"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

Saturday, 23 May 2015

PENTECOST 2015 FROM CATHOLIC AND ORTHODOX SOURCES (more will be added during the day)


The Father is the Source of both the Son and the Spirit and, hence, the Source of unity in the Godhead.      The Holy Spirit is the unity of the Father and the Son, because, while his Source is the Father, he is also in the Son as the Son's love for the Father.

As the Father's Power is,in fact, his self-giving Love, the Holy Spirit is the Agent of the Incarnation.  The Father is reconciling the world to himself through the Son who is united to the Father and the world by the Holy Spirit.   In the Annunciation, the order is FATHER, HOLY SPIRIT, INCARNATE SON, HOLY SPIRIT united to all creation. 

   However, as it was the function of the Son to be incarnate in a particular time and place; and it was the function of the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus and his historical life and death into contact with all times and places, what he did had a universal salvific effect and the Church's memory was brought in direct contact with what it remembers.  All this was brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit who acts as a bridge across time and space, filling the Church's liturgical "now" with Christ's life, death and resurrection, even though they are events of the past: "Hodie, Christus natus". 

After his death and resurrection, there passed a time when the apostles and women saw Christ; but the old intimacy was no longer appropriate because he had not yet ascended to his Father, and the new kind of intimacy had not yet come about because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on the apostles.   With his ascension into the Presence of the Father, the final link was forged between the Father and us.  In Christ, his self-offering unto death had become a permanent dimension of his resurrected life that we  share. With his ascension, human nature came to share in the internal life of the Blessed Trinity. All that was needed was Pentecost by which Christ's Mystery would become our Mystery: by the pouring of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples, we are transformed  into his body, the Church, to the extent that we share both his self-offering unto death on the Cross, and his resurrected life.

The first and most important expression of the Church as it was formed at Pentecost is the liturgy which is the product of the synergy (harmony of activity) between the Holy Spirit and the Church.   The most important expression of the Christian life as given at Pentecost is ecclesial love which is the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the human will.   This is made possible through living one's baptism, confirmation and communion.   
Ecclesial love is the effect of the Presence of the Holy Spirit and is what binds the Church together as one organism both at a local level and on a universal level, and it unites us to Christ as he is as dead, resurrected and ascended into heaven; and it unites us to him as he was in his life and crucifixion.  As ecclesial love is a product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the human will, it is loving as Christ loved us.   Hence, not content with uniting the Church in one body, it pours itself out on all humanity, and even on all creation which is destined to be renewed through the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.   From our perspective, the order is FATHER, SON and HOLY SPIRIT, and then back with those who are being saved to the FATHER.   The Spirit lifts us up, through the Son, into intimate union with the Father.

The icon of Pentecost in the Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches is that of the Blessed Trinity because the effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from Pentecost to the present day is to raise the Church and all who live its life into sharng in the life of the Trinity with Christ in heaven: to share in Pentecost is to share in the Ascension; and to share in the Ascension is to share in the divine Life,or Theosis.   

In the icon by Rublev which introduces this paragraph, there is an empty place at the table in front of the three angels who represent the Trinity.  That place is for you, and for me.  

In the West, however, the icon is of the Pentecost event itself, and the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the theme so bound up with Pentecost, is on the following Sunday - which means it was highly inappropriate to abolish the Pentecost octave.  By separating the feast of the Holy Trinity from its liturgical place, we run the risk of separating this Mystery from the Mystery of Christ.   It is Pentecost that makes the truth of the Holy Trinity relevant to us and to all Creation.   Without Pentecost, the Blessed Trinity becomes just one more isolated truth in a series of truths which have lost their inherent unity.  I have the same complaint against the abolition of "time after the Epiphany" which gave coherence at a profound level to the weeks that followed; just as, after Pentecost, the Coming of the Holy Spirit gives coherence to the feasts and Sundays that follow: Pentecost brought about the "time of the Church" which is the time in which we live.

The Holy Spirit and the Liturgy

Just before the Second Vatican Council was opened, Pope John XXIII said a prayer on Vatican Radio asking God to send his Spirit on the Church, bringing about a new Pentecost. With this in mind, one of the most significant moves in the liturgical renewal of the Church after Vatican II was the composition of new Eucharistic prayers with their double epiclesis. 

