The Church is the place where “the Spirit blooms” (St Hippolytus of Rome, Traditio apostolica, 35) and the Chosen People, non-restricted by borders, come from all the peoples: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks” (1 Cor 12:13)
Fire and wind
The old and the new Pentecost
For the people of Israel, Pentecost, the former feast of harvesting, had become the feast of the Covenant. God had manifested his presence with fire and wind and had given the gift of his law, the 10 Commandments engraved on the rock.
On the day of the new Christian Pentecost, God has given the gift of his law of Charity not written on two slabs of rock, but in the heart of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit. Then through the Apostles He has communicated it to the Church. On them “the Holy Ghost has descended with sudden sound and has changed their mind of carnal beings inside his love. While outside tongues of fire appeared, inside the hearts became flamboyant because welcoming God in the vision of fire, they suavely burned from love” (St Gregory the Great, Hom. in evang. XXX, 1: CCL 141,256). The fire of the Holy Spirit has united them with communion of life and of divine Life for them and for the world. Their Word was not anymore only a human one, but became the Word of God that the Holy Ghost had put in their hearts and on their carnal mouths. They took this Gospel of truth and love to the entire world.
“The voice of God makes divine the human language of the Apostle, who became able to proclaim in a ‘polyphonic’ way the unique divine Word. The breath of the Holy Spirit fills the universe, generates faith, leads to truth, and prepares the unity of the peoples. ‘At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.’ (Acts 2:6.11)” (Benedict XVI).
With the gift of the Holy Spirit, the fire of charity that is the announcement of a redeeming forgiveness is committed also to us. It is the announcement that God has not only come on earth, but also that God continues to give himself to me and to you, lives in me and in you, in us who are his Church, and his true Body.
In reciting often the prayer: “Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary,” we ask the Holy Spirit the gift of Wisdom so that we can understand (not only to understand with the mind, but also to welcome with the heart). In the Bible we read, “Therefore I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her” (Wisdom 7:7-8). This superior knowledge is the root of a new knowledge imbued with charity. Thanks to it the soul acquires familiarity with the divine and takes pleasure in it. Saint Thomas of Aquinas speaks about “a certain taste of God” ( Summa Theologica IIa-IIae,45,2 ad 1) so that the truly wise man is not only the one who knows about all God’s things, but the one who experiences them, lives them and shares them, becoming a missionary announcing that God is Love, fullness of life, joy and peace.
The Spirit: flowers, life and joy
In the first part of the Summa Theologica (I, 37:2) Saint Thomas of Aquinas writes, “As therefore we say that a tree flowers by its flower, so do we say that the Father, by the Word or the Son, speaks Himself, and His creatures; and that the Father and the Son love each other and us, by the Holy Ghost, or by Love proceeding.” Flowers, life and joy: this is the Spirit. The babbling of the theology of us pilgrims stops here and we are left to contemplate this truth of love. Who humanly could have thought that God loves himself and us with the same kind of love? It is almost as if the same quiver moves and warms our life uniting it to his.
Man has always looked for a spark of hope to conquer the desperation of death and of the inevitable suffering. The wise Greek men had found this spark in proclaiming that man is similar to God. Considering this longing that is that man is made of a divine substance, in the sermon at the Aeropaus Saint Paul proclaims, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
What is already marvelous, in the natural participation of man in the divine nature, becomes almost an unutterable but consoling mystery of merciful love, in the participation in the divine nature and life through grace. We became worthy of this grace through Christ’s passion. The Holy Spirit takes us to the Son and makes us capable, thirsty and hungry for His Grace. The Apostles were the first to get this joyful experience. They experienced Truth that is the ability to see clearly in everything and in ourselves and to have the certainty that God loves us and that we can love and take refuge in Him calling Him “Father”.
From The Holy Spirit the Virgin received the gift of Jesus
If today the recommended prayer is “Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary” and the second one is the “ Our Father”, the third one is the “Hail Mary” because “ there is no Pentecost without the Virgin Mary” (Benedict XVI), who from the Holy Spirit received the gift of Jesus.
The presence of Mary, full of Grace, is at the beginning, in the Supper-room where the Apostles were “all with one accord in prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1; 14). And in the same way it is always, today as it was then, in Jerusalem and all over the world.
At the Annunciation Mary had already experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit. The angel Gabriel had told her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk 1:35) Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, Mary has been linked in a unique way to the mystery of Christ. In the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Blessed John Paul II wrote: “In the mystery of Christ she is present even ‘before the creation of the world,’ as the one whom the Father ‘has chosen’ as Mother of his Son in the Incarnation. And, what is more, together with the Father, the Son has chosen her, entrusting her eternally to the Spirit of holiness” (8)
In the Supper-room of Jerusalem, when through the Pascal events the mystery of Christ on earth came to its completion, Mary was in the community of the disciples to prepare a new coming of the Holy Spirit and a new rebirth, the one of the Church.
It is true that she is already a “temple of the Holy Spirit” due to her fullness of grace and her divine maternity. However she also participates in the prayers for the coming of the Paraclete (paraclitus comes from a Greek word that means called beside, invoked, consequently the consoling one) so that with his power, He might make the passion towards the mission, that Christ Jesus coming into the world received from the Father (Jn 5:36) and returning to the Father, has transmitted to the Church (Jn 17:18). From the beginning Mary is united to the Church like one of the “disciples” of the Son, but at the same time she stands out as “a pre-eminent and singular member of The Church and excellent exemplar in faith and charity” (Council Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 53).
Benedict XVI told the Consecrated Virgins “Imitate the Mother of God; desire to be called and to be handmaids of the Lord” (RCV, n. 16) and invited them to persevere in giving themselves entirely to God indicating in the Virgin of Nazareth and in her “yes” the first realization of this offer. (Address to the participants in the international Congress of the Ordo Virginum, May 15, 2008). Recently Pope Francis has reminded them that the consecrated Virgins “are an icon of Mary and of the Church” (May 7th, 2013).
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Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104; Rom 8:8-17; Jn 14:15-16.23.-26
Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104: 1 Cor 12:1-11; Jn 14:15-20
Monsignor Francesco Follo is permanent observer of the Holy See to UNESCO, Paris.