows us another aspect of Pentecost. It is in Genesis (2, 7) and links Pentecost with the very creation of the human race: 
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
It is echoed in St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (15, 45):
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Alone among God's creatures, Adam was made of the stuff of this world, but to become man he needed the breath of God. Alone among creatures, to be properly human he needs a relationship with God, and to lose that relationship brings about a distortion of our humanity.  As St Augustine famously wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”   We naturally need a relationship with God and have a tendency to project some of God's characteristics onto other causes, things or people if we lack such a relationship.  Pentecost more than makes up for our natural need for God by giving us his Spirit.

There is a rather decadent theology which sees natural life and supernatural life as completely distinct.  Thus it is possible to move in and out of mortal sin several times a week by breaking certain rules that are labelled "mortal sin" with full knowledge and consent, and then going to confession " with full intention to amend," even though, in our human experience, the mixture of strength and weakness of our relationship with God remains constant. A person remains in mortal sin who re-marries after divorce, because he or she has broken the law and loss of supernatural life is the punishment.  In this view, the quality of love exercised in the second "marriage" and the impossibility the person feels of reconciling the demands of the good of the children and duties as a Catholic have nothing to do with whether the person is in a state of grace or not: that is a legal question.  Thus the Church's teaching on marriage and the Church's laws on marriage are one and the same: a change in the law is a change in the teaching.

This view of the relationship between nature and supernature results in rampant legalism and in pharisaism, as Pope Francis has pointed out.   What it gains in legal clarity it loses in humanity; and laws were made for human beings, not the other way round.  It is possible to accept that there are other factors at play in the human situation which justify a change in the law, while, at the same time, fully holding the Catholic teaching on the indissolublity of marriage..

In the Eastern churches, the icon for Pentecost is not a depiction of the scene in the upper room, but an icon of the Trinity.   The vestments are often green, and the churches are decked with greenery, depicting life.  That might be the reason why we use green in what used to be called "Time after Pentecost."   Pentecost is the feast of Life, divine Life, the Life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   We are united by the Spirit to Christ in his love for the Father, and the Father's love for him.  Moreover, as we are creatures that are both spiritual and material, as we share in this divine Life through Christ's death and resurrection, we become the seed by which the whole cosmos will be transformed into a new heaven and a new earth.





Pentecost and the Sending  
of the Holy Spirit 

.by St Irenaeus of Lyons


When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.



He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.



Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.



This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of broad, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.



The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.



If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.


Irenaeus was an important second century church father (130-200 AD). He was born in Smyrna in Asia Minor, where he studied under bishop Polycarp, who in turn had been a disciple of John the Apostle.  He studied in Rome under Justin Martyr. Around 178 AD he was made bishop of Lyons in Southern Gaul. In contrast to Justin - whose writings he used and respected - Irenaeus rejected the philosophical approach to Christianity, which for him "rested on revelation, tradition, and on the power of the Holy Spirit." He did not entirely abandon philosophy and many of his works are indebted to it. He saw his main ministry in refuting the heresy of  the Gnostic teachers. Irenaeus is the first great theologian of the early church. His major work, Against Heresies, written around 180 AD, was a refutation of Gnostic errors. He exposed the absurdities of the Gnostic cults of the day and included a strong presentation and defense of orthodox belief. His work is the earliest compendium of Christian theology surviving from ancient times and is the first work that cites virtually every book of the Christian writings that we now call the New Testament.

From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Basil the Great, 4th century 

my source: Word of Life Community
The Spark of Divine Love Within You


Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same -- perhaps even more so -- with our love for God: it does not come by another's teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing with it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God's law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God's help brings it to perfection.

For this reason, as by God's gift, I find you with the zeal necessary to attain this end, and you on your part help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit.


First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfill all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.



This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God's commandments. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God's command.



Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel well disposed to our benefactors.



What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and satisfying than God's majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of the divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.




Whitsuntide, Sermon 75 
By Pope St .Leo the Great (d. A.D. 461)





The giving of the Law by Moses prepared the way for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. The hearts of all Catholics, beloved, realize that today's solemnity is to be honoured as one of the chief feasts, nor is there any doubt that great respect is due to this day, which the Holy Spirit has hallowed by the miracle of His most excellent gift. For from the day on which the Lord ascended up above all heavenly heights to sit down at God the Father's right hand, this is the tenth which has shone, and the fiftieth from His Resurrection, being the very day on which it began, and containing in itself great revelations of mysteries both new and old, by which it is most manifestly revealed that Grace was fore-announced through the Law and the Law fulfilled through Grace. For as of old, when the Hebrew nation were released from the Egyptians, on the fiftieth day after the sacrificing of the lamb the Law was given on Mount Sinai, so after the suffering of Christ, wherein the true Lamb of God was slain on the fiftieth day from His Resurrection, the Holy Ghost came down upon the Apostles and the multitude of believers, so that the earnest Christian may easily perceive that the beginnings of the Old Testament were preparatory to the beginnings of the Gospel, and that the second covenant was rounded by the same Spirit that had instituted the first.


II.


How marvellous was the gift of "various tongues." For as the Apostles' story testifies: "while the days of Pentecost were fulfilled and all the disciples were together in the same place, there occurred suddenly from heaven a sound as of a violent wind coming, and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance." Oh ! how swift are the words of wisdom. and where God is the Master, how quickly is what is taught, learnt. No interpretation is required for understanding, no practice for using, no time for studying, but the Spirit of Truth blowing where He wills, the languages peculiar to each nation become common property in the mouth of the Church. 


And therefore from that day the trumpet of the Gospel-preaching has sounded loud: from that day the showers of gracious gifts, the rivers of blessings, have watered every desert and all the dry land, since to renew the face of the earth the Spirit of God "moved over the waters," and to drive away the old darkness flashes of new light shone forth, when by the blaze of those busy tongues was kindled the Lord's bright Word and fervent eloquence, in which to arouse the understanding, and to consume sin there lay both a capacity of enlightenment and a power of burning.


III.


The three Persons in the Trinity are perfectly equal in all things. But although, dearly-beloved, the actual form of the thing done was exceeding wonderful, and undoubtedly in that exultant chorus of all human languages the Majesty of the Holy Spirit was present, yet no one must think that His Divine substance appeared in what was seen with bodily eyes. For His Nature, which is invisible and shared in common with the Father and the Son, showed the character of His gift and work by the outward sign that pleased Him, but kept His essential property within His own Godhead: because human sight can no more perceive the Holy Ghost than it can the Father or the Son. For in the Divine Trinity nothing is unlike or unequal, and all that can be thought concerning Its substance admits of no diversity either in power or glory or eternity. And while in the property of each Person the Father is one, the Son is another, and the Holy Ghost is another, yet the Godhead is not distinct and different; for whilst the Son is the Only begotten of the Father, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, not in the way that every creature is the creature of the Father and the Son, but as living and having power with Both, and eternally subsisting of That Which is the Father and the Son. 


