The Divine Lamp

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Archive for June 5th, 2011

Pentecost Sunday: St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Gospel (John 20:19-23)

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 5, 2011

19, 20 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when He had said this, He showed unto them His Hands and His Side.

On the selfsame day on which He had appeared unto Mary, and discoursed with her, He also showed Himself to the holy disciples, who dreaded the intolerable attacks of the impious Jews, and were, on that account, collected together in a certain house. For it was not likely that |666 they who had been so instructed, and had often been bidden to make haste to escape from the wrath of their would-be murderers, would be found lacking in proper prudence. Christ miraculously appears unto them. For while the doors were shut, as the Apostle says, Christ unexpectedly stood in the midst, by His ineffable Divine power rising superior to the chain of cause and effect, and showing Himself able to dispense with the design and method appropriate to His action. For let no man say, “How did the Lord, Whose Body was of solid Flesh, enter without let or hindrance, though the doors were shut?” but rather let him reflect that the Evangelist is not here speaking of one of ourselves, but rather of Him Who is enthroned by the side of God the Father, and Who easily doth whatsoever He will. For He that was by Nature the true God, was of necessity not subject unto the sequences of cause and effect, as are the creatures that owe their being to Him; but rather does He exercise Lordship over necessity itself, and due and appropriate methods of performance. For how did He make the sea afford a footing unto His Feet, and walk thereon as upon dry land, though we are not so framed that we can tread upon the paths of the sea? And how did He perform the rest of His marvellous works with God-like power? All these things, you will say, surpass man’s understanding. Put this miracle of Christ side by side with the rest, and do not, following the opinion of certain men, who, in the folly of their hearts, have been led astray to judge falsely, imagine on account of this very occurrence that Christ rose again without His human Body, wholly bereft thereof, and severed from the Temple that He had taken on Himself. For if thou canst not understand the working of God’s ineffable Nature, why dost thou not rather cry out against the infirmity of man’s reason —-for that would be the wiser course—-and then silently acquiesce in the limit prescribed to you by the Creator? For in rejecting the conclusion of wisdom, thou doest |667 wrong to the great mystery of the Resurrection, on which all our reliance is fixed. For remember the exclamation of Paul: If the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain, and ye are yet in your sins. And again: Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that He raised up Christ: Whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For what can be raised up save that which is fallen? or what restored to life, save that which is bowed down in death? And how shall we expect to rise again, if so be that Christ raised not up His own Temple, making Himself, for us, the Firstfruits of them which are asleep, and the Firstborn from the dead? Or how shall this mortal put on immortality, if, as some think, it be lost in total annihilation? For how shall it escape this fate if it have no hope of a new life? Do not, then, swerve from orthodoxy in the faith, because a miracle was accomplished; but rather be wise, and add this to the other marvellous works that Christ did.

For observe how, by unexpectedly entering when the doors were shut, Christ showed, once more, that He was by Nature God, and no other than He Who had erewhile dwelt among them; and also, by laying bare the wounded Side of His Body, and by showing the print of the nails, He gave us complete satisfaction that He had raised that Temple of His Body which had hung upon the Cross, and had restored to life that Body which He had worn, thereby subduing death, which is due to all flesh, inasmuch as He was by Nature Life and God. What need, then, was there for Him to show them His Hands and Side, if, as some perversely think, He did not rise again with His Body? And, if He wished His disciples not to entertain this idea concerning Him, why did He not rather appear in another form, and, disdaining the likeness of flesh, conjure up other thoughts in their minds’? But, as it is, He thought it of so great importance that they should be convinced of the |668 Resurrection of His Body, that, when the time even seemed to call Him to change His Body into some form of ineffable and surpassing Majesty, He resolved in His Providence to appear once more as He had been of old, that He might not be thought to be wearing any other form than that in which also He had suffered crucifixion. For that our eyes could not have endured the glory of the holy Body, if Christ had chosen to reveal it unto the disciples before He ascended to the Father, is easily to be inferred, when we reflect upon His transfiguration on the Mount before the holy disciples. For the blessed Matthew the Evangelist writes, that Jesus took Peter, and James, and John, and went up into the mountain, and was transfigured before them: and His Face did shine as lightning, and His garments became white as snow, and they could not endure the sight, but fell on their faces. Very appropriately, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, as He had not yet transformed the Temple of His Body into its due and proper majesty, still appeared in His original shape, not wishing the belief in the Resurrection to be transferred to another form or body than that which He had received from the Holy Virgin, in which also He was crucified, and died, according to the Scripture, the power of death extending only over Flesh, from which also it was driven forth. For if His Body, after death, did not rise again, what sort of death was vanquished, and in what way was the power of corruption weakened? For it could not be by the death of a single rational being, or soul, or angel, or even the very Word of God. When, then, the power of death has reference only to that which is doomed by nature to corruption, with this it is that the power of the Resurrection is concerned, and with this alone, in order that the dominion of the lord of this world might be taken away. The entry of our Lord through the closed doors must be classed, by men of wisdom, with the other miracles that He wrought. He then greeted His holy disciples. Peace be unto you, He says; meaning by peace, |669 Himself. For while Christ is present among men it follows that the tranquillity of their minds is assured unto them. Paul also declared that this boon is granted to those who believe on Him, when he says: The peace of Christ, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts; meaning by the peace of Christ which passeth all understanding nothing else than His Spirit, of Which if any man partake he shall be filled with everything that is good.

20 The disciples, therefore, were glad when they saw the Lord.

Hereby, also, the blessed Evangelist testifies to the truth of our Saviour’s Words, when he says that the disciples were full of peace and joy of heart when they saw Jesus. For we remember the mysterious utterance that He spake unto them concerning His precious Cross and Resurrection from the dead, saying: A little while, and ye behold Me no more; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me; and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one talceth away from you. The Jews, indeed, whose minds were transported by a frenzy of fury, rejoiced when they saw Jesus nailed to the Cross, while the heart of the holy disciples was heavy laden with an intolerable burthen of sorrow. But as He is by Nature Life, He overcame the power of death, and rose again, and the joy of the Jews was extinguished, while the heaviness of the holy disciples was turned into joy, and nothing could rob or deprive them of their soul’s delight. Christ, having died once for all to put away sin, dieth no more, as is written. For He is alive for evermore, and of a surety He will preserve those whose hope is in Him, in joy without ceasing. He once more greets them with the oft-repeated assurance: Peace be unto you; laying down, as it were, this law for the children of the Church. Therefore, also, more especially in the assembling and gathering of ourselves together in holy places, at the very commencement of the blessed mystery of the Eucharist, we repeat this saying to one another. For |670 our being at peace with each other and with God must be accounted a fountain and source of all good. Therefore, also, Paul, when he prays that those who are called may enjoy the highest of all blessings, says: Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; and also, when he invites those who have not yet believed to make their peace with God, he says: We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. None the less, also, the Prophet Isaiah exhorts us, crying out: Let us make peace with Him, let us make peace who come. The meaning of the saying well befits the Dispenser of Peace, or rather the Peace of all men; that is, Christ, for He is our peace, according to the Scripture.