In reality, the liturgy exists at three levels: there is the Liturgy of Heaven, the Liturgy of the Church and the Liturgy of the Heart; and it is the Holy Spirit who is the unifying factor within each as well as the Person who unites all three in Christ as a single reality which is the Church. In heaven, the Father gives himself completely to the Son, and the Son gives himself totally to the Father; and this mutual Love of the Father for the Son and Son for the Father is the Holy Spirit, the hypostasis of Love. By his Incarnation, the Son is united to creation; and the Holy Spirit unites the angels and saints to him as one single self-offering of praise and thanksgiving to the Father. They are so united to Christ that they continually receive the gift of divine life which the Son receives from the Father so that they too are sons and daughters of the Father This eternal activity is the eternal Liturgy of heaven.

The same Holy Spirit is sent down on the Christian community, making it Christ’s body, turning its sacred texts into Christ’s word, its offerings into Christ’s body and blood, its sacraments into actions of Christ, it members – as far as they allow him – into saints. Christ is present in the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit; and this synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church is what gives the liturgy its special character and authority. We are placed in the context in which the Spirit so unites us to Christ that his self-offering becomes ours, and we receive in Christ the divine life from the Father. Hence, we are brought together so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a perfect offering may be made to the glory of the Father’s name. This activity together with the other sacraments and with the divine office which sanctifies the Christian’s day is called the Liturgy of the Church.

The Holy Spirit does not just sanctify our external actions and social relationships: the love of God is poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rm 5, 5). St Paul does not live, but Christ lives in him (Gal. 2, 20) He prays, “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rm 15, 13). With Christ whom we receive in communion living in us by the power of the Spirit, “when we cry, “Abba, Father”, it is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him” (Rm 8, 15-17; Gal. 4,6) This activity of the Holy Spirit within us, making us one with Christ at the very centre of our being can be called liturgy of the heart. To the extent that our lives are in synergy with the Holy Spirit, our whole life becomes a prayer of repentance, intercession, praise and thanksgiving. To the same extent, we participate authentically in the liturgy of the Church which is both a reflection of, and a participation in the liturgy of heaven. We are fully participating in the Mass because we are living it, not only externally by joining in the responses and actions of the liturgy, but in the depths of our heart. Therefore we do not oppose individualistic prayer with communal prayer: one cannot do without the other, and it is the Holy Spirit who unites them by making both the prayer of Christ...

The Eucharistic prayers show us two movements of the Spirit: the movement downwards, in which the Father sends the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and us into his body, and the upward movement of us, united to Christ, offering all honour and glory to the Father within the inner sanctuary of heaven. In the first, Christ is revealed to us as the human face of God; and, in the second, he is shown to be the acceptable face of all humanity at the very heart of the Blessed Trinity.
We shall now look at the downward movement (epiclesis) in the Mass. In the next article we shall look at the upward movement (doxology) and how the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Mass affects the Church and the world.

Let us remember one important point before we proceed. We know that the apostles and disciples became the Church at Pentecost, and we know from St Paul that, “We who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (I Cor. 10, 16-17). As the Church is essentially the body of Christ, if there is a sense in which the Eucharist makes the Church, then the Mass is our Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit is extremely active throughout, and not just at the epiclesis. The problem for us, then, is how to celebrate in such a way as to help those taking part be on the same wave-length as the Holy Spirit. 

The Third Eucharistic Prayer opens with the statement that all life and holiness comes from the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. This is the context in which the priest asks the Father to make the bread and wine holy by the power of the Spirit, so that they may become Christ’s body and blood. Later, after the words of institution, which in the Latin Rite are the moment of consecration, the priest asks that those who are nourished by Christ’s body and blood may also be filled with his Holy Spirit so that we become one body, one spirit with him.

In the early Church, receiving the Holy Spirit was especially associated with the blood of Christ. According to Leviticus, “The life of the flesh is in the blood,” (Lev.17,11), so that people did believe that, as Christ’s human life was contained in his blood, at least symbolically-, so his divine Spirit would also be in the blood. When St Paul says that we all drink of the same Spirit, I have a strong suspicion that he is talking about the chalice. Here is a passage from a very early homily inspired by Hippolytus:

We are fed with the bread from heaven, our thirst is quenched with the cup of joy, the chalice afire with the Spirit, the blood wholly warmed from on high by the Spirit.

St Ephraem also associates receiving the Holy Spirit with communion:

Fire and the Spirit are in our baptism. In the bread and the cup also are fire and the Spirit.

