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This week Holy Mother Church is preparing for the Coming of the Holy Ghost. She began her Novena of Prayers where the gifts of the Holy Ghost are asked to be given to us (that is, that they may be used by us in cooperating with the action of the Holy Ghost in our soul). We received the Holy Ghost in a special manner in the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Novena reminds the Confirmed Soldier of Christ the powers we have received for the battle we enter for the salvation of our souls and the souls of all Christians. In one of the articles it mentions that the “prompting to bold speech” is from the Holy Spirit, relying on 1 Cor. 12:3. It is obviously an erroneous application for that could be given to any demogogue or con artist. But, also, there is a distinction between Divine Inspiration and inspiration through Divine grace and inspiration from the Devil. The Apostles and Evangelists (and Billy Graham is not one of them) were Divinely inspired and we must believe all they taught in Scripture. We can be inspired through grace, but it brings us only to the Truth, for God is one and there is only one Church that possesses the Truth, having the Divine assistance of the Holy Ghost. Err is inspired by the Devil, not the Holy Ghost, as Saint Paul is saying; therefore, one cannot say the Holy Ghost is working through Protestant Evangelists, or it would be an equation of the devil with God’s Spirit. That is why, no matter the popularity or high position a person may hold in their religious belief, if it does not correspond to the Truth what the (true) Roman Catholic Church teaches, it is not of God’s Spirit. It is why Catholics have always been told that the first proof that the Protestant religion is a false religion is because they all reject Catholic Truth, each having their own set of errors that multiply because each is inspired not by the Holy Ghost, but by their own ego or the devil. Catholic Theologians, holding faithful to that one Catholic faith do so because they cooperate with God’s grace which inspires them to an understanding of the Catholic teachings and be able to explain them—not holding to private interpretation, but as the Church universally always taught. It is for this very reason that those of us who have been confirmed are reminded to continuously study our faith so that we may not only not fall into error, but are able to defend the Truth of the Faith before those who have fallen into error or are ignorant of the Faith. Humility is needed to accede that what I may believe is of God may be of the devil and so I always submit to the Church when she shows me my error.
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor
WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION?
by Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
The Coming of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost
The first day of the week (Sunday) has always been accepted as the Day of the Lord (the Lord’s Day), the day in which Christians go to Church (no longer the seventh day) to await the Lord: I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet (Apoc. 1:10) Every man’s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. (1 Cor 3:13)
Continuing with the coming of the Holy Ghost, Pentecost, the Acts of the Apostles continues:
And 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. (Acts 2:1-4)
Before the coming of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost—remember that Our Lord had already given the Holy Ghost to the Apostles His Resurrection by which they received the power of forgiving sin:
Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John 20:21-23)
—the Apostles were only poor fishermen who were slow to understanding, illiterate, disbelieving, and afraid. O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. (Luke 24:25) For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. (John 20:10) Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. (Ibid. 20:25) All fled when Christ was arrested (cf. Matt. 26:56 and Mark 14:50). Peter’s denial of Christ is recorded by all four Evangelists (cf. John 18:17ff, Luke 22:56ff, Mark 14:66ff and Matt. 26:69ff.
After receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost there is a complete transformation of the Apostles and Disciples. They were able to speak various languages (Acts 2:4), they were able to present the faith perfectly without error, they were fearless before their enemies, they went throughout the world preaching the Gospel and each Apostle became a glorious martyr, many undergoing terrible sufferings. The transformation was immediate for as the people gathered, Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, describes the scene:
[W]hen this [the external signal of the Holy Ghost’s descent] 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. And they were all astonished, and wondered, saying one to another: What meaneth this? (Acts 6-12)
The absurd, but quick response of the skeptical was that the Apostles and Disciples were drunk with “new wine”—perhaps because of the joy and enthusiasm and wonder that came upon the Apostles as they began to speak. They knew exactly how to explain the Gospel and in the languages of those they encountered: But others mocking, said: These men are full of new wine. (Ibid. 2:13) This denial of God’s work was met by Saint Peter’s first sermon as leader of the Church: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day: But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel. . . (Ibid. 2:14-16) One can remember the coming of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem when David danced and sang before the Ark, but Michol, his wife, despised him as she said: How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself before the handmaids of his servants, and was naked, as if one of the buffoons should be naked. (2 Kings 6:20) But to those who were open to grace and listened to Saint Peter, there was given the grace to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God:
Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their heart, and said to Peter, and to the rest of the apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren? But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call. And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying: Save yourselves from this perverse generation. They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41)
The gift of infused knowledge, both to be able to quote the Scriptural prophecies and to be able to speak in different languages was a gift given only during the Apostolic times, for there is no mention afterwards of others receiving this gift after the Apostles. The gift was necessary in order to establish the Church throughout the world in a short time so that truly Saint Paul could say: Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the whole world. (Rom.10:18; cf. Ps. 18:5) The Church would be truly one, holy, catholic and apostolic before the death of all the Apostles and would then remain so until Christ’s return: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Matt. 28:20) If the Apostles had not received these gifts, with their age and background it would have taken years for them to learn not only the Scriptural passages and understanding, but also learning the various languages they would engage to propagate the faith. Even when the Americas were discovered this gift was not bestowed upon the missionaries. Rather they would have to first learn the languages—a slow process but its absence shows Pentecost delineates the apostolic age as predestined to be unique in the confirmation of the Church as a work of God, unable to be changed.