21 Then said He to them again, Peace be unto you: as the living Father sent Me, even so send I you.

Hereby our Lord Jesus Christ ordained the disciples to be guides and teachers of the world, and to be ministers of His Divine mysteries, and also bade them, for the time was now come, like lights to illuminate and enlighten, not merely the country of Judaea, according to the limit of the commandment of the Law, which extended from Dan even unto Beersheba, according to the Scripture, but rather also all under the sun, and men scattered throughout all lands, wheresoever they dwelt. The saying of Paul, therefore, is true: No man taketh the honour unto himself, but he that is called of God. For our Lord Jesus Christ called into His most glorious apostleship, before all others, His own disciples, and firmly fixed the whole earth, which was well-nigh tottering and in the act of falling, pointing out, as God, men to be props thereof who were well able to support it. Therefore, also, He thus spake by the mouth of the Psalmist, concerning the earth and the Apostles: I have fixed the pillars of it; for the blessed disciples were as the pillars and ground of the truth, whom also He says |671 that He sent forth, even as the Father had sent Him; showing at the same time the dignity of their apostle-ship, and the incomparable honour of the power vouchsafed unto them, and also in all likelihood suggesting the method of life the Apostles were to follow. For if He thought it meet that He should send forth His own disciples, even as the Father had sent Him, was it not necessary for those who were destined to imitate His mission to ascertain what the Father sent forth the Son for to do? In divers ways, then, expounding unto us the character of His own mission, He said in one place: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; and again: They that are whole have no need of a physician; but they that are sick: and again, in another place: For I am come down from heaven, not to do Mine own Will, but the Will of Him That sent Me; and yet once more: For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him. Summing up, therefore, in a few words the character of their mission, He says that He sent them even as the Father had sent Him, that they might know thereby that they were bound to call sinners to repentance, and to minister to those who were in evil plight, whether of body or soul, and in all their dealings upon earth, not in any wise to follow their own will, but the Will of Him That sent them, and to save the world by their teaching, so far as was possible. And in truth we shall find the holy disciples eager to show the utmost zeal in performing all these things; and it is not difficult for any one to satisfy himself of this, who has once turned his attention to the Acts of the Apostles, and the words of the holy Paul.

22, 23 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

After dignifying the holy Apostles with the glorious |672 distinction of the apostleship, and appointing them ministers and priests of the Divine Altar, as I have just said, He at once sanctifies them by vouchsafing His Spirit unto them, through the outward sign of His Breath, that we might be firmly convinced that the Holy Spirit is not alien to the Son, but Consubstantial with Him, and through Him proceeding from the Father; He shows that the gift of the Spirit necessarily attends those who are ordained by Him to be Apostles of God. And why? Because they could have done nothing pleasing unto God, and could not have triumphed over the snares of sin, if they had not been clothed with power from on high, and been transformed into something other than they were before. Therefore, also, it was said to one of old time: The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt be turned into another man; and the Prophet Isaiah also declared that those who waited upon the Lord should renew their strength. The wise Paul, too, when he says that he surpassed some in his labours, that is, in the deeds of an Apostle, adds at once: Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Besides, we say this, that the disciples would never at all have understood the mystery that is in Christ, nor have been true guides in this knowledge, if they had not advanced in the light of the Spirit to a revelation of things which surpass man’s reason and understanding, a revelation which is able to point out to them the heights to which they were bound to ascend; for no man can say Jesus is Lord, as Paul says, but in the Holy Spirit. As, then, they were destined to proclaim that Jesus was the Lord, that is, to preach that He was God and Lord of necessity, therefore they received the grace of the Holy Spirit in immediate connexion with the office of apostleship, Christ granting Him unto them, not ministering to the desires of another, but rather vouchsafing Him of Himself; for the Spirit could only come down unto us from the Father through the Son. The old and written Law, |673 however, which contained shadows and types of the reality, ordained that the appointment of priests should be performed in a more physical way, so to say, and that their appointment should be attended with more outward display. For the blessed Moses, by God’s command, bade Aaron and the Levites wash themselves with water: then he slew the ram of consecration and anointed with the blood the tip of Aaron’s right ear, as is written, and also put of the blood upon the thumb of the right hand, and upon the big toe of the right foot, giving an outline and type, as in a picture, of the mystery concerning Christ. For in the presence here of water and blood, the instruments of sanctification, how can there be any question that in an obscure type an outline was given of the fair beauty of the reality? Our Lord Jesus Christ, transforming into the power of truth the figure of the Law, consecrates through Himself the ministers of the Divine Altar. For He is the Lamb of consecration, and He consecrates by actual sanctification, making men partakers in His Nature, through participation in the Spirit, and in some sort strengthening the nature of man into a power and glory that is superhuman.

