Paschaltide is drawing to a close.
In this year of our Lord 2015, we celebrated the 1982nd anniversary of Jesus’ most precious gift, himself, in the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. This Sunday, May 24, we celebrate Pentecost, the 1982nd birthday of the universal Church, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
At Mass we will hear St. Luke’s account of what transpired on Pentecost by our reckoning, how the Holy Spirit of God manifested himself to 120 followers of the risen Christ as a majestic, roaring wind rocking the upper room in which they were gathered.
Yet today, in many parishes, the adoration of the bells announcing the transcendent, miraculous presence of the eucharistic Jesus at Mass has been silenced.
On Pentecost, St. Luke explains, the Holy Spirit was made manifest in whirling darts of ardent flame settling on the heads of the followers of the Word made flesh, resulting in their becoming aware of the all-consuming presence of Jesus their redeemer. Yet when was the last time you came away from Mass aware of a fiery, all-consuming presence of divine love within your heart?
At Pentecost, St. Luke takes pains to relate how the all-enlightening Spirit of God generated the miracle of tongues.
The diversity of languages created by God at the Tower of Babel — source for the English word “babble” — is here reversed by the same God so that the catholicity of the glad tidings of redemption may be preached and known. Yet when did you last leave the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the banquet of love, aflame with and aching to share the joyful message of eternal life?
Our faith is based on being gifted by God! On the solemnities and great feasts of the Church is it too much to expect some pageantry? Special music, a plenitude of candles and festive clothing are de rigueur for birthdays and anniversaries. On Pentecost, why be satisfied with ordinary vestments, ordinary music and two measly candles?
At the Last Supper, when he instituted the Holy Eucharist during the Passover liturgy, Jesus acted quite modestly. On the other hand, the appearance of the Holy Spirit was epic! Roaring wind! Earthquake! Tongues of fire! Celestial pageantry!
Simplicity was fine for the small group at the Last Supper. Conversely, to inspire the group of 120 — indeed, all Jerusalem! — the Holy Spirit engaged the senses with high drama!
At Mass we receive the gift of the Blessed Sacrament, for which we express our thanks to God — eucharistia in Greek. We can do it simply or with great pageantry. The problem is “great pageantry” has gone out the window in too many parishes.
“Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is for our clergy to share with us, priests by the sacrament of baptism, the gift of magnificent, majestic liturgies on the great feasts and solemnities of the liturgical year so that, through the sight and sound of glorious melodies from the Church’s vast musical treasury — beautiful vestments; the six or eight candles of solemn Mass; the brilliant color of flowers; the jubilance of bells, the aroma of incense — our senses of sight, hearing and smell may be ever more engaged with the divinity of Christ, supremely and substantially present within the gift of the Holy Eucharist, so we may thus taste the sweetness of God.
Our faith is based on being gifted by God. It is our certain glory to enjoy the wedding banquet of the lamb through the gift of the Holy Eucharist, appreciated through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the giver of all that is good — Gifts, not to hog, but to be given to others.
At Pentecost it is well to recall that we share in the apostolate of the Twelve and are, with Christ, priests, prophets and kings, charged with proclaiming what we declare in the Creed, that we “believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.”