And hence when the Lord before the day of His Passion promised the coming of the Holy Spirit to His disciples, He said, "I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth shall have come, He shall guide you into all the Truth. For He shall not speak from Himself, but whatsoever He shall have heard, He shall speak and shall announce things to come unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I that He shall take of Mine, and shall announce it to you." Accordingly, there are not some things that are the Father's, and other the Son's, and other the Holy Spirit's: but all things whatsoever the Father has, the Son also has, and the Holy Spirit also has: nor was there ever a time when this communion did not exist, because with Them to have all things is to always exist. In them let no times, no grades, no differences be imagined, and, if no one can explain that which is true concerning God, let no one dare to assert what is not true. For it is more excusable not to make a full statement concerning His ineffable Nature than to frame an actually wrong definition. 


And so whatever loyal hearts can conceive of the Father's eternal and unchangeable Glory, let them at the same time understand it of the Son and of the Holy Ghost without any separation or difference. For we confess this blessed Trinity to be One God for this reason, because in these three Persons there is no diversity either of substance, or of power, or of will, or of operation.


IV.


The Macedonian heresy is as blasphemous as the Arian. As therefore we abhor the Arians, who maintain a difference between the Father and the Son, so also we abhor the Macedonians, who, although they ascribe equality to the Father and the Son, yet think the Holy Ghost to be of a lower nature, not considering that they thus fall into that blasphemy, which is not to be forgiven either in the present age or in the judgment to come, as the Lord says: "whosoever shall have spoken a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him, but he that shall have spoken against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him either in this age or in the age to come." And so to persist in this impiety is unpardonable, because it cuts him off from Him, by Whom he could confess: nor will he ever attain to healing pardon, who has no Advocate to plead for him. For from Him comes the invocation of the Father, from Him come the tears of penitents, from Him come the groans of suppliants, and "no one can call Jesus the Lord save in the Holy Ghost," Whose Omnipotence as equal and Whose Godhead as one, with the Father and the Son, the Apostle most clearly proclaims, saying, "there are divisions of graces but the same Spirit; and the divisions of ministrations but the same Lord; and there are divisions of operations but the same God, Who worketh all things in all."


V.


The Spirit's work is still continued in the Church. By these and other numberless proofs, dearly-beloved, with which the authority of the Divine utterances is ablaze, let us with one mind be incited to pay reverence to Whitsuntide, exulting in honour of the Holy Ghost, through Whom the whole catholic Church is sanctified, and every rational soul quickened; Who is the Inspirer of the Faith, the Teacher of Knowledge, the Fount of Love, the Seal of Chastity, and the Cause of all Power. Let the minds of the faithful rejoice, that throughout the world One God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is praised by the confession of all tongues, and that that sign of His Presence, which appeared in the likeness of fire, is still perpetuated in His work and gift. For the Spirit of Truth Himself makes the house of His glory shine with the brightness of His light, and will have nothing dark nor lukewarm in His temple. 


And it is through His aid and teaching also that the purification of fasts and alms has been established among us. For this venerable day is followed by a most wholesome practice, which all the saints have ever found most profitable to them, and to the diligent observance of which we exhort you with a shepherd's care, to the end that if any blemish has been contracted in the days just passed through heedless negligence, it may be atoned for by the discipline of fasting and corrected by pious devotion. 


On Wednesday and Friday, therefore, let us fast, and on Saturday for this very purpose keep vigil with accustomed devotion, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. 



Footnote: 
1 The original purpose of the Feast of Weeks was changed by the Pharisees. They, and hence, modern Jews celebrate it as the Giving of Torah on Mt. Sinai, or "Hag Matan Torateinu."

Selected Quotes of the Fathers on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit
my source: Full of Grace and Truth
Icon depicting the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (http://www.pigizois.net/galery/diafores/paraklitos.jpg)
  

"'And my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.' My friends, consider the greatness of this solemn feast that commemorates God's coming as a guest into our hearts! If some rich and influential friend were to come to your home, you would promptly put it all in order for fear something there might offend your friend's eyes when he came in. Let all of us then who are preparing our inner homes for God cleanse them of anything our wrongdoing has brought into them."
St. Gregory (the Great) Dialogos, on Pentecost in Be Friends of God

"'And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:3-4). They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives luster to the soul. This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles. And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads. A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift."
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture 17 no. 15)

"Brothers, we shall hymn with praise the tongues of the disciples, because, not with elegant speech, But in divine power they have revived all men. Because they took up His Cross as a reed, So that they might again use words as fishing lines and fish for the world Since they had speech as a sharp fishhook, Since the flesh of the Master of all Has become for them a bait, it has not sought to kill But it attracts to life those who worship and praise The All-Holy Spirit."
St Romanos the Melodist - On Pentecost

"But as the old Confusion of tongues was laudable, when men who were of one language in wickedness and impiety, even as some now venture to be, were building the Tower; for by the confusion of their language the unity of their intention was broken up, and their undertaking destroyed; so much more worthy of praise is the present miraculous one. For being poured from One Spirit upon many men, it brings them again into harmony. And there is a diversity of Gifts, which stands in need of yet another Gift to discern which is the best, where all are praiseworthy."
St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration on Pentecost

"Regarding the manner in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, Saint Symeon the New Theologian makes a remark that is most helpful for properly understanding this event. He says that this mode of acting of the Holy Spirit - by means of a loud noise as of a rushing mighty wind, and with tongues of fire - was something unique. The Holy Spirit, he observes, comes very calmly, in the form of spiritual light, and evokes joy. The passage in which he touches upon this point is this:

The power of the Holy Spirit, which is bestowed upon him who loves God and keeps His commandments, does not appear visibly in the form of fire, nor does it come with a loud sound like a violent wind - for this happened only in the time of the Apostles for the sake of the unbelievers. Instead, it is seen spiritually in the form of spiritual light, and comes with all calm and joy."
Guide to Byzantine Iconography, Vol. 1, by Constantine Cavarnos

"The holy mystery of the day of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, is to be understood in the following manner: the spirit of man must be completed and perfected by the Holy Spirit, that is, it must be sanctified, illuminated, and divinized by the Holy Spirit. This holy mystery is realized continually in the Church of Christ and because of this the Church is really a continuous Pentecost.... From Holy Pentecost, the day of the Holy Spirit, every God-like soul in the Church of Christ is an incombustible bush which continuously burns and is inflamed with God and has a fiery tongue within it."
St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ

"The power to bear Mysteries, which the humble man has received, which makes him perfect in every virtue without toil, this is the very power which the blessed apostles received in the form of fire. For its sake the Saviour commanded them not to leave Jerusalem until they should receive power from on high, that is to say, the Paraclete, which, being interpreted, is the Spirit of consolation. And this is the Spirit of divine visions. Concerning this it is said in divine Scripture: 'Mysteries are revealed to the humble' [Ecclus 3:19]. The humble are accounted worthy of receiving in themselves this Spirit of revelations Who teaches mysteries."
St. Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homily 77

"Was it upon the twelve that it [the Holy Spirit] came? Not so; but upon the hundred and twenty. For Peter would not have quoted to no purpose the testimony of the prophet, saying, 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams' (Joel 2:28). 'And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.' For, that the effect may not be to frighten only, therefore it is both 'with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance' (Mt. 3:11)."
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles
(http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/pentecost.html)
   
"If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, he has light continuously. In the same way, through the Apostles ordaining their successors, and these successors ordaining others, and so on, the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their shepherds and teachers.”
St. Gregory Palamas, “On how the Holy Spirit was manifested and shared out at Pentecost”

"What is the aim of the incarnate dispensation of God's Word, preached in all the Holy Scriptures but which we, who read them, do not know? The only aim is that, having entered into what is our own, we should participate in what is His. The Son of God has become Son of Man in order to make us, men, sons of God, raising our race by grace to what He is Himself by nature, granting us birth from above through the grace of the Holy Spirit and leading us straightway to the kingdom of heaven, or rather, granting us this kingdom of heaven within us (Luke 17:21), in order that we should not merely be fed by the hope of entering it, but entering into full possession thereof should cry: our 'life is hid with Christ in God' (Col. 3:3).
St. Simeon the New Theologian, “Practical and Theological Precepts” (The Philokalia)
   
The Preparation of the Throne,
 with the Holy Spirit depicted (source)
  
"...One must clean the royal house from every impurity and adorn it with every beauty, then the king may enter into it. In a similar way one must first cleanse the earth of the heart and uproot the weeds of sin and the passionate deeds and soften it with sorrows and the narrow way of life, sow in it the seed of virtue, water it with lamentation and tears, and only then does the fruit of dispassion and eternal life grow. For the Holy Spirit does not dwell in a man until he has been cleansed from passions of the soul and body.”
St. Paisius Velichkovsky, “Field Flowers"

"If the Lord has left us ignorant of the ordering of many things in this world, then it means it is not necessary for us to know: we cannot compass all creation with our minds. But the Creator Himself of heaven and earth and every created thing gives us to know Him in the Holy Sprit.
St. Silouan the Athonite, “Wisdom from Mount Athos”

"Whatever the soul may think fit to do itself, whatever care and pains it may take, relying only upon its own power, and thinking to be able to effect a perfect success by itself, without the co-operation of the Spirit, it is greatly mistaken. It is of no use for the heavenly places; it is of no use for the kingdom - that soul, which supposes that it can achieve perfect purity of itself, and by itself alone, without the Spirit. Unless the man who is under the influence of the passions will come to God, denying the world, and will believe with patience and hope to receive a good thing foreign to his own nature, namely the power of the Holy Spirit, and unless the Lord shall drop upon the soul from on high the life of the Godhead, such a man will never experience true life, will never recover from the drunkenness of materialism; the enlightenment of the Spirit will never shine in that benighted soul, or kindle in it a holy daytime; it will never awake out of that deepest sleep of ignorance, and so come to know God of a truth through God's power and the efficacy of grace.”
St. Macarius the Great, “Spiritual Homilies (Homily 24)"

“The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.”
St. Simeon the New Theologian, "Writings from the Philokalia"

“Everything that breathes, breathes by air and cannot live without air; similarly all reasonable free creatures live by the Holy Spirit, as though by air, and cannot live without Him. "Every soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit." Recognise that the Holy Spirit stands in the same relation to your soul as air stands in relation to your body.”
St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

“The Saviour and the Comforter, two Persons of the Godhead: the One ever saves from sins, and the Other comforts him who is saved. Their very names are taken from their deeds, and are always actually justified. He comforts! The Holy Spirit comforts the believing soul, as a mother comforts her child.”
St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

“...In proportion to your humility you are given patience in your woes; and in proportion to your patience the burden of your afflictions is made lighter and you will find consolation; in proportion to your consolation, your love of God increases; and in proportion to your love, your joy in the Holy Spirit is magnified. Once men have truly become His sons, our tenderly compassionate Father does not take away their temptations from them when it is His pleasure to 'make for them a way to escape' (1 Cor. 10:13), but instead He gives His sons patience in their trials. All these good things are given into the hand of their patience for the perfecting of their souls.”
St. Isaac the Syrian, "Ascetical Homilies" (Homily Forty-Two)

“Jesus tells us that His holy Disciples will be more courageous and more understanding when they would be, as the Scripture says, Endowed with power from on high (Luke 24:49), and that when their minds would be illuminated by the torch of the Spirit they would be able to see into all things, even though no longer able to question Him bodily present among them. The Saviour does not say that they would no longer as before need the light of His guidance, but that when they received His Spirit, when He was dwelling in their hearts, they would not be wanting in any good thing, and their minds would be filled with most perfect knowledge.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria

“The Saints in Heaven through the Holy Spirit behold the glory of God and the beauty of the Lord's Countenance. But in this same Holy Spirit they see our lives too, and our deeds. They know our sorrows and hear our burning prayers. When they were living on earth they learned of the love of God from the Holy Spirit; and he who knows love on earth takes it with him into eternal life in the kingdom of Heaven, where love grows and becomes perfect. And if love makes one unable to forget a brother here, how much more must the Saints remember and pray for us!”
St. Silouan the Athonite, "Wisdom from Mount Athos"

“As the Lord put on the body, leaving behind all principality and power, so Christians put on the Holy Spirit, and are at rest.”
St. Macarius the Great, "Spiritual Homilies" (Homily 26)

“...Filled with love, the holy Apostles went into the world, preaching salvation to mankind and fearing nothing, for the Spirit of God was their strength. When St. Andrew was threatened with death upon the cross if he did not stay his preaching he answered: 'If I feared the cross I should not be preaching the Cross." In this manner all the other Apostles, and after them the martyrs and holy men who wrestled against evil, went forward with joy to meet pain and suffering. For the Holy Spirit, sweet and gracious, draws the soul to love the Lord, and in the sweetness of the Holy Spirit the soul loses her fear of suffering.”
St. Silouan the Athonite, "Wisdom from Mt. Athos"

“The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.”
St. Seraphim of Sarov, "A Wonderful Revelation to the World"



“The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who fills the whole universe, passes through all believing, meek, humble, good, and simple human souls, dwelling in them, vivifying and strengthening them. He becomes one spirit with them and everything to them - light, strength, peace, joy, success in their undertakings, especially in a pious life, and everything good - "going through all understanding, pure and most subtle spirits" (Wisdom of Solomon vii, 23). "We have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (I Cor. xii.13). All pious people are filled with the Spirit of God similarly as a sponge is filled with water.”
St. John of Kronstadt, "My Life in Christ"

“Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all "fulness of blessing," both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment.”
St. Basil the Great, "On the Holy Spirit"
(http://scienceofsalvation.blogspot.com/)

   
THE INDWELLING SPIRIT
by John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
my source: Sword of the Spirit



by John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
"You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you" (Romans 8:9)
[Note: Minor changes, including capitalization style, were made to allow the text  
to be more accessible to modern readers. Sub-headings were also added. Editor]
Condescension of the Son  
God the Son has graciously condescended to reveal the Father to his creatures from without; God the Holy Spirit, by inward communications. Who can compare these separate works of condescension, either of them being beyond our understanding? We can but silently adore the Infinite Love which encompasses us on every side. 
The Son of God is called the Word, as declaring his glory throughout created nature, and impressing the evidence of it on every part of it. He has given us to read it in his works of goodness, holiness, and wisdom. He is the living and eternal law of truth and perfection, that image of God's unapproachable attributes, which men have ever seen, by glimpses, on the face of the world, felt that it was sovereign, but knew not whether to say it was a fundamental rule and self-existing destiny, or the offspring and mirror of the divine will. 

Such has he been from the beginning, graciously sent forth from the Father to reflect his glory upon all things, distinct from him, while mysteriously one with him; and in due time visiting us with an infinitely deeper mercy, when for our redemption he humbled himself to take upon himself that fallen nature which he had originally created after his own image.

Condescension of the Spirit 
The condescension of the Blessed Spirit is as incomprehensible as that of the Son. He has ever been the secret Presence of God within the creation: a source of life amid the chaos, bringing out into form and order what was at first shapeless and void, and the voice of truth in the hearts of all rational beings, turning them into harmony with the intimations of God’s Law, which were externally made to them. 

Hence he is especially called the “life-giving” Spirit; being (as it were) the soul of universal nature, the strength of man and beast, the guide of faith, the witness against sin, the inward light of patriarchs and prophets, the grace abiding in the Christian soul, and the Lord and Ruler of the church. 

Therefore let us ever praise the Father Almighty, who is the first source of all perfection, in and together with his co-equal Son and Spirit, through whose gracious ministrations we have been given to see “what manner of love” it is wherewith the Father has loved us.

The work of the Holy Spirit 
On this Festival [of Pentecost] I propose to describe as scripturally as I can, the merciful office of God the Holy Spirit, towards us Christians. And I trust I may do so with the sobriety and reverence which the subject demands. 

Old Testament references 
The Holy Spirit has from the beginning pleaded with humankind. We read in the Book of Genesis, that, when evil began to prevail all over the earth before the flood, the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man" (Genesis 6:3); implying that he had hitherto striven with his corruption. Again, when God took to himself a special people, the Holy Spirit was pleased to be especially present with them. 

Nehemiah says, "You also gave your Good Spirit to instruct them" (Nehemiah 9:20), and Isaiah, "They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit" (Isaiah 63:10). Further, he manifested himself as the source of various gifts, intellectual and extraordinary, in the Prophets, and others. 

Thus at the time the Tabernacle was constructed, the Lord filled Bezaleel "with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works" (Exodus 31:3,4) in metal, stone, and timber. 

At another time, when Moses was oppressed with his labors, Almighty God  graciously agreed to “take of the Spirit” which was upon him, and to put it on seventy of the elders of Israel, that they might share the burden with him. “And it came to pass, that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease” (Numbers 11:17,25). 

These texts will be sufficient to remind you of many others, in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit are spoken of under the Jewish covenant. These were great mercies; yet, great as they were, they are as nothing compared with that surpassing grace with which we Christians are honored; that great privilege of receiving into our hearts, not the mere gifts of the Spirit, but his very presence, himself, by a real not a figurative indwelling.

New Testament references 
When our Lord entered upon his ministry, he acted as though he were a mere man, needing grace, and received the consecration of the Holy Spirit for our sakes. He became the Christ, or Anointed, so that the Spirit might be seen to come from God, and to pass from him to us. And the heavenly gift is not simply called the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of Christ, so that we might clearly understand that he comes to us from and instead of Christ. 

Thus St. Paul says, "God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts;" and our Lord breathed on his Apostles, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit”; and he says elsewhere to them, “If I depart, I will send him to you” (Galatians 4: 6; John 20:22; 16:7). Accordingly this “Holy Spirit of promise” is called “the earnest of our inheritance,” “the seal and earnest of an unseen Savior” (Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5); being the present pledge of him who is absent – or rather more than a pledge, for an earnest is not a mere token which will be taken from us when it is fulfilled, as a pledge might be, but something in advance of what is one day to be given in full.

This must be clearly understood; for it would seem to follow, that if so, the Comforter who has come instead of Christ, must have condescended to come in the same sense in which Christ came. He has come not merely in the way of gifts or of influences, or of workings, as he came to the Prophets. If that were the case, then Christ's going away would be a loss, and not a gain, and the Spirit's presence would be a mere pledge, not an earnest. 

The Spirit comes to us as Christ came, by a real and personal visitation. I do not say we could have inferred this thus clearly by the mere force of the above cited texts. It is revealed to us in other texts of Scripture. Thus we are able to see that it may be legitimately deduced from these. We are able to see that the Savior, when once he entered into this world, never so departed as to suffer things to be as before he came; for he still is with us, not in mere gifts, but by the substitution of his Spirit for himself, and that, both in the Church and in the souls of individual Christians.

For instance, St. Paul says in the text, “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you.” Again, “He shall quicken even your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.” “Do you not know that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?” “You are the Temple of the Living God,” as God has said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them.” 

The same Apostle clearly distinguishes between the indwelling of the Spirit, and his actual operations within us, when he says, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us”; and again, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8: 9,11; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Rom. 5:5; 8:16).