(To be continued)
Dr. Pius Parsch
The Church’s Year of Grace (1953)
This Sunday occurs during the week after the feast of the Ascension and is transitional to the feast of Pentecost, which will be solemnly observed a week from today. Perhaps we may express it this way: in today’s liturgy the Ascension mystery recedes into the background as we prepare for Pentecost. In the Middle Ages this Sunday became known as Rose Sunday, because the season’s first roses were brought to church. (Rose Sunday, of Christian antiquity—in Italy, of course—was the fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday.) Upon entering the house of God we no longer see the paschal Candle alongside the altar.
SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
I seek Your face, O Lord
- Preliminary Remarks. On the feast of the Ascension our happiness stemmed from beholding Christ’s triumph and sensing the elevation of human nature to a new high dignity. Fervently we petitioned to live in heaven. There was no trace of sorrow or sadness over the departure of the Lord.
Today, however, it is otherwise. In her heart the Church is yearning for the Lord, feels the pangs of separation. We can best sense the spirit of today’s liturgy by recalling the spirit of the small Christian community between the departure of the Lord and the descent of the Holy Spirit. a) The Church yearns for Christ (Intr., Comm.), and directs her gaze upward to her heavenly King (Grad.); b) she awaits the Holy Ghost (Gosp.) with prolonged prayer (Intr.); c) she scans the future and arouses within herself the spirit of the martyrs and confessors (Epist., Gosp.).
- Holy Mass (Exaudi Domine).A simple, childlike piety pervades today’s formulary; little of the liturgy’s usual terse clarity is noticeable. A ringing joyfulness characterized the Masses on the last fewSundays, there was hardly a note of sorrow over the Savior’s departure; today there is quiet reminiscing, and holy sentiment envelops us. In the prayers there is unusual warmth and tenderness, as on the Sunday within the octave of Christmas.
The difference becomes apparent immediately at the Introit: no rejoicing, no praise; only a longing plea to see the face of the Lord. It is the yearning of the primitive Christians for the parousia—in an “alleluia” setting. On the feast of the Ascension the angels said to the disciples who were gazing toward heaven, “He shall come again in the same way as you have seen Him going up to heaven.” Already today we pray with them: Maranatha—Come, Lord Jesus! (The entire psalm fosters this mood.)
The picture may represent Christ or the Christian soul. A passage in Job reads: “Will the eagle mount up at your command, and make her nest in high places? She abides among the rocks, and dwells among cragged flints and stony hills where there is no access. From thence she looks for the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.” The Church fathers applied this passage to the Redeemer. Just as the eagle swoops down on its prey from some high crag and carries it on high, so Christ came from the heights of heaven, snatched the souls of men from the captivity of the devil through His death on the Cross, and ascends with them into heaven. Hence, the picture is most appropriate during the octave of the Ascension when we pray in the Alleluia verse:
“The Lord comes from Sinai to His sanctuary, He ascends on high, leading captivity captive, alleluia.” As individuals also we should resemble the eagle, and lift our hearts above earthly affections to God on high. Our petition on the feast is “that we too may live in heaven with our hearts.
It is easy to see why the Kyrie is a genuine exile song; almost forgotten during the paschal season, it comes to our lips more naturally again since the Rogation days. As the words, “Who is seated at the Father’s right hand,” occur in the Gloria, our hearts beat with special love and longing for our Beloved enthroned in heaven.
The Oration brings us back to earth as we beg for the grace to lead a true Christian life: “Grant that our wills may be ever devoted to You, and that we may serve Your Majesty with a sincere heart.” There is a profound lesson in these words, giving as they do the nucleus of all piety. Put into practice, the petition calls for acts which demand the highest degree of virtue. Among such we may number Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son; Mary’s momentous decision, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord”; Christ in agony pleading that the chalice might pass from Him, but only in accord with His Father’s will; His complete submission to the Father, “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me”; or the daily prayer of countless saintly Christians, “Thy will be done.”
