“When Pentecost day came round, they had all met together, when suddenly there came from Heaven a sound as of a violent wind which filled the entire house in which they were sitting, and there appeared to them tongues as of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit..”
And so the Acts of the Apostles describes the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, with the Apostles gathered together in the Upper Room in the presence of Mary, the Mother of the Lord. It is the fulfilment of the promise of the Lord to send the Spirit. In the coming of the Spirit, the Church is born and receives her mission – to go out to all peoples in every corner of the world, and to proclaim the Good News of Christ Jesus.
This image of Mary and the Apostles gathered together in prayer, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, is a very powerful one, depicted so often in art through the centuries. Commenting on the scene recounted in Acts, Pope Benedict says this –
“The Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the risen Jesus Christ.. the breath of God is life. Now, the Lord breathes into our soul the new life, the Holy Spirit, His most intimate essence, and in this way welcomes us into God’s family. With Baptism and Confirmation this gift was given to us specifically, and with the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance it is continuously repeated; the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul.”
The Catechism tells us –
“No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”7 Now God’s Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, His Word, His living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of Himself. The Spirit who “has spoken through the prophets” makes us hear the Father’s Word, but we do not hear the Spirit Himself. We know Him only in the movement by which He reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome Him in faith. The Spirit of truth who “unveils” Christ to us “will not speak on His own.”8 Such properly divine self-effacement explains why “the world cannot receive [Him], because it neither sees Him nor knows Him,” while those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because He dwells with them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.687)
And so, if we are truly given this Spirit through the Sacraments of the Church, this Spirit Who reveals to us Christ and Who ‘disposes us to welcome Him in Faith’, then this places upon us the same responsibility given to Mary and the Apostles – to spread the Good News, to be living witnesses to Christ, the Holy One, the Anointed One of God. As part of the Church, we share this same mission of the Apostles.
The Church proposes to us the reasons why the Mother of the Lord is present with the Apostles in the Upper Room at Pentecost –
“Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared Her, the Father found the dwelling place where His Son and His Spirit could dwell among men.. In Her, the ‘wonders of God’ that the Spirit was to fulfill in Christ and the Church began to be manifested:
The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of Him in whom ‘the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily’ should Herself be ‘full of grace’. She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty.. In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father’s loving goodness. Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit’s power and Her faith, Her virginity became uniquely fruitful. In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin. She is the burning bush of the definitive theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit, She makes the Word visible in the humility of His flesh.. Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ.. At the end of this mission of the Spirit, Mary became the Woman, the new Eve (‘mother of the living’), the mother of the ‘whole Christ’. As such, she was present with the Twelve, who ‘with one accord devoted themselves to prayer’, at the dawn of the ‘end time’ which the Spirit was to inaugurate on the morning of Pentecost with the manifestation of the Church”. (Catechism, para.721-726)
This Immaculate Virgin is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit descends on Her the first time, Christ the Lord is born; when He descends on Her the second time, the Church – the Mystical Body of Christ – is born. This Immaculate Virgin, the Mother of the Lord, will prepare our little hearts to receive the Spirit worthily, so that His gifts bear good fruit in our souls, for our good and the good of all the Church.
In her Diary, St.Faustina speaks about the path to holiness and counsels us that “faithfulness to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit – that is the shortest route” to holiness (Diary of St.Faustina, para.291). She goes on later to remind us that “silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle.. a silent soul is strong.. it lives always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (Diary, para.477). This Holy Spirit speaks in the silence of our hearts, in the same way as He spoke in the silence of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
As we prepare for Pentecost, now only a few days away, may we take a moment to find a quiet place in our hearts, and there, in that silence, ask for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, may we receive the prayerful intercession of the Mother of the Lord, of the Apostles and of all the Saints, that the breath of the Holy Spirit may descend into our hearts and our souls and fill us with His own life and make us fruitful, for His glory and for the good of souls.
Come, Holy Spirit! Come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Your well-beloved Spouse. Come, fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be recreated and You shall renew the face of the earth.
O God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.