Tongues of Fire
There is quite possibly no other subject of vast import so mysterious and all-encompassing, elusive yet indefinable, and essential but often disregarded, as the holy Love of God. And yet, that is what the Church presents to us this weekend with the Vigil on Saturday and the Feast of Pentecost on Sunday, continuing for eight days (an octave). As we come to the end of the Easter cycle, the Church in her wisdom (i.e., Christ), knows we need more than just one day to contemplate the third Person of the Holy Trinity, whose name is Love.
[If you'd like a little musical inspiration while you read, go here to listen to a gorgeous recording of the sublime hymn of Pentecost: Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) sung in traditional Gregorian chant. There are English versions, but I prefer the Latin. The musical notations are shown, along with the Latin verses. An English translation is given in the notes.]
On this, the third most holy feast of the Catholic liturgical year (Easter being first, and Christmas second), the long-awaited culmination of the mission given by Jesus Christ to the twelve apostles returns again to fire our hearts anew with "tongues of flame" in that most spectacular manifestation of the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus and God the Father nine days after Christ's Ascension into Heaven. It is the birthday of the Church. Fittingly preceded by nine days spent in desperate yet trusting prayer by the twelve, accompanied by Our Lady, spouse of the Holy Spirit, they awaited the promise of the Father, given by Jesus as recorded by Saint Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, 2.1-11 (cf. Gospel of Saint John 14, 16) that He would send another Paraclete, and that in fact it was good for them that He leave them so that He could do so.
Many devout Catholics have been praying these past nine days since Ascension Thursday, some in formal novenas to the Holy Spirit (formerly known as the Holy Ghost, a perhaps more apt term given His mysterious tendency to appear and disappear or, rather, to descend without warning) asking for His seven gifts and His twelve fruits, or for specific gifts or charisms; e.g., truth, joy, fortitude, preaching, etc. --whatever one might feel most in need of. Others may be praying in a general way for the Church itself, threatened by schism and heresy from within and indifference and hostility from without. As in times past, we remain in great need of Divine intervention. But He forces Himself on no one. We have to ask. Let us open our hearts to Him and beg for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in souls who are disposed to receive Him.
"Come, Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth."
I invite you to peruse Father Abbot Philip Anderson's homily from Pentecost (also known as Whitsunday) 2020. Given just as the pandemic was exploding, it is still relevant today.
To learn more about the painting above, see this Catholic Digest article from May 2018 by Geoffrey LaForce.
May the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, remain in our souls forever, and may we always return Them love for Love. Amen.
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If I have erred in any statement, whether directly or by implication, in any matter pertaining to faith or morals, I humbly invite fraternal correction.