This is the meaning of the word ‘Pentecost’, fifty days. Seven times seven plus one. In biblical language, seven speaks of perfection and completion; hence seven times seven is the utmost of perfection.
“Pentecost is my most favorite feast because it reminds me that I am never alone in life. The Holy Spirit is always with me, because this is what Jesus Christ promised us!” These words coming from Mary, a married woman with six children from Yigo, surprised me. Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit. Very few people show any enthusiasm about Him. They know He is there but that is about all they care a propos of the third person of the Holy Trinity.
You see, many never heard the Good News. Others heard it but, somehow, it never penetrated in their hearts and minds. A good number believe that life is a battle which they have to fight. Often single handed. The odds are big and the resources are few. They feel so alone, so weak, so hopeless. How depressing because life can be so different!
The Holy Spirit is the Consoler. You see in life, we need Someone within us who keeps reminding us that we are never on our own, who keeps inviting us to look Up. We need Someone who keeps instructing us to have patience with ourselves. Someone who knows us better than we know ourselves and so, can help us not to be scandalized with ourselves. Someone who keeps telling us that God is not disappointed with us – He created us, He redeemed us, He will save us!
Fifty days after Easter an event happened that is momentous in the history of the Church. The Holy Spirit came with power and strength. And the apostles were transformed. Their lives were never the same. We need this Someone within us who keeps pumping courage inside us. Someone who tells us not to be afraid but to keep going ahead…
The point to bring to mind constantly is that Pentecost is not a yesterday event. The Holy Spirit is not yesterday. He is today. As the Bishop Ignatius of Latikon asserted once during a meeting in Uppsala, “Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away, Christ stays in the past, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is simply an organization, authority is a matter of domination, mission is a matter or propaganda, liturgy no more than a simple evocation of the past, Christian living a slave mentality.” The Holy Spirit can and should make a difference in our lives also.
I could not verify the veracity of this story but what it does say is very true. Soon after Saint Augustine’s conversion, he was walking down the street in Milan, Italy. There he met a prostitute whom he had known. She called but he would not answer. He kept right on walking. “Augustine,” she called again. “It is I!”
Without missing a beat and with the assurance of Christ in his heart, he replied, “Yes, but it is no longer I.”
The Holy Spirit changed Augustine. The Holy Spirit can make us a brand new creation. A dead balloon has no life, it is flat. It lies wherever you put it. It doesn’t move. It has no power. Even when you blow in it, it remains dead, going nowhere until that power inside it, is released. Release the power and it will soar high and mighty!
Reading the Fathers of the Church, one cannot but be surprised with the intensity of the emotions they utilized when they tried to articulate their experience of the Holy Spirit. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, one of the main instructor of catechumens in the early Church, was just enthusiastic, “The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt like a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console.”
Saint Basil, the Father of Eastern Monasticism, is even more emphatic, “The Spirit is the source of holiness. Like the sunshine which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet it is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature not by his ability to give!
“The Spirit – he continues – raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.
Only fifty years ago, the Second Vatican II was stating, “The Holy Spirit enables the Church to remain young!” Perhaps this is it! If we refer more to Him in our lives, we also shall remain young and fresh. The secret of eternal youthfulness has been revealed!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.