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Deeper Into the Great Unknown


But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” ~ John 14:26

Sandwiched between the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and the Most Holy Trinity is today’s celebration of Pentecost, a Solemnity in its own right which commemorates the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit upon a community of believers that was fresh on the heels of having witnessed the impossible; a dead man coming back to life. As Saint Paul puts it, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the spirit of God dwelling within us.” (Romans 5:5). The 50 day Easter Season climaxes with the Solemnity of Pentecost. We welcome the power and grace of the Holy Spirit and it’s sublime gifts among us and in us.

The color red is used on Pentecost, recalling the fiery tongues that descended upon the Apostles when they received the Holy Spirit. In some cultures, red roses are used in support of this celebration due to their color. Some even refer to the Solemnity of Pentecost as Rose Sunday. In fact the altar at the Basilica in Washington DC will be adorned with two large vases each with what appears to be at least fifteen dozen roses on either side of the tabernacle. This symbolism is even deeper and richer in the years when Pentecost is celebrated in May, a month dedicated to our Blessed Mother, in light of her connection to and affinity for roses.

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. We proclaim this at every Mass. As Saint Thomas Aquinas explains in his groundbreaking work Summa Theologiae, “Because the Son receives from the Father that the Holy Ghost proceeds from Him, it can be said that the Father spirates the Holy Ghost through the Son, or that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father through the Son, which has the same meaning.”

Saint Paul once asked the Corinthians “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor 6:19). In this respect, the Holy Spirit gives us a sense of our dignity. It lives and breathes in our soul by way of God’s grace. It is there where it does it’s sanctifying work. During the sacrament of reconciliation, as the priest stands poised to provide absolution, he proclaims that “God sent the Holy Spirit out into the world for the forgiveness of sins.” This is a profoundly powerful statement; The Holy Spirit cleanses us of our sins.

Those therefore who partake of this sacrament frequently are filled with the grace and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Those on the other hand who don’t “believe” in the sacrament of reconciliation or through their acedia neglect to partake if it are essentially saying that they disagree with Jesus’ preferred method for the forgiveness of sins. That he does not have the authority as the Son of God and Second Person of the Holy Trinity to determine such things. Sadly, they rejecting the power of the Spirit as well. More on that in a moment.

The power of the Holy Spirit surges through those who receive the Holy Eucharist frequently as well. This we know by way of the Priest’s prayer during the consecration when he says “Grant, we pray, that partaking of the body and blood of Christ we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.” The Eucharist unites the Mystical Body of Christ

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In the closing words of yesterday’s Gospel (John 21:20-25), the last chosen in the lead up to Pentecost Sunday, we hear these words from the disciple that Jesus loved: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” The same can be said for the 3rd person of the Holy Trinity as John said of the second. The Holy Spirit is indeed a divinely inspired ever-creating artist, Jesus His masterpiece

In today’s Gospel (John 20:19-23), we return to the upper room and that seminal moment when Jesus appears to the frightened disciples, inviting them to receive peace in their hearts, the kind of peace that only he can offer He then breathes on them, commanding them to “receive the Holy Spirit.“ He goes on to proclaim “Whose since you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” As previously stated, it is in this moment that the sacrament of Reconciliation is born, a sublime gift that finds its roots in the Great Sanctifier, the Holy Spirit.

“To each individual the manifestation of the spirit is given for some benefit.” These are the words of Saint Paul in today’s 2nd Reading (1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13). The pursuit of the gifts of the spirit is the pursuit of virtue. Virtue purifies our soul, which allows God to pour these gifts out upon us in even greater portion. To develop them fully, we must be responsive to the Holy Spirit’s call. Through docility of temperament, we will clearly determine the call of the Spirit. Try as we may, we cannot predict what God has in store for us in our lives. This is the great mystery and adventure of the interior life; surrender and receptivity to God’s plan is our mission. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are truly the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:14).

And of course no discussion of the Holy Spirit would be complete without a few words on the Spouse of the Spirit, the Blessed Mother. Because of her purity, because of her docility of spirit, she was perfected by the Holy Spirit, that which some theologians have affectionately referred to as “The First Gift of God.” Mary is in actuality a mirror of the Holy Spirit, a portrait if you will. She is gentle, loving and fruitful in all good things. In the Book of Revelation (12:1, 2 &5) we read of the woman (Mary) who upon her head sat a crown of 12 stars. Biblical scholars and theologians have long believed that the twelve stars represent the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel as well as the twelve apostles. Could those twelve stars also represent each one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit?

Saint Jose Maria Escriva called the Holy Spirit “The Great Unknown.” Easter Season has been a most appropriate time during the church year to plumb the depths of the Holy Spirit. But there is never a bad tune to engage in such reflection. To become more intimately united. To allow it to work within you, to accept its gifts joyfully. To grow in these Gifts by simply asking for them. As the head of the Mystical Body, Jesus wants us all to possess these gifts of the spirit. In them we live and move and have our being. For as we learn from the Book of Wisdom, “The spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world and that which contains all things understands what is said. Alleluia.” (1:7).

“Christmas was God with us. Easter was God for us. And Pentecost is God in us.” ~ Author Unknown

“Come Holy Spirit, enkindle the hearts of your faithful…”

“Come Holy Spirit, enkindle the hearts of your faithful…”

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