And there can be no doubt that the explanation I have here given can be proved not to err from the truth. But, perhaps, someone will come and say as follows, with a praiseworthy desire for knowledge, it may be, putting to us the question, “Where then, and when, did the Saviour’s disciples receive the grace of the Spirit? When the Saviour appeared unto them in the house, immediately after the Resurrection, and breathed upon them, saying: Receive ye the Holy Ghost; or in the days of the holy Pentecost, when, as they were again assembled together in one place, suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave |674 them utterance?” For either, such an one will say, we must suppose that a double grace was given unto them, or we must remain in ignorance of the occasion on which they, in fact, became partakers in the Holy Spirit; if indeed our Saviour’s saying, and that which is written in the Acts of the holy Apostles, is found to be true. And, indeed, the question may well excite our perplexity, especially as Christ Himself said: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away the Comforter cannot come unto you; but when I depart, I will send Him unto you; for the inquirer will perhaps go on to say, “The Truth, that is, Christ, cannot lie. When, then, He said in plain words that the Comforter would not come unto the disciples unless He were taken up unto the Father, but of a surety He would send Him then, when He was in heaven at His side; how, then, can He be supposed to grant the gift of the Spirit, though His journey from hence was not yet accomplished?Still, though the inquiry is very obscure, and very likely to cause perplexity, it yet allows of an appropriate solution, when we remember our faith that Christ is not as one of ourselves, but rather is God, and of God, and so exercises dominion over His own Words, and moulds them to suit His purposes.

For He proclaimed that He would send down to us from heaven the Comforter, when He was ascended to God the Father; and this, indeed, He did, when He had gone away to the Father, and vouchsafed to shed forth the Spirit abundantly upon all who were willing to receive it. For any man could receive it, through faith, that is, and Holy Baptism; and then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the voice of the Prophet: I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh. But it was necessary that the Son should appear as co-operating with the Father in granting the Spirit; it was necessary that those who believed on Him should understand that He is the Power of the Father, That has created this whole world, and called man out of nothing into being. |675 For God the Father, at the beginning, by His own Word, took of the dust of the ground, as is written, and fashioned the animal, that is man, and endowed him with a soul, according to His Will, and illuminated him with a share of His own Spirit; for He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, as is written. And when it came to pass that through disobedience man fell under the power of death, and lost his ancient honour, God the Father built him up and restored him to newness of life, through the Son, as at the beginning. And how did the Son restore him? By the death of His own Flesh He slew death, and brought the race of man back again into incorruption; for Christ rose again for us. In order, then, that we might learn that He it was Who at the beginning created our nature, and sealed us with the Holy Spirit, our Saviour again grants the Spirit, through the outward sign of His Breath, to the holy disciples, as being the firstfruits of renewed nature. For Moses writes concerning our creation of old, that God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life. As, then, at the beginning, man was formed and came into being, so likewise is he renewed; and as he was then formed in the Image of his Creator, so likewise now, by participation in the Spirit, is he transformed into the Likeness of his Maker. For that the Spirit impresses the Saviour’s Image on the hearts of those who receive Him surely does not admit of question; for Paul plainly exhorteth those who had fallen through weakness into observance of the Law, in the words: My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you. For he says that Christ will not be formed in them save by partaking of the Holy Spirit, and living according to the law of the Gospel. Therefore, as in the firstfruits of creation, which is made regenerate into incorruption and glory and into the Image of God, Christ establishes anew His own Spirit in His disciples. For it was necessary that we should also perceive this truth, namely, that He brings down and grants the Spirit |676 unto us. Therefore, also, He said: All things, whatsoever the Father hath, are Mine. And as the Father hath, of Himself and in Himself, His own Spirit, so also the Son hath the Spirit in Himself, because He is Consubstantial with Him, and essentially proceeded from Him, having by Nature in Himself all the attributes of His Father.