If the Word was made flesh and lived, died and rose again in Palestine, the Holy Spirit gave his human, naturally restricted life a direct relationship with people of all times and places. Thus Christ could bear our sufferings and sins, and those of the whole race. The Holy Spirit bridges time and place, and unites heaven and earth, without destroying the distinctions and differences. Thus, when the Church remembers the Last Supper, it is as though we were there, and Christ’s words, “This is my body … this is my blood” consecrate our own bread and wine. When the Church remembers his death, our sacrifice becomes identical with his. When the Church remembers his resurrection, we are united to Christ in heaven, share in his new life, and are brought through the veil, which is Christ’s body, into the presence of his Father as his sons and daughters (Hb 10, 19-20). The Holy Spirit also bridges the gap between us as a Eucharistic assembly and all other Christians, so that we are united to the whole Church of every place and every generation, and each Mass is an act of the whole Church in heaven and on earth. Finally, the Holy Spirit gives to each of us our role in the Church (charisma) and inwardly transforms us, little by little, into the image of the Son (sanctity). All this happens because of the Holy Spirit who comes down on the Church in the Eucharist. Moreover, without the Catholic Mass, no charismatic prayer group would be able to function, and no Protestant one either. 

The Mass is the source of all the Church’s activity and the goal to which everything tends: all because of the Holy Spirit. Because of the Holy Spirit, the liturgy transcends the difference between heaven and earth, public ceremony and private prayer in the intimacy of the heart, because he is present and active at all these levels, bringing them together and uniting them in a single reality which is Christ. Because Christ identifies his prayer with ours, and we identify our prayer with his, we participate by prayer in the life of the Blessed Trinity, and our lives have a divine as well as a human dimension: we are truly sons and daughters of God.

Pentecost and Creation
Fr. Stephen Freeman

Earth is a wondrous place – no matter where we go – how deep, how far, how high, how hot, how inhospitable – in this place we find life. Everywhere we look on our nearest neighbour – Mars – we find – no life. We want to find life. We hope to find life. We theorize life. But we have yet to find it.

There is something about life, at least in our earthly experience, that is inexorable. Any individual case of life may be fragile, but life itself endures. In the Genesis account we are told that God blessed this planet and said:

Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:11-12 NKJ)

Note that the account does not say that God said “Let there be life!” and life just appeared…(Boom! Trees!) But that He blessed this place and commanded that it bring forth grass… herbs… trees… according to their kind… and it was so!

The feast of Pentecost in Eastern tradition, celebrates the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church as Christians do across the world. However, there is a strange aspect to the Eastern version of the feast (or so it might seem). The Feast focuses as much on the Holy Spirit’s work in Creation as it does on the Spirit’s work in the Church. The Church is decorated in green. In Russian tradition, branches of birch are brought into the Church; fresh green grass is placed on the floor; flowers are everywhere. In Soviet times a secular version of the festival remained, called the Day of Trees.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church is not something separate from Creation – nor are the trees a distraction from the Church. They are, together, a proper reminder of the role God’s Spirit plays always, everywhere. He is the “Lord and Giver of Life.”

Just as the Spirit moved over the face of the waters in the beginning of creation, so He moves over the face of all things at all times, bringing forth life and all good things. Though I am frequently assaulted with bouts of pessimism, despairing over various aspects of our distorted civilization, the truth is that like the planet itself, civilization with its drive for beauty and order seem inexorable. The history of humanity is not the story of a fall from a great civilization with increasing instances of barbarism and cave dwelling. Great civilizations have risen and fallen, but civilizations continue to occur. Some may already have begun in the ruins that surround us now.

The story told in Scripture is not the story of collapse and decay. There are certainly dire warnings of terrible trials and great catastrophes. But these things do not reveal the mystery of God’s will. These things are cracks in the pavement while life continues to burst forth:

God has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth– in Him (Eph. 1:9-10).

What appeared as tongues of flame upon the heads of the disciples at Pentecost was a manifestation of this Divine Purpose at work. With the sound of a mighty rushing wind, the Holy Spirit filled the room. The fullness of the Church burst into the streets proclaiming the Gospel in a multitude of languages. Being birthed in Jerusalem was the New Jerusalem, where there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female. Instead there is the fullness that fills all things bringing forth all things in one – in the One Christ Himself.

The voice of Pentecost is the voice of creation’s groans being transformed into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Stones cry out, trees clap their hands and the song of creation rejoices in the One Christ.

The Fire of Pentecost in Orthodoxy
Fr. Stephen Freeman

No one, of course, can describe the fire that fell on the Apostles at Holy Pentecost. At most we are told that the Spirit appeared “like tongues of flame lighting upon the heads of the Apostles.” Not much a description. Other times in Scripture we are told of a Pillar of Fire and of the bush that burned but was not consumed. Again, this is very little information.