Evidence for the Spirit’s divinity 
Before proceeding further,let us examine what indirect evidence is afforded us in these texts of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Who can be personally present at once with every Christian, but God himself? Who but he, not merely ruling in the midst of the Church invisibly, as Michael might keep watch over Israel, or another angel might be "the Prince of Persia" –  but really taking up his abode as one and the same in many separate hearts, so as to fulfill our Lord's words, that it was expedient that he should depart; Christ's bodily presence, which was limited to place, being exchanged for the manifold spiritual indwelling of the Comforter within us? This consideration suggests both the dignity of our Sanctifier, and the infinite preciousness of his office towards us.

To proceed: the Holy Spirit, I have said, dwells in body and soul, as in a temple. Evil spirits indeed have power to possess sinners, but his indwelling is far more perfect; for he is all-knowing and omnipresent, he is able to search into all our thoughts, and penetrate into every motive of the heart. Therefore, he pervades us (if it may be so said) as light pervades a building, or as a sweet perfume [pervades] the folds of some honorable robe; so that, in Scripture language, we are said to be in him, and he in us. 

It is plain that such an inhabitation [by the Spirit] brings the Christian into a state altogether new and marvelous, far above the possession of mere gifts, exalts him inconceivably in the scale of beings, and gives him a place and an office which he had not before. In St. Peter's forcible language, he becomes “partaker of the divine nature,” and has “power” or authority, as St. John says, “to become the son of God.” Or, to use the words of St. Paul, “He is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” His rank is new; his parentage and service new. He is “of God,” and :is not his own,: “a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Peter 1:4; John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 4:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 2 Timothy 2:21).

New birth in the Spirit 
This wonderful change from darkness to light, through the coming of the Spirit into the soul, is called regeneration, or the new birth. This is a blessing which, before Christ's coming, not even prophets and righteous men possessed, but which is now conveyed to all men and women freely through the sacrament of baptism. 

By nature we are children of wrath  –  the heart is sold under sin, possessed by evil spirits  – and inherits death as its eternal portion. But by the coming of the Holy Spirit, all guilt and pollution are burned away as by fire  –  the devil is driven forth  –  sin, original and actual, is forgiven  –  and the whole person is consecrated to God. And this is the reason why he is called “the earnest” of that Savior who died for us, and will one day give us the fullness of his own presence in heaven. 

Hence, too, the Spirit is our “seal unto the day of redemption”; for as the potter moulds the clay, so he impresses the divine image on us members of the household of God. And his work may truly be called regeneration. Though the original nature of the soul is not destroyed, yet its past transgressions are pardoned once and for ever. And its source of evil staunched and gradually dried up by the pervading health and purity which has set up its abode in it. 

Instead of its own bitter waters, a spring of health and salvation is brought within it; not the mere streams of that fountain, “clear as crystal,” which is before the throne of God, but, as our Lord says, “a well of water in him,” in a man's heart, “springing up into everlasting life.” Hence he elsewhere describes the heart as giving forth, not receiving, the streams of grace: “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” St. John adds, “This he spoke of the Spirit” (John 4:14; 7:38,39).

Such is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, applying to us individually the precious cleansing of Christ's blood in all its manifold benefits. Such is the great doctrine, which we hold as a matter of faith, and without actual experience to verify it to us. 

Next, I must speak briefly concerning the manner in which the gift of grace manifests itself in the regenerate soul. This is a subject which I do not willingly take up, and which no Christian perhaps is ever able to consider without some effort, feeling that he endangers either his reverence towards God, or his humility, but which the errors of this day, and the confident tone of their advocates, oblige us to dwell upon, lest truth should suffer by our silence.

The Holy Spirit reveals the Father to us

1. The heavenly gift of the Spirit fixes the eyes of our mind upon the divine Author of our salvation. By nature we are blind and fleshly (carnal); but the Holy Spirit by whom we are new-born, reveals to us the God of mercies, and bids us recognize and adore him as our Father with a true heart. He impresses on us our heavenly Father's image, which we lost when Adam fell, and disposes us to seek his presence by the very instinct of our new nature. He gives us back a portion of that freedom in willing and doing, of that uprightness and innocence, in which Adam was created. He unites us to all holy beings, as before we had relationship with evil. 

The Spirit restores for us that broken bond, which, proceeding from above, connects together into one blessed family all that is anywhere holy and eternal, and separates it off from the rebel world which comes to nought. Being then the sons of God, and one with him, our souls mount up and cry to him continually. This special characteristic of the regenerate soul is spoken of by St. Paul soon after the text. “You have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Nor are we left to utter these cries to him, in any vague uncertain way of our own; but he who sent the Spirit to dwell in us habitually, gave us also a form of words to sanctify the separate acts of our minds. Christ left his sacred prayer to be the peculiar possession of his people, and the voice of the Spirit. If we examine it, we shall find in it the substance of that doctrine, to which St. Paul has given a name in the passage just quoted. We begin it by using our privilege of calling on Almighty God in express words as “Our Father.” 

We proceed, according to this beginning, in that waiting, trusting, adoring, resigned temper, which children ought to feel; looking towards him, rather than thinking of ourselves; zealous for his honor rather than fearful about our safety; resting in his present help, not with eyes timorously glancing towards the future. his name, his kingdom, his will, are the great objects for the Christian to contemplate and make his portion, being stable and serene, and “complete in him,” as beseems one who has the gracious presence of his Spirit within him. And, when he goes on to think of himself, he prays, that he may be enabled to have towards others what God has shown towards himself, a spirit of forgiveness and loving-kindness. 

Thus he pours himself out on all sides, first looking up to catch the heavenly gift, but, when he gains it, not keeping it to himself, but diffusing "rivers of living water" to the whole race of man, thinking of self as little as may be, and desiring ill and destruction to nothing but that principle of temptation and evil, which is rebellion against God; – lastly, ending, as he began, with the contemplation of his kingdom, power, and glory ever-lasting. This is the true “Abba, Father,” which the Spirit of adoption utters within the Christian's heart, the infallible voice of him who “makes intercession for the Saints in God's way.” And if he has at times, for instance, amid trial or affliction, special visitations and comfortings from the Spirit, “plaints unutterable” within him, yearnings after the life to come, or bright and passing gleams of God's eternal election, and deep stirrings of wonder and thankfulness thence following, he thinks too reverently of “the secret of the Lord,” to betray (as it were) his confidence, and, by vaunting it to the world, to exaggerate it perchance into more than it was meant to convey: but he is silent, and ponders it as choice encouragement to his soul, meaning something, but he knows not how much.