From the following fact we can prove that, many as were the actions that He repeatedly promised us that He would perform in due season, He even in part anticipated the appointed time in the performance of them, for our edification, that we might be fully convinced that whatsoever He has spoken will assuredly come to pass. He declared that He would raise up the dead, and bring back again to life those who are lying in the earth and in tombs. The hour cometh, He says, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgment. And, desiring to satisfy us that He could readily accomplish this, He taught, saying: I am the Resurrection and the Life. But, inasmuch as the vastness of the miracle made it difficult of belief that the dead could ever be restored to life, He anticipated to our profit the time of the Resurrection, and gave us a sign by raising Lazarus and the widow’s son and the daughter of Jairus. And what else besides? As He said that full of glory would be the resurrection of the Saints, for then, He says, shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father, in order that here again He might be believed to speak truth, He granted the sight thereof before the time to the disciples. For He took Peter and James and John, and went up into the mountain, and was transfigured before them: and His Face did shine as lightning, and His garments became white as snow. Just as, then, although He promised to accomplish these things in their season, yet He performed the works in part and with a limited scope even out of due time, as |677 an earnest and foretaste of that which was expected to come to pass and to affect the whole world, so doing in order that faith in Him might not be shaken; even so, likewise, after having said that He would send the Comforter to us when He went away to the Father, and having fixed this occasion for granting this grace universally, He performed in the persons of His disciples the first instalment, as it were, of the promise, for the many just and sufficient reasons we have previously given.

They, therefore, partook of the Holy Spirit when He breathed on them, saying, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; for it were impossible for Christ to lie, and He would never have said “Receive” without giving; but in the days of Holy Pentecost, when God more openly proclaimed His grace, and manifested the stablishment of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, there appeared unto them tongues through flame, not signifying the beginning of the gift of the Spirit in their hearts, but rather having reference to the time when they were first endowed with the gift of languages. It is written, indeed, that they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Note, that they began to speak, not to receive sanctification, and that the gift of divers tongues came down upon them; and this was the working of the Spirit that was in them. For just as the Father spake from heaven, and bare witness to His Son, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; and did this to satisfy the minds of those who heard, uttering, or causing to be uttered, a sound as of some instrument which fell upon the ear; even so, also, in the case of the holy disciples He made the manifestation of the grace given them more public, sending down upon them tongues as of fire, and causing the descent of the Holy Spirit to resemble the sound of the rushing of a mighty wind. And that this very portent was given unto the Jews by way of a sign, you will readily see, if you listen to God, the Lord of all, saying by the mouth of the |678 Prophet: By men of strange tongues, and by the lips of strangers, will I speak unto this people, and yet will they not believe. And to the intent that we might believe that the blessed disciples did, in fact, partake of the Holy Spirit, and were from henceforth honoured with the grace of Christ from above, and that they were able to expound the truth, and that the glory of their apostleship was worthy all admiration, witness being borne thereto by the gift from on high, therefore it was that fire came down in the form of tongues.

I think, indeed, that I have here said enough to accurately explain the meaning of the passage; but, inasmuch as we are bound to take every precaution in our treatise, that no stumblingblock spring up to offend the brethren through the carping spirit of any amongst us, let us make this addition to what we have said, and refute the vain talk that we may expect will be started. We shall find, then, in the passage that follows, the words: Thomas, called Didymus, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. How, then, someone may not unreasonably inquire, if he were away, was he in fact made partaker in the Holy Spirit when the Saviour appeared unto the disciples and breathed on them, saying: Receive ye the Holy Ghost? We reply that the power of the Spirit pervaded every man who received grace, and fulfilled the aim of the Lord Who gave Him unto them; and Christ gave the Spirit not to some only but to all the disciples. Therefore, if any were absent, they also received Him, the munificence of the Giver not being confined to those only who were present, but extending to the entire company of the holy Apostles. And that this interpretation is not strained, or our idea extravagant, we may convince you from Holy Writ itself, bringing forward as a proof a passage in the Books of Moses. The Lord God commanded the all-wise Moses to select elders, to the number of seventy, from the assembly of the Jews, and plainly declared: I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee and will put it upon them. |679 Moses, as he was bidden, brought them together, and fulfilled the Divine decree. Two only of the men who were included in the number of the seventy elders were left behind, and remained in the assembly, to wit, Eldad and Medad. Then when God put upon them all the Divine Spirit, as He had promised, those whom Moses had collected together immediately received grace, and prophesied; but none the less also the two who were in the assembly prophesied, and, in fact, the grace from above came upon them first. Nay, further, Joshua, that was called the son of Nun, who was the constant attendant of Moses, not understanding at once the meaning of the mystery, but thinking that after the manner of Dathan and Abiram they were rivals in the art of prophecy to those whom Moses had brought together, said unto him: Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp; my lord Moses, forbid them. And what answered that truly wise and great man, seeing in his wisdom the working of the grace given unto them, and the power of the Spirit? Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them! Observe how he rebukes the saying of Joshua, who knew not what had been done. Would that, he says, the Spirit were given to all the people! Nay, this will indeed come to pass in due season, when the Lord, that is, Christ, will grant unto them His Spirit; breathing upon His holy Apostles as upon the firstfruits of those whose due it is to receive Him, and saying: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Then, if Thomas were absent, he was not cut off from receiving the Spirit, for the Spirit pervaded all whose due it was to receive Him, and who were included among the number of His honoured disciples.

