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Transcription of Homily
Hetoimasia Icon / The Holy Spirit and the Preparation of the Throne of the Lord
Translation of the Epistle for the Solemnity of Pentecost
When the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded in mind, because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these, that speak, Galileans? And how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians: we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.
A continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. John
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words. And the word which you have heard, is not mine; but the Father’s who sent me. These things have I spoken to you, abiding with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. You have heard that I said to you: I go away, and I come unto you. If you loved me, you would indeed be glad, because I go to the Father: for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it comes to pass: that when it shall come to pass, you may believe. I will not now speak many things with you. For the prince of this world cometh, and in me he hath not any thing. But that the world may know, that I love the Father: and as the Father hath given me commandment, so do I.
The saving words of the Gospel.
If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode in him.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Today we celebrate this great solemnity, something of a birthday for the Church, in which we have this beautiful hymn of the Holy Spirit that incorporates a number of titles, each one worthy of meditation. One is Altissimi Donum Dei; the Gift of God Most High / Gift of the Most High God. And notice whenever our Lord speaks about the Holy Spirit, He often uses certain words like give, grant, receive; He is the Gift; He is the Gift of God. And He certainly is a gift that keeps on giving.
Why does He give us this Gift? Because without Him we would not be able to live up to our obligations in our relationship with our Lord. Thomas Aquinas says that the Old Law was written on stone and incapable of being observed with perfection. The New Law, the New Covenant of the Blood of Christ, is written on our hearts and the Holy Spirit is the protagonist in this perfect observance of the will of the Father.
The Holy Spirit makes His first appearance in Genesis in the first lines of Genesis where it says, God sent His Spirit hovering over the waters. Those primordial waters, all that chaos. All of this lack of form, this בֹּהוּ תֹּהוּ tôû bôû as it says in Hebrew, this formless void, and God sends His Spirit over. רוּחַ rûaḥ, is the word for Spirit. Then we see that word, not long afterwards, in the creation of Adam; and God breathed, His רוּחַ rûaḥ, into the nostrils of Adam giving him the life of grace, giving him supernatural life, which of course was lost in Original Sin. So you know, the Bible would have been just a great story if we just had the first two chapters of Genesis, but you know, we’ve got the Fall and the rest of Salvation History, which is the story of God trying to bring His family, His broken family, back together again; bringing order in the chaos that we’ve made, giving order into Adam’s family.
And this order is still something that’s futuristic in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel, God says that He will send His Spirit over these dry bones to bring them life. And then in Isaiah, He says that I will write in your hearts a new law, and My servant will keep it faithfully because of the Spirit I will give him. So this is what comes to fruition then in Pentecost, and it explains the lie of this sorrowful parting in the Ascension when Christ’s sacred humanity is no longer with us, no longer visible.
Imagine if Christ had remained here; He would be in one place and people would flock to Him, and they would have to take a number and have their little spiritual direction with Him to ask Him questions, etc. It would be rather cumbersome and the Law would not be fulfilled because Christ would be outside of us. Thanks to the Ascension, thanks to Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us so that we can live out the demands of a Christian from within. The Law is no longer something external. It’s not something I’m trying to simply adequate myself to, but rather it’s something that is already present within me thanks to the Life of Grace and, therefore, I’ve got all of the means necessary to live it out. When Thomas Aquinas’s sister said to him, Thomas, what do I have to do to be a saint? He said simply, Will it. Will it
Our Lord doesn’t set us up for failure. And He does put the bar pretty high, Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. That, I think we can all agree, is a pretty high bar. Right? Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. And nonetheless, we’re not set up for failure, because our Lord gives us the Holy Spirit to be the protagonist in this story. We possess the Holy Spirit, in as much as we’re in a state of grace. We possess Him. And that’s what love is. It’s a possession of the Beloved. It’s a mutual possession. In this case, the Holy Spirit has us; we belong to Him. We’ve been given to our Lord; we’ve been consecrated to Him in baptism. And so we belong to Him and He belongs to us. There’s a mutual possession going on.
This is the nature of also human love, where there’s a possession of the Beloved. There’s a gift of self, there’s a receptivity but in our human experience, right, there’s something inconstant in that. There’s something that ephemeral. What our Lord does is at a much more profound level. What the Lord does is definitive, from His side for sure, we’re a little inconstant still. And so, we have to see where am I failing in my relationship with Him because He’s doing fine on His side. Where am I failing in my relationship with Him and why? It’s not enough to just make my list of sins and confess them, it is necessary, certainly, but that doesn’t go too far. What’s at the root of this? Why am I not giving myself to Him, as I ought, as He deserves?
The fastest way to holiness is fidelity to grace, heading the interior movements of the Holy Spirit in our conscience. We have to, obviously, inform our conscience. That means learn what the Church teaches, and what’s expected of us. We also have to form it and forming it is the active part where I act on it; do this, don’t do that. The more that becomes a habit, the more I’m consulting Him, and not, is a sin?, but does this give you glory, Lord? The more my life is brought into a certain integrity, cohesion, when my thoughts and my words, my actions, are offered to our Lord as an offering, it brings about a certain, what Thomas Aquinas would call onestà. Onestà is a proportion of virtues. In other words, we’re not lopsided. We’re not really good in this and not so good in other words. Rather it brings about a certain flourishing and a proportion, a certain spiritual beauty, because all of the virtues are at work. And that’s what Thomas calls onestà.
So that is the work of the Holy Spirit in us; the configuration of our hearts and minds, our desires, our affections with those of Christ. If I’m failing in some area, that’s not a problem. I take note, I look at where it is, how can I better cooperate with God’s will, and it helps also to have an understanding of the dynamics of sin in my life. What leads to sin? Is it situations? Is it people? Is it some interior commotion? So that when I recognize the dynamics of sin, I can impose a new dynamic with the help of grace, a dynamic of virtue. And this cooperation with the Holy Spirit, over time, gets easier and the easier it gets, the more meritorious it is in the eyes of our Father. Imagine that! Those things that maybe used to be a struggle and then I overcame them, and now they’re easy to do, those virtuous things that are now easy for me to do, they’re more pleasing now because they’re a virtue. I’m not thinking about it. I’m not calculating. I’m not taking into account the cost. Rather, I’m just saying, “I know this is what you want. This is what I want to give you.”
And this is why, for example, the Congregation for Saints when they consider a candidate for Beatification, they’re going to look at his whole life. They’re going to concentrate, above all, on the last 10 years because that’s where you start to see this exponential growth in holiness. All of the fruits of those virtuous years are now exponentially growing and their steps in virtue are just larger, and larger, and larger. Materially, maybe they don’t look any different, but in our Lord’s eyes, and in truth, they’re much more meritorious and pleasing to our Lord because of all of the history of generous choices behind them. And this is our task.
And so, we don’t look at our defects today and project them into the future thinking will always be like this. That’s a lie from the enemy. Rather, we take stock and we ask our Lord how we can better be configured with Him, and if I have habitual mental prayer as part of my daily program if I have penance as part of my daily program. In other words, these are constants. They’re not things I do, it’s who I am. This success, this progress is assured. We’re not set up for failure. And we look at the Blessed Mother, as you know, the greatest model of what this fidelity to grace is. This docility to the movements of the Spirit, she is the model. And she never said no to Him. May we never say no to Him again.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, of the Holy Ghost. Amen.