Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost: The Outpouring of the Spirit and the Birth of the Church

Pentecost evokes images of wind, fire, ineffable speech and a marvellous auditory gift to peoples from around the Mediterranean basin at the beginning and now in the hundreds of nations and tribes worldwide, that of hearing and grasping interiorly (in their hearts) God's message of love in their own idiom!

Wow! It's the birth of the Church and the fulfilment of Jesus' desire that the fire he was sent to cast upon the earth should burst forth into flame (Luke 12:49) burning in the hearts of his disciples, fearlessly telling the Good News everywhere it is needed and witnessing to God's saving activity everywhere they can.

Ottawa's French and Hispanic congregation of Sainte-Famille/Sagrada Familia were kind enough to reschedule today's regular noon Eucharist at 9 o'clock so that I could preside on Pentecost at the Confirmation of some thirty young and not so young members of their community.

We also took note of the fact that relatives of Abbe Gratien Girot, their pastor, and of a member from Burkina Faso were also being confirmed today in their homelands.

We remembered them in our prayers along with the many others receiving the Seven-fold Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation around the globe (including at the two other Masses I presided at Notre Dame Cathedral, where 35 were confirmed at the English noon Mass and 24 at the French 5:15 Mass).

At Sainte-Famille, the congregation was advised beforehand that the woman from Burkina Faso had asked permission to ululate at the Consecration of the Mass, a sign of ecstatic joy and reverent adoration. It added a solemn tone to the energizing music at the Mass.

Following Mass, the confirmands presented me with two baskets, one filled with foodstuffs of various kinds (a treat the residents of my community will appreciate), and the other filled with symbols of their homelands (coffee from Cuba, an atisan's hand-made oven mitt from El Salvador, a typical piece of ornamental house-front art from Colombia, a copper jar and a bottle of wine from Chile), which I shall treasure.

The Liturgy of the Word for the solemnities of Easter, Pentecost and Corpus Christi concludes with a special "Sequence Hymn" before the Gospel. Each congregation I attended today sang a different version, but always with a note of awe.

Here is an English version of the Pentecost Sequence "Veni, Sancte Spiritus":

Come, Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from Thy celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come Father of the poor!
Come source of all our store!
Come within our bosoms shine!

Thou, of comforters the best;
Thou, the soul's most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine
Shine within these hearts of Thine.
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, man has naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sev'nfold gift descend;

Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them Thy salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.

Amen. Alleluia

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