Christ, when He gave the Spirit unto them, said: Whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained; though only the living God is able and powerful to grant unto sinners remission of sins; for whom could it befit to pardon the |680 transgressions that sinners have committed against the Divine Law, save the Lawgiver Himself? You may, if you choose, see the meaning of the saying from the analogy of human affairs. Who has authority to meddle with the decrees of earthly monarchs, and who tries to undo that which has been ordained by the will and judgment of rulers, save only someone who is invested with regal honour and dignity? Therefore, wise was the saying, Insolent is he who saith unto the king, Thou breakest the law. In what way, then, and in what sense did the Saviour invest His disciples with the dignity which befits the Nature of God alone? The Word that is in the Father cannot err; and this He did, and whatsoever He doeth, He doeth well. For He thought it meet that they who have once been endued with the Spirit of Him Who is God and Lord, should have power also to remit or retain the sins of whomsoever they would, the Holy Spirit That dwelt in them remitting or retaining them according to His Will, though the deed were done through human instrumentality.

They who have the Spirit of God remit or retain sins in two ways, as I think. For they invite to Baptism those to whom this sacrament is already due from the purity of their lives, and their tried adherence to the faith; and they hinder and exclude others who are not as yet worthy of the Divine grace. And in another sense, also, they remit and retain sins, by. rebuking erring children of the Church, and granting pardon to those who repent; just as, also, Paul gave up him that had committed fornication at Corinth, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved, and admitted him again into fellowship, that he might not be swallowed up with his overmuch sorrow, as he says in his letter. When, then, the Spirit of Christ dwelling in our hearts doeth things which befit God alone, surely He is the living God, invested with the glorious dignity of the Divine Nature, and having power over sacred laws. |681

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Pentecost Sunday: Father Callan’s Commentary on the Second Reading (1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13)

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 5, 2011

3. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, saith Anathema to Jesus. And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost.

Wherefore. This most probably goes back to the ignorance mentioned in verse 1. Verse 2, then, is parenthetical.

I give you to understand, i.e., he lays down a general rule by which the Corinthians may judge whether a fact which seems extraordinary really comes from God. No one who curses Jesus is speaking under the influence of the Holy Ghost, while he who confesses that Christ is God does so, as a rule, because he is moved by God’s Holy Spirit.

That no man, speaking, etc., i.e., no one speaking with tongues, by the Spirit of God, i.e., under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, saith Anathema, etc., i.e., curses Jesus, or declares that Jesus is accursed of God. Anyone who denies or doubts the Divinity, humanity, mission, doctrine or the like, of Christ, cannot be moved by God’s Spirit; and consequently all extraordinary phenomena that may proceed from such a one must be ascribed to diabolical influences.

