"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost and the unity of the Spirit

Jean Restout II (1692 - 1768)

For weeks I have been eagerly anticipating Pentecost, partly because having been raised Pentecostal, I find myself naturally gravitating toward this day when Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit. But in addition, the greatest hope I have is in the power of the Spirit. We can do nothing apart from the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit, all our efforts are mere straw and dust, powerless, pointless, profitless -- another voice in the cacophonous sea of voices, cast up for a moment and then tossed aside by the sweep of time and entropy, forgotten forever. But the Holy Spirit seems to delight in taking enervated self-sacrifices, and using them to accomplish unbelievable miracles. He melts hearts of stone and opens blind eyes. He brings men to the point of decision, showing them that today is the day of salvation, leading them to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" He revives the dead, awakens the sleeping, enlightens the benighted, empowers the feeble, emboldens the cowardly, and confounds the wisdom of this age.

The Holy Spirit draws men of good will together, in genuine unity through Christ. On this feast of Pentecost, the Church is "praying for unity, knowing that God can work miracles" (see here).
Nothing is too difficult for Him; His power exceeds what we can even imagine. If our hope were in ourselves, we would have no reason for hope. But our hope and trust is in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring all Christians into full visible unity, and that He may be pleased to use our prayers and letters and conversations and even our failings and sufferings to do so.

St. Paul writes:
"being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". (Ephesians 4:3) The "unity of the Spirit" is the unity that has been given to the Church by the Spirit on Pentecost. The Spirit transformed men who formerly quarreled about who would be greatest, into men who made themselves into each other's servants, with all kindness and brotherly affection. We cannot understand Pentecost until we understand it in relation to Babel (see here). The purpose of the Church is to reverse Babel, not by man's own efforts, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Body of Christ, to incorporate all men into that Body. As the power of the Spirit had overshadowed Mary when she conceived Jesus in her womb, so also on Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell once again on Mary who was with the Apostles in the Cenacle, and the mystical Body of Christ was born that day. But Pentecost did not end. Into that mystical Body "men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Revelations 5:9) are being incorporated, by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church and her sacraments. The Church is in this way a sign to the world of man's original social purpose, the union of all men. In the mystical Body of the Second Adam, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of the first Adam's sin (i.e. division and strife and dissension and schism) are done away. Instead of murdering our brother as did Cain and the children of Cain, we now, incorporated into this mystical Body, lay down our lives for our brothers, as the Second Adam did for us.

In his Apology, Tertullian wrote:

"Vide", inquiunt, "ut invicem se diligant" - ipsi enim invicem oderunt - "et ut pro alteruto mori sint parati"; ipsi enim ad occidendum alterutrum paratiores erunt.
See, [say the pagans], how they [the Christians] love [i.e. are devoted to] one another", for they themselves [i.e. the pagans] are animated by mutual hatred; "how they [i.e. the Christians] are ready even to die for one another", for they themselves [i.e. the pagans] will sooner put [each other] to death." (Apology, 39)

Those are the two cities. My dear brothers and sisters, let us be diligent to seek peace and unity with each other in the blessed city of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and let us bring as many with us as we can into that peace, not trusting in our own strength or wisdom, but in the power of the Spirit to work daily miracles and bring the light of the Gospel into the world. Our days are numbered, and our time is short. Let us make the most of it.

Lord Jesus, on this Pentecost please pour out your Holy Spirit on us anew, that we may participate in your work, in fulfillment of the desire of your Sacred Heart that all those who believe in You would be one, as You and the Father are one (John 17). And let our work be fruitful and its harvest abundant both now and in the age to come.

"Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love." We cast ourselves upon You, and entrust ourselves entirely to You, for only in You do we have hope.

1 comment:

Oso Famoso said...

Amen. Today after Church I was at lunch/dinner with our extended family. We are the only Catholics. I said, "Happy Pentacost." They said, "What?"

They didn't know it was Pentacost. I was saddended by that.