The church celebrates the feast of Pentecost 50 days after Easter.
A number of years ago I was on holiday with my family in Malta. We went to visit the wonderful church in Mosta dedicated to the Assumption of our Lady which boasts the third largest unsupported dome in the world. It is also well known for another reason.
In April 1942 the church was nearly destroyed when a bomb hit the dome but failed to pierce the ceiling of the church where 300 people were praying. Thankfully it did not explode and all the parishioners in the church at the time were saved. The detonator was removed and a replica bomb is now displayed as a memorial.
On the day of our visit to the church, it was Pentecost Sunday and the church was full to capacity because all the children from the local schools were making their Confirmation. The atmosphere was festive and full of joy. What an appropriate day to celebrate the full initiation of so many young people.
The church celebrates the feast of Pentecost 50 days after Easter. This feast is referred to as the ‘birth-day’ of the Church. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles on that day recalls the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles as they were gathered in the upper room. In the liturgy for Pentecost Sunday, the sequence is read before the proclamation of the Gospel.
The Pentecost sequence is a piece of liturgical poetry that is read or sung as part of the Liturgy of the Word at Mass. Its function is to expand on and explain the meaning of the celebration.
The sequence captures the essence of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
The words convey energy, comfort and dynamic movement. The Spirit is the bringer of light, the source of goods for the poor, comforter, sweet refreshment, solace, healer, strength, guide and source of our joy, beyond all we can dream. The Hebrew word for ‘spirit’ is ruah, which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, and wind. The Spirit of God cannot be contained but blows where it wills, bringing life out of chaos.
Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded.
Bend that which is inflexible, fire that which is chilled, correct what goes astray.
The sequence is a hymn to the Holy Spirit expressing so much possibility for change in our lives but especially in the life of your child who has been confirmed in Christ.
The journey through adolescence is an unsteady journey where each step taken can be challenging and fruitful for both parents and child. Parents and children need the gifts of the Holy Spirit to create an atmosphere of mutual love and care for each other.
The Spirit opens our eyes to recognise God’s presence which is in us and all around us all the time. It is when our eyes are open we can see the work of the Holy Spirit in goodness, hope, kindness, openness, compassion, generosity and humility within our families and in the world around us.
Your child has already received the Holy Spirit in Baptism. The Sacrament of Confirmation highlights the gift of the Holy Spirit. With your example your child can become more aware of the activity of the Holy Spirit which strengthens and prepares them for the many changes that are about to take place in their lives. The Holy Spirit is not some object we have in our possession.
The Holy Spirit is God’s presence dwelling in us calling us and empowering us to live faithfully so we might experience the fullness of life. The sights, sounds, and smells which express the ritual in the Confirmation ceremony can help your child to experience the faith of the Christian community and give the parish an opportunity to celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit in each person.
As I listen to the sequence again next Sunday perhaps I will reflect on what gifts I need from the Spirit. What gifts are necessary for me to do my work well or to be a better parent? How can the power of the Holy Spirit bring good changes in my life? Can my closed mind be opened? Can my cold heart be warmed and filled with compassion? I have choices to make every day. I can live by the Spirit discerning God’s activity and promptings within me or I can make life harder for myself by trying to be in control and do everything on my own.
At Pentecost churches are decorated with flowers and green branches reminding us that the Church is full of new life, new possibilities. Celebrating Pentecost is not just recalling a past event but celebrating what God is doing within us right now.
The Spirit present within us is like a spring of living water, constantly moving, cleansing and refreshing us. Veni Sancte Spiritus!