From the Pastor – May 31, 2020

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4)

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Pentecost, which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, an event which occurred fifty days (including Easter Sunday) after the Resurrection.  Historically and symbolically, Pentecost is related to the Jewish Festival of Weeks, celebrating the day (occurring fifty days after the Exodus) on which God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.  Recalling the Exodus, Jesus gave us freedom from slavery to death at the Resurrection.  Fifty days later, the Holy Spirit writes the law on our hearts.  The word “pentecost” is actually a Greek word meaning “fiftieth.”  In the past this Sunday was also called “Whitsunday” because of the white garments worn by those who were baptized on the vigil.

The celebration of Pentecost is often referred to as the Church’s “birthday,” and its celebration goes back to Apostolic times.  St. Irenæus wrote about it in the early 2nd Century, and Tertullian spoke about it as being well established around the year 200 A.D.

Pope Leo the Great wrote in 450 A.D. of the Catholic doctrine pertaining to the Holy Spirit, especially emphasizing the Spirit’s relationship to the Father and Son of the Trinity and the Catholic Church. He draws an analogy between Jewish practices and the Christian feast day: “As once to the Hebrew people, freed from Egypt, the law was given on Mt. Sinai on the fiftieth day after the sacrifice of the lamb, so after the Passion of the Christ when the true Lamb of God was killed, on the fiftieth day from his Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles and the community of believers.”

In parts of Italy it is customary to scatter red rose leaves from the ceiling of churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues.  It is even called Pascha rossa (red Pasch) because of the red colors of the vestments used on Pentecost.  In some places in France it is customary to blow trumpets during Mass, to recall the sound of the mighty wind which accompanied the Descent of the Holy Spirit.   We might not have trumpets for Mass, but we certainly have the red vestments.  Thank God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and Happy Birthday to the Church!  Come, Holy Ghost, fill the hearts and minds of Thy faithful servants and enkindle in them the fire of Thy Divine love. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the faith of the earth.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty