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A Pentecost or Whitsunday Reflection

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

The Feast of the Holy Spirit’s descent upon His Disciples Epistle:


Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11. Gospel: Saint John 14: 15-31.


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When the “day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind and it filled all, the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2: 1-4).



The Holy Spirit: A Gift to Us through Christ


Whitsunday or Pentecost is commonly referred to as only second to the celebration of Easter in the Church calendar. Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Ghost’s descent upon humanity. We learn about the day of the Pentecost from the Acts of the Apostles. It has been referred to as the birth of the Church.


It is at this point in time that the Gospel message, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is brought out from Jerusalem to the rest of the world. It is the moment when humanity is touched by the Divine and able to grow with a new Spirit deep within them. Because of Pentecost, our world has changed.


The question is, of course, how so? Pentecost initiates a new era for the world. Christianity was now proclaimed. It was the starting point. The old “Hebrew Covenant” was now replaced by a new “Christian Covenant”. After Jesus had ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit was gifted to His followers, the members of the new Covenant, to teach them “all things”(Jn. 14: 26) that Jesus had taught.


What was to propel the early church, as well as all the faithful who would follow, was the Power of the Holy Spirit. But what was the Holy Spirit? As just mentioned, based on Scripture, we learn that the Holy Spirit was God's gift through Christ to humanity and Its responsibility was to uphold and inspire the Church, the faithful, until He returns. This gift came through Christ who dwelt among us.


Certainly, the second and third persons of the Trinity work as One. As matter of fact, Christ's redemptive work cannot be considered separate from the Holy Spirit's work of sanctification. After all, “The Word took flesh,” said St. Athanasius, “that we might receive the Spirit” (On the Incarnation and against the Arians, 8, P.G. xxvi, 996c). It is perhaps reasonable to think that the entire purpose of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ was to bring the Holy Spirit into the world, launching the Christian era on Pentecost.


It would take the trauma of Jesus' death on the Cross for the Disciples to experience the rather large and powerful Spiritual force, which is the Holy Spirit. After all, Jesus had promised that He would send His Spirit to guide them once He had departed. And indeed, it did drive them out of that Upper Room and into the highways and byways of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They suddenly were given the power to speak with boldness and clarity. They were now able to teach the Truth of the Gospel, which was that Jesus had risen from the dead.


On that first Pentecost, even the most sinful individual was offered a new life in the Spirit. This day also coincided with the Jewish calendar’s Feast of Weeks or First Fruits (Exod. 23:16), and it represented both a new beginning and a new time to harvest the first fruits of the Christian Mission. It was the Disciples time to tell the story about the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Truly, with the help of the Holy Spirit they now had gone from weak deniers of Jesus into bold witnesses who could proclaim, that in Christ, we are free from both sin and death.


The Holy Spirit: The Gift to Us of Order and Peace


Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Jn.14:27

We learn from the early Church Fathers that the Holy Spirit is active in humanity. It is the same Spirit that was active in Creation at the beginning, and is now active in nature. God’s Spirit is the Spirit of order and peace and not of confusion and conflict. He brings order into our lives, as well as, peace, happiness, humility etc. Etc.



God, through Christ, and through the Holy Spirit, sustains the faithful in every aspect of their lives, both in good times and in bad. God’s Spirit is an enduring Spirit. St. Ignatius reminds us that, “where Christ is, there is the Church” (To the Smyrnaeans, viii, 2) and St. Irenaeus adds that, “where the Church is, there is the Spirit and where the Spirit is, there is the Church” (Against the Heresies III, xxiv, I). The Church being the Body of Christ is also the temple and dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.


And it is on Pentecost or Whitsunday, that we are reminded of the challenge before us each and every day. It is a time to reflect, pray and give thanks for the strength we are given to meet our trials and tribulations. In these situations, the Holy Spirit is present, and both quietly and calmly going about its business. The Holy Spirit is that still small voice of calm in our deepest inner selves. Truly, the Holy Spirit is a gift to us of order and peace for our moments of helplessness.


The Holy Spirit: The Divine Indwelling

After experiencing the trauma of witnessing the death of their Spiritual leader, the Disciples were graced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This indwelling provided them with the peace they needed to move forward.


Indeed, it was the peace which passes all understanding. Frightened and unsure, as they may have been, they seemingly could now cope with all the struggles that would challenge them.


And it was from this Transformative experience that Christ's Church grew and spread throughout the world, defining itself inwardly and outwardly, sharing the Mysteries of Faith through both Word and Sacraments. After all, the “Spirit is the agent by which we come to faith” (1 Cor. 12:3) and we live our faith with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, which works through us. It is in this awareness that we the Church, the Body of Christ, continue to celebrate our faith.


As faithful members of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, we are by divine appointment, the perpetual abode and permanent home of the Holy Spirit of God (Vernon Staley: The Catholic Religion, page 127). The Holy Spirit lives in us and affects us both collectively as a community and as individuals. Such Grace frees us and enables us to be open to our personal gifts from God; gifts which are diverse and unlimited.


It should be recalled that at Pentecost the tongues of fire were ‘cloven’ or divided and descended separately upon each one of the Apostles that were present. St. Paul points out that there, “are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit” (I Cor. 12: 4). He also tells the Church in Corinth that the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is love. Of course, Faith and Hope were close behind in importance; nevertheless, the greatest gift is love.


The Holy Spirit dwells not only in us inwardly, but also outwardly through our expression of faith. We see Him in the sacraments, the blessing of baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist. Indeed, God's Holy Spirit is in each of us through our Baptism and Confirmation. The Holy Spirit is ready to help, strengthen, and save every one of us. If we persistently call upon Him for help, He will incrementally make us better people and more Christ-like. He will prepare us for Heaven.


The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God in Christ, the Eternal Spirit, who worked in Creation and on the day of Pentecost, as well as in us now. He has been with us since our Baptism. He was with us as we grew up; teaching us all about what is good in the world and helping us in our choices. He taught us to pray and filled us with peace and happiness. On Pentecost, we are reminded that this is the gift that our Master, Jesus Christ, left us.


The Holy Spirit is a gift not only to the faithful but to the world as well. The world may be wicked, but to God the world is beautiful and good. He tells us this (Gen. 1: 31). The great sadness is that the world is stained with sin. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is at work in the world to confront the nature of evil and sin! We may not see it, and it very well may be going about its business quietly, but it is there, and it is mighty.


Remember dear brothers and sisters, what God did for the Apostles he does for us. The Holy Spirit helps us throw off sin and cowardliness and start living the life of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit supports us in our struggle against temptation, to turn us away from sin and walk toward righteousness. The Holy Spirit comforts us when we are discouraged or fearful. The Holy Spirit guides us as we begin to start living for God. Truly, the Holy Spirit resides in each of us completely and it is our Christian duty to put Him entirely to work in both our lives and in the lives of others.


The Collect for Whitsunday (Book of Common Prayer)

Let us pray,


God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end.


Amen.


Published on April 15th, 2016

in The Traditional Anglican News Volume 4 Issue 4 {Revised on March 10th,2023}


© Dr. Charles Warner 2023

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