Easter, Ascension & Pentecost: May 2013 Archives

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Post Pentecost some of our study and prayer ought to work on what it means to live by the Holy Spirit and how does the Church relate to the Spirit. We need to be serious about the Holy Spirit and not leave such questions to the dust bin or the happy-clappy Christians who claim to be slain in the Spirit alone. Sometimes I get the sense that we Catholics go to extremes when it comes to Holy Spirit: either we pay no attention to the Spirit or we ascribe to much to the Spirit. We even forget that the Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity: the Bible reveals the Holy Spirit to be God.

There is nothing to fear in coming to understand the what and who the Holy Spirit is for the Catholic.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (797) teaches:

What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church. To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members. The Holy Spirit makes the Church the temple of the living God:

Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the "Gift of God" has been entrusted. In it is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent go God. For where the Church is, there also is God's Spirit; where God's Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace. (Saint Irenaeus)

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Think of the difference between what happened at Pentecost and what happened at Sinai. There, the people stood at a distance. The mood was one of fear rather than love...Scripture tells us that God came down in the form of fire, and while the people stood in terror at a distance he wrote with his finger on tablets of stone...But when the Holy Spirit came, the believers were all together in one place. Instead of terrifying them by descending on a mountain top, he came into the house. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a strong, driving wind. In spite of the noise, no one was afraid...On the mountain there was also smoke, whereas in the upper room there were only clear, steady flames. These came to rest on each one of them, and they began to speak in other tongues...Listen to a person speaking an unknown tongue: it must be evident to you that the Spirit is writing on the heart, and no longer on tablets of stone. So then, it is not on stone, but in your hearts, that the life-giving law of the Spirit has been written. In Christ Jesus, in whom the true Passover has been perfectly celebrated, this law has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Saint Augustine

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A person with certitude in someone or something is going to propose that you consider making an inquiry into what is the cause of your certainty and hope. Naturally we will want to share with others and to deepen within ourselves a reality that blossoms as a beautiful new flower. The draw of that flower is no mere superficial thing: there is hope, beauty, expectation, communication, an essentiality that is unique. This is the role of the Pope who gives good example and daily tells us the cause of his joy and hope in being a friend of Jesus Christ. He encourages to look deeper into our faith in Christ and not to settle for less than what has been offered, that is, everything.

"Being Christian is not just obeying orders but means being in Christ, thinking like Him, acting like Him, loving like Him; it means letting Him take possession of our life and change it, transform it and free it from the darkness of evil and sin" (Pope Francis, General Audience, April 10, 2013).

The head of the ecclesial movement, Communion and Liberation, Father Julián Carrón reflects on what it means to be a Christian today with the help of the new pope in L'Osservatore Romano (18 May 2013), in "As Beggars of Faith." It is a brief reflection on what he sees going on with Pope Francis leading the Church as he meets with the Church's many ecclesial movements.

The text of Father Carrón's reflection is here: JCarrón As Beggars of Faith.pdf

This weekend we are celebrating the Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus; the Spirit is what creates and sustains us. In 2006 Pope Benedict met with members of the ecclesial movements. What follows the points he made on the Holy Spirit that I thought would be good to meditate on today. Our study and prayer to and in the Spirit is not well known in the Church so I think this material appropriate for formation and evangelization. As part of the Year of Faith observances the ecclesial movements are meeting with Pope Francis today and tomorrow. Come, Holy Spirit!

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The Holy Spirit, in giving life and freedom, also gives unity. These are three gifts that are inseparable from one another. I have already gone on too long; but let me say a brief word about unity.

To understand it, we might find a sentence useful which at first seems rather to distance us from it. Jesus said to Nicodemus, who came to him with his questions by night:  "The wind blows where it wills" (Jn 3: 8). But the Spirit's will is not arbitrary. It is the will of truth and goodness. 

Therefore, he does not blow from anywhere, now from one place and then from another; his breath is not wasted but brings us together because the truth unites and love unites.

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Ubisi Monastery. Ascension of Jesus detail

The Ascension is the feast of the human. With Jesus, physical, carnal humanity enters into the total dominion with which God makes all things. It is Christ who goes to the root of everything. It is the feast of the miracle, an event which by its strength recalls the mystery of God.

This is why the Ascension is the feast where all of Mystery gathers together and where all of the evidence of things is gathered together. It is an extraordinary and very strange feast, where all the faces of all things meet to cry out to unaware, inattentive, obscure, and unseeing man the light of which they are made, to give him back the meaning by which he entered into relationship with everything, to shout out to him the task he has in things, his role among things. Everything depends on him; all things were made for man.

Whoever tries to render witness to the Lord with his life is already part of the mystery of His Ascension, because Christ who ascended into heaven is Man for whom everything is made, Man who has begun to take possession of the things of the world.

Father Luigi Giussani

The Holy Rosary

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Holy Saturday is one of the mis-understood days the sacred Triduum. As a church body, we just don't have a firm  grasp of what Mother Church has to say and experience. Several theologians, for example, Popes John Paul and Benedict, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Richard John Neuhaus have all tried to focus our attention on what God has done for us on Holy Saturday. Father Alexander Schmemann, an orthodox liturgical theologian and priest, is one of my favorite liturgical authors. Sadly, he died of cancer many years ago, but his work continues to bear much fruit, as I hope you will appreciate by reading the following entry. Since today is Holy Saturday for the Orthodox Church, I am offering for our meditation (a review?) the events of our salvation.

Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath.

"The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said:

God blessed the seventh day.

This is the blessed Sabbath

This is the day of rest,

on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works...." (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

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By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.


Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day--Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another--Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death that Christ continues to effect triumph.

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In the days leading up to the great feast of Pentecost which we celebrate next week, it seems right that we look to what we know and believe about the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate sent to us by the Trinity. 

We need to work in a concerted way to educate our religious sense on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were given in the sacraments of Initiation. The Holy Spirit is not talked about too often in the teaching of the faith and you rarely hear of the Spirit in homilies. I would love to see a parish provide as part of their formation of adults an in-depth course on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It is noted by many that we lack a firm grasp of how the Holy Spirit leads and guides each one of us, and how the Spirit is the agent in the sacred Liturgy (Mass and the Divine Office). The Paulist Fathers' evangelization work has mentioned recently that "Until we appropriate the Holy Spirit more fully in our Catholic consciousness, we will not have the spirituality to do the reaching out, welcoming, inviting, and sharing that are essential parts of our Catholic life and mission. Father Isaac Hecker, Servant of God, founded the Paulist Fathers will a strong spirituality of the Holy Spirit. Part of his cause for canonization might well include a greater awareness of the Spirit in our American/Canadian Catholic lives."

Father Isaac Hecker is one of America's priests who took evangelization and adult faith formation seriously. Let's take inspiration from him.

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The beauty and triumph of the Lord Jesus over death by His own death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead is sadly celebrated by Christians on different dates. The divisions are scandalous. Western Christians had Easter on March 31, and Orthodox Christians will have their Easter, or Pascha, tonight. I hope, one day soon, all Christians can witness to the Lord's resurrection on the same day. As Jesus said, 'that they be one."

In the meantime, New Haven's Greek Orthodox community is small yet lively at Saint Basil's Church. Connecticut has a rich history of Eastern Christianity, one that still needs to be told and appreciated. Ed Stannard of The New Haven Register wrote a story on the festivity and hope of Saint Basil's.
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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Easter, Ascension & Pentecost category from May 2013.

Easter, Ascension & Pentecost: April 2013 is the previous archive.

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