To this day, there occurs a miracle of fire at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Orthodox Patriarch, having been searched by the authorities, enters the Tomb of Christ with an unlit torch of candles. He prays. Year after year he has dones so, and year after year emerges with what in Orthodoxy is known as “The Holy Fire.” It seems to have the odd property of not burning people (at least at first). Video’s (I’ve included one here) show the enthusiasm of the crowd (it seems to have a distinct Middle Eastern flavor – imagine that). This one includes some shots of people virtually “bathing” in the flame.

Of course this has gone on for centuries with little fanfare, at least in comparison to the fanfare most Christians are used to in our modern world. But the fire continues. For those interested here is a youtube of the event from last Pascha:

Of greater interest to me (my faith in Christ’s resurrection from the dead has nothing to do with the nature of the phenomenon of the Holy Fire), is the fire spoken of by the Desert Fathers, when we are urged to become flame.

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’

 This fire can consume our passions, consume our hearts with the love of God. It can consume our desire for worldly things and set us on the path of salvation. There is a fire that can be ours – and burn endlessly without consuming. But there will be no advertisements or movements which shout to us, “Come to this city or that city and experience the Holy Fire.” Indeed bathing in the Holy Fire in Jerusalmen will not change your life. Like all fire that changes us, only the fire of ascetism and true yearning for God will change us. And then we will shine like the sun. 

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)

This is the great miracle for which our heart yearns – to know in our inmost self that God has become man, and in turn has called us to union with Himself. Anything less would be nothingness.


Pentecost 2015

We have just heard two accounts of the coming of the Holy Spirit. According to John, it was Jesus himself, the risen Christ, who on the evening of Easter appeared in the room, where ten of the Twelve were gathered, and breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Through the Spirit’s presence in their lives they will share in Christ’s passion and death, bring his peace to the world and have power over sin. Just as God’s creative breath gave life at the beginning of creation, so now, in the fullness of time, the Word made flesh gives new life to those who are born of water and the Spirit. “Of his fullness we have all received, grace in return for grace.”

            According to Acts, the Spirit was given at Pentecost, seven weeks after Passover and Easter. The feast of Weeks was a pilgrimage feast when pious Jews would come to Jerusalem. While the disciples were there, they received the Spirit, manifested in the speaking of tongues. While John links the coming of the Spirit to the Paschal mystery, Luke, the author of Acts, links the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the feast of Pentecost, highlighting the central place of that outpouring in the history of salvation.

Originally an agricultural festival of thanksgiving, Pentecost came to symbolise and celebrate the great things God had done for his people throughout history. Whereas the Exodus was commemorated at Passover, Pentecost came to recall God’s giving the covenant to Israel at Sinai, that key moment when Israel was called to be God’s own people. In Christ, a new Israel, a new people of God, the Church, comes into being through faith and baptism in the Holy Spirit. For Christians, Pentecost is a new creation.

In depicting the theophany on Sinai, the book of Exodus includes thunder and smoke. Philo, the first century Jewish writer, describes angels taking what God said to Moses on the mountaintop and carrying it out on tongues to the people below in the plain. Acts, with its description of the sound of a mighty wind and tongues of fire, echoes that imagery and so presents the new Pentecost in Jerusalem as the renewal of God’s covenant, once more calling a people, this time all peoples, to be his own. On Sinai God made his covenant with the people of Israel, whereas in Jerusalem many nations were present. Acts gives a long list of them, thus anticipating the evangelising work of the early Church. “All flesh will see the glory of God.”

So when did the Holy Spirit come, at Easter or at Pentecost? The truth is that, like the waves of the sea, the Spirit is always coming. According to John, the Spirit had not been given as Christ had not yet been glorified. The coming of the Spirit is linked to the glorification of Jesus. And yet, from the very beginning of creation, the Spirit was there just as the Word was there. “All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made.” 

Christ’s work was to recapitulate all things in himself and reconcile all men with God. He did this through the power of the Spirit, the same Spirit he gave to his disciples when he breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And it was the same Spirit the first Christian community received at Pentecost, with the mission to preach the Gospel throughout the world, bringing everyone to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Since then, the constant prayer of the Church has been “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” – Come, Holy Spirit. We should use that prayer always. When we pray for mercy and grace, it is the Spirit we are asking for. In every sacrament, it is the Spirit at work and the Spirit we receive. God created us to be filled with his Spirit and so become one with him.  Today we thank God for his love and open our hearts to receive once more his greatest gift. Come, Lord Jesus. O Holy Spirit, come. Amen.

Three new oblate novices received at Pentecost,
bringing the number of oblates to five in
Pachacamac Monastery

No comments:

Search This Blog

La Virgen de Guadalupe

La Virgen de Guadalupe


My Blog List

Fr David Bird

Fr David Bird
Me on a good day

Blog archive