Most Catholics will know that Pentecost is the feast where the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles and Our Lady, occurring while they were in the upper room as they prayed and awaited the coming of the promised advocate. We celebrate this great feast 50 days after Easter. It is a feast of spiritual confirmation, a feast where God confirms his people with the Spirit (the third person of the Blessed Trinity). Pentecost is a time of great joy when we receive the Holy Spirit and the many gifts that the Spirit wishes to give us.
Liturgically we celebrate this joyful feast in a special way. It is one of the three times that a sequence is proclaimed after the second reading. It has been part of our liturgical tradition since the thirteenth century and encapsulates the greatness of the fulfilled promise of Christ. This song often reminds us of our own Confirmation, as the words “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” are sung. It is an invocation for the Holy Spirit to come upon us and it details many of the great and wonderful gifts that the Spirit wishes to impart to us.
The sequence tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Father of the poor. This is a great phrase of consolation for us, for we are all poor in some aspect of our lives. We may find ourselves poor in health, poor in spirit, or poor in the necessities of life. Whatever need we have, the Holy Spirit wants to be that source of consolation, described as “[p]leasant coolness in the heat, [s]olace in the mist of woe”. The Holy Spirit has been sent to comfort God’s people, to give us strength in our life of heavenly pilgrimage.
The sequence concludes with a final invocation to give those who depart from this life joys that never end. The Holy Spirit, our guest and friend, desires to guide us today, and until this life reaches its end. We have been given this great gift, the fulfilment of Christ’s promise to send an advocate. Jesus has sent us the Holy Spirit, the eternal love shared between the Father and the Son. This is a clear sign to us of how much God values us. Firstly, that he gave us his only begotten Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and also that now we share in a special way the bond of love that the Son and the Father share through the gift of the third person of the Holy Trinity.
The beauty of God’s gift to us this Pentecost is difficult to put into words. It is akin to asking someone to describe the true depths of a great relationship. The reality is that words can never do it justice, but they can come close, and this is what we have been given in the Pentecost sequence. A humble attempt at putting into words the great gift of the Holy Spirit and the beautiful invitation for us to join the life of the most Holy Trinity.
Fr. Tony King-Archer.