The Spirit glorifies the Son

2. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit raises the soul, not only to the thought of God, but of Christ also. St. John says, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." And our Lord himself, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him" (1 John 1:3; John 14:23). Now, not to speak of other and higher ways in which these texts are fulfilled, one surely consists in that exercise of faith and love in the thought of the Father and Son, which the Gospel, and the Spirit revealing it, furnish to the Christian. The Spirit came especially to “glorify” Christ; and vouchsafes to be a shining light within the Church and the individual Christian, reflecting the Savior of the world in all his perfections, all his offices, all his works. 

He came for the purpose of unfolding what was yet hidden, while Christ was on earth; and speaks on the house-tops what was delivered in closets, disclosing him in the glories of his transfiguration, who once had no comeliness in his outward form, and was but a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. First, he inspired the holy evangelists to record the life of Christ, and directed them which of his words and works to select, which to omit; next, he commented (as it were) upon these, and unfolded their meaning in the Apostolic Epistles. The birth, the life, the death and resurrection of Christ, has been the text which he has illuminated. 

He has made history to be doctrine; telling us plainly, whether by St. John or St. Paul, that Christ's conception and birth was the real Incarnation of the Eternal Word, –  his life, “God manifest in the Flesh,” – his death and resurrection, the atonement for sin, and the justification of all believers. Nor was this all: he continued his sacred comment in the formation of the church, superintending and overruling its human instruments, and bringing out our Savior’s words and works, and the apostles’ illustrations of them, into acts of obedience and permanent ordinances, by the ministry of saints and martyrs. Lastly, he completes his gracious work by conveying this system of truth, thus varied and expanded, to the heart of each individual Christian in whom he dwells. Thus he condescends to edify the whole man in faith and holiness: “casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). 

By his wonder-working grace all things tend to perfection. Every faculty of the mind, every design, pursuit, subject of thought, is hallowed in its degree by the abiding vision of Christ, as Lord, Savior, and Judge. All solemn, reverent, thankful, and devoted feelings, all that is noble, all that is choice in the regenerate soul, all that is self-denying in conduct, and zealous in action, is drawn forth and offered up by the Spirit as a living sacrifice to the Son of God. And, though the Christian is taught not to think of himself above his measure, and dare not boast, yet he is also taught that the consciousness of the sin which remains in him, and infects his best services, should not separate him from God, but lead him to him who can save. He reasons with St. Peter, “To whom should he go?” and, without daring to decide, or being impatient to be told how far he is able to consider as his own every Gospel privilege in its fullness, he gazes on them all with deep thought as the church's possession, joins her triumphant hymns in honor of Christ, and listens wistfully to her voice in inspired Scripture, the voice of the Bride calling upon and blest in the Beloved.

The Spirit keeps us in perfect peace

3. St. John adds, after speaking of “our fellowship with the Father and his Son:” “These things we write to you, that your joy may be full.” What is fullness of joy but peace? Joy is tumultuous only when it is not full; but peace is the privilege of those who are “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isa. 26:3). It is peace, springing from trust and innocence, and then overflowing in love towards all around him. What is the effect of mere animal ease and enjoyment, but to make a man pleased with everything which happens? “A merry heart is a perpetual feast”; and such is peculiarly the blessing of a soul rejoicing in the faith and fear of God. He who is anxious, thinks of himself, is suspicious of danger, speaks hurriedly, and has no time for the interests of others; he who lives in peace is at leisure, wherever his lot is cast. 

Such is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, whether in Jew or Greek, bond or free. He himself perchance in his mysterious nature, is the Eternal Love whereby the Father and the Son have dwelt in each other, as ancient writers have believed; and what he is in heaven, that he is abundantly on earth. He lives in the Christian's heart, as the never-failing fount of charity, which is the very sweetness of the living waters. For where he is, "there is liberty" from the tyranny of sin, from the dread, which the natural man feels, of an offended, unreconciled Creator. Doubt, gloom, impatience have been expelled; joy in the Gospel has taken their place, the hope of heaven and the harmony of a pure heart, the triumph of self-mastery, sober thoughts, and a contented mind. How can charity towards all men fail to follow, being the mere affectionateness of innocence and peace? Thus the Spirit of God creates in us the simplicity and warmth of heart which children have, nay, rather the perfections of his heavenly hosts, high and low being joined together in his mysterious work; for what are implicit trust, ardent love, abiding purity, but the mind both of little children and of the adoring seraphim!

Temples of truth and holiness 
Thoughts, such as these, will affect us rightly, if they make us fear and be watchful, while we rejoice. They cannot surely do otherwise; for the mind of a Christian, as I have been attempting to describe it, is not so much what we have, as what we ought to have. To look, indeed, after dwelling on it, upon the multitude of men who have been baptized in Christ's name, is too serious a matter, and we need not force ourselves to do so. We need not do so, further than to pray for them, and to protest and strive against what is evil among them; for as to the higher and more solemn thought, how persons, set apart individually and collectively, as temples of truth and holiness, should become what they seem to be, and what their state is in consequence in God's sight, is a question which it is a great blessing to be allowed to put from us as not our concern. 

It is our concern only to look to ourselves, and to see that, as we have received the gift, we “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption”; remembering that “if any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” This reflection and the recollection of our many backslidings, will ever keep us, please God, from judging others, or from priding ourselves on our privileges. 

Let us but consider how we have fallen from the light and grace of our baptism. Were we now what that holy sacrament made us, we might ever “'go on our way rejoicing”. But having sullied our heavenly garments, in one way or other, in a greater or less degree (God knows! and our own consciences too in a measure), alas! the Spirit of adoption has in part receded from us, and the sense of guilt, remorse, sorrow, and penitence must take his place. 

We must renew our confession, and seek afresh our absolution day by day, before we dare call upon God as “our Father,” or offer up psalms and intercessions to him. And, whatever pain and affliction meets us through life, we must take it as a merciful penance imposed by a Father upon erring children, to be borne meekly and thankfully, and as intended to remind us of the weight of that infinitely greater punishment, which was our desert by nature, and which Christ bore for us on the cross


Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI in the St Peter's Basilica - Pentecost
By Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, 
Dear Ordinandi, 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The First Reading and the Gospel of Pentecost Sunday offer us two great images of the mission of the Holy Spirit. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how, on the day of Pentecost, under the signs of a strong wind and fire, the Holy Spirit sweeps into the community of the disciples of Jesus who are in prayer, thus bringing the Church into being.

For Israel, Pentecost - celebration of the harvest - had become the celebration marking the conclusion of the Covenant on Mt Sinai. In wind and fire, God made his presence known to the people and then gave them the gift of his Law, the Ten Commandments. In this singular way was the work of liberation, begun with the Exodus from Egypt, brought to fulfilment: human freedom is always a shared freedom, a "togetherness" of liberty. Common freedom lasts only in an ordered harmony of freedom that reveals to each person his or her limits.

In this way the gift of the Law on Mt Sinai was not a restriction nor an abolition of freedom, but the foundation of true liberty. And since a correct human ordering finds stability only if it comes from God and if it unites men and women in the perspective of God, the Commandments that God himself gives us cannot be lacking in a correct ordering of human freedom.

In this way, Israel fully became a people, through the Covenant with God on Mt Sinai. Israel's encounter with God on Sinai could be considered to be the foundation and the guarantee of its existence as a people. The wind and fire, which enveloped the community of Christ's disciples gathered in the Upper Room, becomes a further development of the event of Mt Sinai and gives it new fullness.

They were gathered in Jerusalem on that day, according to what is written in the Acts of the Apostles: "devout Jews of every nation under heaven" (Acts 2: 5). Here is made manifest the characteristic gift of the Holy Spirit: all understood the words of the Apostles: "each one heard these men speaking his own language" (Acts 2: 6). The Holy Spirit gives understanding.

Overcoming the "breach" begun in Babel - the confusion of hearts, putting us one against the other - the Spirit opens borders.

The People of God who found its first configuration on Mt Sinai, now becomes enlarged to the point of recognizing no limitations. The new People of God, the Church, is a people that derives from all peoples. The Church is catholic from her beginning and this is her deepest essence.

St Paul explains and underlines this in the Second Reading when he says: "It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit" (I Cor 12: 13).

The Church must always become anew what she already is; she must open the borders between peoples and break down the barriers between class and race. In her, there cannot be those who are forgotten or looked down upon. In the Church there are only free brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. The wind and fire of the Holy Spirit must continually break down those barriers that we men and women continue to build between us; we must continually pass from Babel - being closed in on ourselves - to Pentecost.

Thus, we must continually pray that the Holy Spirit opens us and gives us the grace of understanding, so that we become the People of God deriving from all peoples. St Paul tells us more along these lines: in Christ, who as the one Bread feeds all of us in the Eucharist and draws us to him in his Body wracked on the Cross, we must become only one body and one spirit.

The second image of the sending of the Spirit that we find in the Gospel is much more hidden. Exactly in this way, however, all of the greatness of the Pentecost event is perceived. The Risen Lord passes through the closed doors and enters the place where the disciples are, and greets them twice with the words: "Peace be with you".

We continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure, to bring us his greeting: "Peace be with you".

This greeting of the Lord is a bridge that he builds between heaven and earth. He descends to this bridge, reaching us, and we can climb up on this bridge of peace to reach him. On this bridge, always together with him, we too must reach our neighbour, reach the one who needs us. It is in lowering ourselves, together with Christ, that we rise up to him and up to God. God is Love, and so the descent, the lowering that love demands of us, is at the same time the true ascent. Exactly in this way, lowering ourselves, coming out of ourselves, we reach the dignity of Jesus Christ, the human being's true dignity.

The Lord's greeting of peace is followed by two gestures that are decisive for Pentecost: the Lord wants the disciples to continue his mission: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20: 21).

After this, he breathes on them and says: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound" (Jn 20: 23). The Lord breathes on the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit, his own Spirit. The breath of Jesus is the Holy Spirit.

We recognize here, in the first place, an allusion made to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis, where it is written: "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gn 2: 7). Man is this mysterious creature who comes entirely from the earth, but in whom has been placed the breath of God. Jesus breathes on the Apostles and gives them the breath of God in a new and greater way.

In people, notwithstanding all of their limitations, there is now something absolutely new: the breath of God. The life of God lives in us. The breath of his love, of his truth and of his goodness. In this way we can see here too an allusion to Baptism and Confirmation, this new belonging to God that the Lord gives to us. The Gospel Reading invites us to this: to live always within the breath of Jesus Christ, receiving life from him, so that he may inspire in us authentic life, the life that no death may ever take away.

To his breath, to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord joins the power of forgiveness. We heard earlier that the Holy Spirit unites, breaks down barriers, leads us one to the other. The strength that opens up and overcomes Babel is the strength of forgiveness.

Jesus can grant forgiveness and the power to forgive because he himself suffered the consequences of sin and dispelled them in the flame of his love. Forgiveness comes from the Cross; he transforms the world with the love that is offered. His heart opened on the Cross is the door through which the grace of forgiveness enters into the world. And this grace alone is able to transform the world and build peace.

If we compare the two events of Pentecost - the strong wind of the 50th day and the gentle breath of Jesus on the evening of Easter - we might think about this contrast between the two episodes that took place on Mt Sinai, spoken of in the Old Testament.

On the one hand, there is the narration of fire, thunder and wind, preceding the promulgation of the Ten Commandments and the conclusion of the Covenant (cf. Ex 19 ff.); on the other, there is the mysterious narration of Elijah on Mt Horeb. Following the dramatic events on Mt Carmel, Elijah fled from the wrath of Ahab and Jezebel. Following God's orders, he journeyed to Mt Horeb. The gift of the holy Covenant, of faith in the one God, seemed to have disappeared from Israel.

In a certain way, Elijah must rekindle the flame of faith on God's mountain and bring it back to Israel. He experiences, in that place, wind, earthquake and fire. But God is not present in all of this. He then perceives a sweet soft murmur; and God speaks to him in this soft breath (cf. I Kings 19: 11-18).

Is this not precisely what takes place the evening of Easter, when Jesus appeared to his Apostles to teach them what it means here? Might we perhaps see here a prefiguration of the servant of Yahweh, of whom Isaiah says: "He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street" (42: 2)? Does not the humble figure of Jesus appear this way, as the true revelation in whom God manifests himself and speaks to us? Are not the humility and goodness of Jesus the true epiphany of God?

On Mt Carmel, Elijah sought to overcome the distancing from God with fire and the sword, killing the prophets of Baal. In this way, though, he was unable to restore the faith.

On Mt Horeb, he was made to understand that God is not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire; Elijah has to learn and perceive the soft voice of God, and in this way to recognize in advance the One who overcame sin not with power but by his Passion; the One who, by his suffering, has given us the ability to forgive. This is how God wins.