Peter, Christ’s first vicar on earth, now addresses the Christian community. He urges us to a fuller participation in the communion of the Church, to common prayer, to charity in giving and forgiving. He assures us that the charisms and ministries in the Church serve the extension of the mystical Body. These activities are the operations of the Holy Ghost, the soul of Christ’s mystical Body, and to Him is due its development.
Emotion runs high in today’s Alleluia. Our eyes, lifted longingly toward heaven, see the Lord Jesus seated there as King at the Father’s right hand. Benevolently He bows to console us, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you, and your hearts will rejoice.” This promise will be fulfilled at the parousia; but we have a foretaste of its fulfillment now in the Gospel as well as in holy Communion. Such is our relationship to Christ. We envision Him sitting at the right hand of the Father, while in the liturgy He returns again and again to rejoice our hearts.
Two points are stressed in the Gospel. The Holy Ghost will come, He will bear witness and will manifest Himself in the Church; nevertheless, we too must witness to Christ. The apostles gave testimony through blood and martyrdom, we must testify through fidelity and love. Our testimony is submission, cheerful obedience to God (Coll.), charity and faithfulness to our vocation (Epist.).
Today’s Offertory procession is a continuation of the Lord’s triumph on Ascension; therefore we sing, “God is ascended with jubilee. . . . ” It is an excellent opportunity to turn our thoughts to our last offertory procession, after death. On that occasion we will ascend with bread, wine, and incense—the noblest elements of our life; the bread of our vocation, the wine of suffering, the incense of prayer. Clearly and succinctly the Secret points to the fruit of the holy Sacrifice; in itself it is immaculate, and it should, in turn, purify us and “impart to our souls the strength of heavenly grace.”
In the Communion our glance is again directed toward heaven and we hear conversation between Christ and His Father: Father, as long as I was with them on earth, I protected those whom You gave Me; but now when I am far from them, I will pray for them. He does not pray that God take them out of the world but that He protect them from evil. The Eucharist is the pledge and visible sign (sacrament) of this protection. The Postcommunion petitions that we cultivate a spirit of gratitude for gifts received; a grateful spirit is indeed a genuine earmark of true Christianity.
What a privileged person, the true follower of Christ! With his heart in heaven and feet on earth, he is ever ready to abandon this world although he remains conscious of present duty. Oh, that we all might follow his lead.
- Divine Office. The Office for the feast of the Ascension is repeated. Two different saints, however, address us at Matins, saints who like Leo and Gregory, in some respects complement each other, viz., John, apostle and evangelist; Augustine, bishop and doctor.
- a) St. John. This week we read St. John’s three Epistles and that of St. Jude. Today we begin the first Epistle of St. John (1: 1-2: 6). Although there are some difficult verses, the passage contains a wealth of beautiful and inspiring thoughts. The beloved disciple’s favorite theme, love of neighbor, runs through the entire letter like a golden thread. This letter possibly served as an introduction to his Gospel. In any case, with varying rhythm, both compositions develop the same motifs: light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death, spirit and flesh, God and the world, faith and unbelief.
“I write of what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have handled: of the Word of Life. And the Life was made known and we have seen, and now testify and announce to you, the Life Eternal which was with the Father, and has appeared to us. What we have seen and have heard we announce to you, in order that you also may have fellowship with us, and that our fellowship may be with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
- b) St. Augustine draws practical conclusions from the ascension mystery;Sursum cordais his topic. “Our Savior has ascended into heaven, beloved brethren, but let us not on that account be troubled here on earth. If our minds are there, we will have peace here. So let us now ascend spiritually with Christ that when His promised day will come, we may follow Him also with our bodies. We must not forget, brethren, that neither pride, nor avarice, nor impurity ascends with Christ; none of our vices will ascend with our Healer. Therefore, if we desire to follow Him, we must necessarily part with our sins and vices. For all such things hold us bound to earth as with fetters.”
- Longing for Heaven. In his dying hour Goethe asked to be given “great thoughts.” Great and noble thoughts are abundantly provided by Mother Church. Looking in retrospect, we find that on practically everySundayshe has given us important principles from or for daily life. And although her doctrine is old and comes unasked for, it is noteworthy that most often it seems new and striking. Take, for instance, the Sundays since Easter. The first three were still enveloped, as it seemed, by the sacred incense of Easter eve, and their message imbedded in the paschal mystery—resurrection, blood and water, the Good Shepherd.
But on the following Sundays she led us as newly risen men out of God’s house into the world, into the maelstrom of life. She told us that life and the world, that men and suffering would be the same as ever, but that we must now meet these old conditions with an entirely new approach. Omnia nova, “See, I make all things new,” summarized the work of the paschal season. The teaching given on these Sundays was of great importance for everyday life, e.g., you are an alien upon earth, patience is a genuine Christian virtue, prayer is a mighty force against all types of evil.
Likewise today the Church provides an important message, summed up in the word “longing.” During the course of our earthly life there is a tiny flame we must carefully tender and preserve lest it be extinguished. This is the flame of longing for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ask yourself seriously: do you really long for the life hereafter? If you were now faced with the choice to remain on earth or to die and be with Christ, would you truthfully, unhesitatingly choose the latter? Too frequently even good and virtuous persons lack real desire for heaven. In its stead there is fear of judgment and attachment to earthly things. This attitude is founded on a purely individualistic piety that has lost one of the principal dogmas of the ancient Church.
Classify Catholics today. There are those whose whole life is occupied with the consciousness of sin and the struggle against it. And there are those who deploy all their time and effort on externals, on welfare work and organizations, who are so preoccupied with the care of souls that they experience no desire to be dissolved and be with Christ. They seem to imply that without their help God could not expand His kingdom or transform stones into children of Abraham!
These, then, may be the two reasons why so few feel a deep longing for union with the returning Savior: first, an overpowering consciousness of sin; secondly, an exaggerated emphasis on religious activity. My observations apply, of course, only to zealous Christians, for it is self-evident that the lukewarm experience no longing for Christ.
We now ask, in what manner may a yearning for the Lord be acquired and developed? On this point there is need to be realistic and truthful, deceiving neither ourselves nor others. Longing for the Lord will come naturally to a soul that centers its affections upon heaven, its true home. Let us draw a comparison with earthly longing. When a person yearns for his home, we call it homesickness. A child will want its parents, a bride her lover. This desire can become so intense as to cause actual illness. It is not easily blunted by distraction or by work. Like a dull but sweet pain it is ever present, to surface at any lull in the day’s noise and bustle.
What is involved or implied in this longing? Primarily a good which, though absent, is intensely loved and highly treasured. So the question arises: why do we feel so little longing for Christ and for heaven? Is heaven not our home? Are we not in a strange country, in exile, in misery? Are we not far distant from Christ, our Bridegroom, and from the Father to whom we tender all our love? Why do we experience so little longing or homesickness for that toward which our whole life is focused?
In order to foster this spiritual longing, we must make our own its two component elements, viz., an absent good which, in turn, is deeply loved. In other words, our spiritual center of gravity must be transferred from earth to heaven, from the Ego to Christ. Earthly, egocentric piety must become a heavenly, Christocentric piety.
First and foremost, we must acquire a greater knowledge and a deeper realization of what redemption means. We are God’s children, “but if children, then also heirs of God and coheirs of Christ.” We must not fall victim to a spiritual inferiority complex, feeling ourselves always as heaven’s stepchildren. No one, of course, may become presumptuous and consider himself already a saint; for of ourselves we are only wretched sinners. But Christ covers our deficiencies, and in Him we become the “holy people of God.” Subjective piety with its exaggerated emphasis on sin has been responsible for making us fear the life to come and for robbing us of homesickness for heaven. Cultivate, therefore, a joyful awareness of your redemption, and a longing for the Lord Jesus will find its way gently into your soul.
Nor can one foster a desire for heaven when constantly engaged in external activities. To the point is the argument between the two sisters, Martha and Mary. Christ decided the case in favor of the latter. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; and yet only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the best part, and it will not be taken from her.”
Too many of us are excessively subjective, and overly active. Our organizational programs kill the very organism they serve; our wholesale activities choke off the breath of life. We seem to think that God needs our planning and our promotion, otherwise nothing would perhaps happen. And in our hurry, confidence in God and in His grace is lost, and the tender little plant of yearning for heaven is trampled under foot. It is not a tent that can speedily be folded up that we are building, but a house of brick and stone, and our hope is that it be permanent. But with this mentality, what becomes of the desire to “be dissolved and be with Christ”?
Before the joyful Easter season comes to an end, Mother Church therefore addresses this lesson to us from the depths of her heart: Children, do not let the distractions of life extinguish your homesickness for Christ, for heaven. Look up to me, your Mother, for a model. Night and day my eyes are longingly lifted toward my Spouse as I eagerly await the moment when He will call me to the eternal nuptials. As earnestly as you possibly can, pray with me today’s Introit: “Hear my cry, Lord, for I am calling You, alleluia. My heart speaks out to You: I seek Your face. Yes, Lord, I seek Your face—do not turn away from me, alleluia, alleluia.”
Mother Church, enkindle in me the fire of your holy longing!
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