"La Pentecôte" (The Pentecost) by Jean II Restout

“La Pentecôte” (The Pentecost) by Jean II Restout

Do you ever wonder what it might have been like to be present with Christ for those three years of His public life as he preached the Kingdom of Heaven throughout the Decapolis? How many miracles of the Incarnate God might we have been privileged to witness? The Apostle John said of the Christ’s unrecorded works: “but there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Would the countless works including miracles, exorcisms, and healings have been enough proof for us to be firm in our faith? Three years of witnessing what could not be contained in more books than the world can hold seems like it ought to be enough evidentiary proof to convince us beyond a shadow of a doubt. We are likely in this humanist and reductionist age to believe that such an immense preponderance of evidence would be more than enough to quell any human doubt, but we would be wrong.

Consider Peter, he witnessed the most amazing things, Jesus walking on water, bringing Lazarus back from the dead, turning water into wine, the multiplying of the loaves, the transfiguration and countless other miraculous wonders. He was convicted and convinced as much as is humanly possible and yet still at the end when the Passion began, he denied Christ three times. All the apostles except His favorite abandoned Him as He was hanging on the cross. All those good and faithful men when left to their human frailty without the aid of the Holy Spirit, did in fact fall far short of the perseverance required for the Glory of salvation.

As we read of the Apostles in Acts 1:3, after Christ conquered death “to them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.” And even though they were extremely joyful at His resurrected presence, they were still afraid. In spite of an abundance of irrefutable physical proof of all that had been fulfilled and had miraculously transpired, still by human power alone, everlasting faith was out of reach. At a certain point after his resurrection, Christ breathed on the Apostles and in so doing conferred upon them the power to bind and loose on earth and in heaven, but the full power of the Holy Spirit was yet to descend upon them fully on Pentecost.

The truth is that since that privation of grace we know as the fall of our first parents, we are incapable by our own powers to persevere in the Faith. Christ tells us in John 16:7 “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” After forty days with the Apostles, Our Lord ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father.  Ten days after the ascension we are gifted the day of Pentecost. It is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles that “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 from these “tongues of fire” the Apostles spoke intelligibly to citizens of all nations and all men understood as the divisiveness of Babel was overcome. By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles, three thousand were converted that day to the Body of Christ and for this reason we call Pentecost the birthday of Holy Mother Church.

The avail of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot be overstated. As St. Basil the Great remarked about the Counselor descended on Pentecost: “Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory.” In an instant the power of the Holy Spirit is capable of invoking citizenship into the City of God for all souls desiring to become members of the Body of Christ.

Pentecost is a glorious moment for all members of the Body of Christ. St. Cyril of Alexandria reminds us that “Jesus tells us that His holy Disciples will be more courageous and more understanding when they would be, as the Scripture says, Endowed with power from on high (Luke 24:49), and that when their minds would be illuminated by the torch of the Spirit they would be able to see into all things, even though no longer able to question Him bodily present among them.” By this wisdom, let us be drawn out of the materialism of this age and see that the eternal immateriality of our Creator is interminably better than the temporal materiality of empirical evidence perceivable by our five senses. The gift of spiritual vision is markedly more valuable than our physical sight.

There are no greater gifts that can be bestowed upon us than the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are the aid to our eternal salvation and as such we ought to accept them gratefully. Let us celebrate Pentecost by shedding our human arrogance and adopting the humility of Christ, for we are reminded in Ecclesiastes 3:19 that the “mysteries are revealed to the humble.” If we are found to be humble by the Creator then we will be worthy of receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit offered to us on Pentecost and everyday forthcoming.

By the fall of our first parents we are in need of reconciliation to God by His graces. We have been put out of harmony with reality as it is especially evident in the era of secular humanism where we are likely to put our own powers above that of God. But by our own power, faith is as fleeting as a tune whistled into the wind. We must reject the spirit of the age and embrace the Holy Spirit, our guide to salvation. As St. Gregory of Nazianzen reminds us on Pentecost, “for being poured from One Spirit upon many men, it brings them again into harmony. And there is a diversity of Gifts, which stands in need of yet another Gift to discern which is the best, where all are praiseworthy.” Let us accept the gift of discernment and learn which is best amongst the gifts of the Holy Spirit and subordinate our five senses to the glorious revelations which become ours by the docile assent to receive. Let us allow ourselves by humble submission to be brought into harmony with the Body of Christ by the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the holy and glorious day of Pentecost.

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