Dear Ordinandi, in this way the message of Pentecost is now aimed directly at you. The Pentecostal scene of the Gospel of John speaks to you and of you. To each one of you, in a very personal way, the Lord says: Peace to [all of] you - peace to you! When the Lord says this, he does not give something, but he gives himself. Indeed, he himself is peace (cf. Eph 2: 14).

In this greeting of the Lord, we can also foresee a reference to the great mystery of faith, to the Holy Eucharist, in which he continually gives himself to us, and, in this way, true peace. 
Sacrament of the Eucharist

This greeting is placed at the centre of your priestly mission: the Lord entrusts to you the mystery of this Sacrament. In his Name you can say: "This is my Body.... This is my Blood". Allow yourselves to be drawn ever anew by the Holy Eucharist, by communion of life with Christ. Consider the centre of each day the possibility to celebrate the Eucharist worthily. Lead people ever anew to this mystery. Help them, starting from this, to bring the peace of Christ into the world.

In the Gospel Reading we have just heard, a second phrase of the Risen One resounds: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20: 21). Christ says this in a very personal way to each one of you.

With priestly ordination you are inserted into the Apostolic mission. The Holy Spirit is wind, but it is not amorphous; it is an orderly Spirit. It becomes manifest precisely when it orders the mission, in the Sacrament of the Priesthood, in which the ministry of the Apostles is continued.

Through this ministry, you are inserted in the multitude of those who, beginning with Pentecost, have received the apostolic mission. You are inserted into the communion of priests, into communion with the Bishop and with the Successor of St Peter, who here in Rome is also your Bishop. All of us are inserted in the network of obedience to the Word of Christ, to the word of the One who gives us true freedom because he leads us in the free spaces and open horizons of the truth.

It is precisely in this common bond with the Lord that we can and must live the dynamism of the Spirit. As the Lord came from the Father and has given us light, life and love, so too the mission must continually set us in motion, make us restless, to bring the joy of Christ to those who suffer, those who are in doubt, as well as to the reluctant.

Lastly, there is the power of forgiveness. The Sacrament of Penance is one of the Church's precious treasures, since authentic world renewal is accomplished only through forgiveness. Nothing can improve the world if evil is not overcome.

Evil can be overcome only by forgiveness. Certainly, it must be an effective forgiveness; but only the Lord can give us this forgiveness, a forgiveness that drives away evil not only with words but truly destroys it. Only suffering can bring this about and it has truly taken place with the suffering love of Christ, from whom we draw the power to forgive.

In closing, dear Ordinandi, I recommend that you love the Mother of the Lord. Do as St John did, welcoming her deeply into your own heart. Allow yourselves to be continually renewed by her maternal love. Learn from her how to love Christ. May the Lord bless your journey as priests!

Amen.




THE HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
We were made to be God's children, Pope says on Pentecost 
 Pope Francis blesses pilgrims in Saint Peter's Basilica on the solemnity of Pentecost May 24, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA. by Elise Harris Vatican City, May 15, 2016 / 02:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).

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 Although sin separates us from God, Pope Francis stressed on the feast of Pentecost that we haven’t been left as orphans, but that thanks to Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can reconcile with the Lord and continue to live as his children. “The central purpose of Jesus’ mission, which culminated in the gift of the Holy Spirit, was to renew our relationship with the Father, a relationship severed by sin, to take us from our state of being orphaned children and to restore us as his sons and daughters,” the Pope said May 15. “We were made to be God’s children, it is in our DNA,” he said, explaining that “the Spirit is given to us by the Father and leads us back to the Father.” Dressed in red vestments traditional for the solemnity of Pentecost, which celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto Mary and the Apostles, Pope Francis made these remarks during Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Quoting St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he told those present that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship.” Francis explained that the entire process of salvation has been one of “regeneration” in which God’s fatherhood frees us from the state to which sin has caused us to fall: namely, that of being orphans. Even today we see various signs of being orphans, including “the interior loneliness which we feel even when we are surrounded by people, a loneliness which can become an existential sadness,” he said. We also see these signs “in the attempt to be free of God, even if accompanied by a desire for his presence; in the all-too-common spiritual illiteracy which renders us incapable of prayer; in the difficulty in grasping the truth and reality of eternal life as that fullness of communion which begins on earth and reaches full flower after death.” Another sign, the Pope said, is the effort required to see others as brothers or sisters, “since we are children of the same Father.” To be a child of God is our “primordial vocation” and contradicts all of these signs, he said, noting how this relationship was “ruined” by sin and restored by the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. From the “immense gift of love which is Jesus’ death on the cross,” the Holy Spirit has been poured out on humanity “like a vast torrent of grace,” he said, adding that “those who by faith are immersed into this mystery of regeneration are reborn to the fullness of filial life.” Pope Francis pointed to Jesus’ assurance to the apostles that “I will not leave you orphans,” and said that on the feast of Pentecost these words serve as a reminder of the maternal presence of Mary, who was in the Upper Room with the apostles when the Holy Spirit descended. Mary the Mother of Jesus is with the community in prayer, he said, explaining that “she is the living remembrance of the Son and the living invocation of the Holy Spirit.” “She is the Mother of the Church,” he said, and entrusted all Christians, families and communities in need of the Holy Spirit to her intercession. Francis closed his homily noting how the Holy Spirit strengthens our relationship with Jesus enables us “to enter into a new experience of fraternity” with him and with each other. “By means of our universal Brother – Jesus – we can relate to one another in a new way; no longer as orphans, but rather as children of the same good and merciful Father.” “This changes everything!” he said, explaining that “we can see each other as brothers and sisters whose differences can only increase our joy and wonder at sharing in this unique fatherhood and brotherhood.”


HOMILY OF ABBOT PAUL OF BELMONT (UK)
Pentecost 2016


            “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. He wrote about it in many different ways. In the Acts of the Apostles, 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 and 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. It is a gift that brings about a radical change in our lives, unites us to God as his sons and daughters and enables us to live in Christ and do his redeeming work. We preach the Gospel by proclaiming the wonders of God, not just in word, but in all we do. We forgive those who sin against us and, 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.

            In the four Gospels, it is Jesus, the 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 to us, while in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St 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, in whose Name alone can we be saved and reconciled with God. Early Church fathers, such as St Irenaeus, spoke of the Son and the Spirit as being the right and left hands of God. Trinitarian theology is always heady stuff, so let’s 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 us about the coming 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; 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 consecrates 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. and 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, the joy of Whitsun, but we also ask to become more conscious of his presence within us, that we might live each day guided only by the Holy Spirit.


            As we come to the end of Paschaltide, on behalf of the monastic community I wish you all once more a very Happy Easter and all the blessings of Pentecost. Amen
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