On the other hand, no one can say the Lord Jesus, i.e., can confess that Christ is the Lord of all things, and therefore God, but by the Holy Ghost, i.e., except he be influenced by divine inspiration (Matt 16:17). The faithful, then, are to be guided in their interpretation of extraordinary phenomena on the part of individuals by this general rule: If any extraordinary effect is directed against the faith of Christ, and tries to do away with Christ’s doctrine, it is to be considered as coming from diabolical
sources; but if, on the contrary, it promotes the faith and love of Christ, it is to he judged as proceeding from the Holy Ghost.

4. Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit;
5. And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord;
6. And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all.

4-6. The pagans believed that various gifts were to be attributed to different gods; for example, wisdom to one, power to another, and so on. Lest the faithful should be guilty of a similar absurdity regarding the gifts bestowed on them St. Paul tells them, (a) that while there are diversities of graces, i.e., different gifts bestowed on different persons, they all proceed from the same Holy Spirit; (b) that while there are diversities of ministries, i.e., different ministers, such as Apostles, bishops, priests and the like, in the Church, they all depend on the same divine Lord and Mediator, Jesus Christ, who is head of the whole Church; (c) that while there are diversities of operations, i.e., various marvelous effects, such as cures, conversions and the like, produced by the different ecclesiastical ministers according to their varied gifts, all are due to the one God, the Father, who, as the first cause of all things, worketh all in all, i.e., moves all creatures to their actions, and cooperates with the operations of all (cf. St. Thomas, h. 1.).

In these three verses we have an explicit mention of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. They are introduced to emphasize the argument, beginning with the Holy Ghost, and leading us step by step to the one source of all (Estius).

The interpretation just given of these verses, which, in the main, is that of St. Thomas and Fr. Cornely, seems to us most correct; but there are other authorities who explain them somewhat differently. The graces, they say, mean the gifts possessed by different individuals ; the ministries, or ministrations (διακονιων) are the services rendered by those who possessed those gifts; and the operations refer to the effects, or results of the services
of those who possessed the gifts. Cf. MacR., h. 1.

7. And the manifestation of the spirit is given to every man unto profit.

And the manifestation, etc., i.e., the manifestation which the Spirit produces, the spiritual gifts just spoken of. These gifts not only proceed from the same Spirit, but are ordained to the same end, namely, to the advantage and utility of the Church.

12. For as the body is one, and hath many members ; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ.

So also is Christ. Literally, “So also Christ.” On this passage, where we might expect the word “Church” to be in the place of the term “Christ,” St. Chrysostom remarks: “As head and body are one man, so, says the Apostle, the Church and Christ are one; wherefore he puts Christ instead of the Church.”

13. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink.

St. Paul now proves that the faithful are all one. All have been regenerated by means of the same Baptism, operating in virtue of the same Holy Spirit, and all are incorporated in the same Jesus Christ, so that they form one mystical body, vivified by Christ’s Holy Spirit. All former differences of religion, race, or condition of life have thus been obliterated.

We have all been made to drink, i.e., all the faithful have participated in the effusion of gifts, some ordinary, some extraordinary, which the one Holy Spirit has poured out on them in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Here St. Chrysostom says: “He seems to me now to speak of that descent of the Holy Ghost which is after Baptism, and before the reception of the (Eucharistic)
mysteries” (cited by Rick.). In the early days of the Church Confirmation was administered immediately after Baptism, as in the Greek Church still (cf. Prat, La Theol. de Saint Paul, tom. II. p. 379).

Gentiles (Vulg., gentiles) is “Greeks” in the MSS.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 2:1-11 for Pentecost Sunday

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 5, 2011

1. And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place:

The days of the Pentecost. The word days is singular in the Greek. Taken in the plural, as in the Vulgate, it means the period of fifty days from the Pasch to Pentecost; in the singular it signifies the fiftieth day after the Pasch, or the day of Pentecost itself. Pentecost means fiftieth (day ) . It was one of the three great feasts which all males among the Jews were obliged to celebrate in Jerusalem. It lasted but one day, on which they offered to God bread made from the grain of the new harvest and some sacrifices. Cf. Ex 23:16; Lev 23:15; Num33:26; Deut 16:9.

In one place; i.e., in the Cenacle, where they were gathered together (Acts 1:13).

2. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them

A mighty wind. Our Lord had compared the action of the Holy Ghost to a wind (John 3:8), and in the Old Testament wind often symbolized the presence of God (2 Sam 5:24; 1 Kings 19:11). At our Lord’s baptism the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove; at the Transfiguration, in the form of a bright cloud; and here, as a fire, to purify, warm, and enlighten the Apostles. The Apostles were moved, therefore, not only by the sound, but also by the appearance, under the form of fire, of God’s Holy Spirit; and this fire had the semblance of tongues, like a candle flame, which settled down on each one of them. The tongues appeared parted, perhaps because each tongue had the appearance of being split as it rested on the head of the Apostles; or because, while the fire was whole in itself, it separated into different shafts or rays of light, as it rested on each of the Apostles.

4. 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.

They were all filled with the Holy Ghost. This signifies the abundance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles received. Among these gifts was that of tongues, which enabled the Apostles at the time to speak all languages, and which signified that the Gospel was to be preached in the whole world. The Apostles, however, did not possess this power of speaking different languages as a permanent gift.

Diverse tongues; i.e., other, or different languages from their own, as appears from the Greek. As the Holy Ghost gave them, etc. This shows that the power to speak these strange languages, of which they were before ignorant, was a gift of the Holy Ghost, and not a personal acquisition. The gift of tongues had already been promised the Apostles by our Lord (Mark 16:17), and was not infrequently possessed in the early Church (Acts 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor 14).

Some authorities, e.g., Dionysius the Carthusian, Cornelius a Lapide, and Estius, beHeve that the miracle of the gift of tongues was rather in the hearing of the listeners than in the speech of the Apostles, that the latter spoke their native languages, but were variously understood by those who heard them. But this opinion seems out of harmony with the account of St. Luke here given, and with the promise of Christ in Mark 16:17.

5. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

The Jews here spoken of were of the Dispersion, not natives of Palestine. They were religious and devout, and had come to Jerusalem to take part in the religious festival of Pentecost. It is no exaggeration to say they were men from every nation under heaven, for the Jews were in truth scattered throughout the then known world. Of this we are assured also by such authors as Josephus, Philo, and Strabo; and indeed it is not at all surprising when we remember the Babylonian and Assyrian captivities together with the many persecutions the Jews endured.

6. 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.

When this was noised abroad. Some understand this phrase to refer to the rushing wind which was heard, not only in the Cenacle, but throughout the city; others think it refers to the news of the miracle of the gift of tongues.

In his own tongue,—rather, “in his own peculiar dialect” (τη ιδια διαλεκτω). The disciples were, therefore, able to speak the different dialects of the nations then represented in Jerusalem, namely, of the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, etc.

7. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these that speak, Galileans?
8. And how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born?

How have we heard? The Greek has the present tense, “how do we hear?”

9. Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10. Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome,
11. Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians: we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.

St. Luke enumerates fifteen different regions from which the dwellers or visitors then in Jerusalem had come; they were all witnesses of the miracle of Pentecost. The enumeration begins with the Parthians, from the Far East, who lived in what is now Afghanistan, Beloochistan, Chorasan, and Turkistan. The Medes were inhabitants of Media, bounded on the north by the Caspian Sea, on the south by Persia, on the east by Parthia, and on the west by Syria and Armenia. The Elamites occupied a territory south of the Medes and near the Persian Gulf. The Parthians, the Medes, and the Elamites spoke a dialect of the Persian language. Mesopotamia was the country lying between the Tigris on the east and the Euphrates on the west. The inhabitants of Mesopotamia spoke an Aramaic dialect. Cappadocia was a Roman province of eastern Asia Minor. Pontus was north of Cappadocia. Asia was a Roman province comprising a great part of western Asia Minor. Phrygia and Pamphylia were two central provinces of Asia Minor. Different Greek dialects were the languages of Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia. Egypt, i.e., lower Egypt, especially around Alexandria, where the Jews were very numerous. Libya, the present Tripoli west of Egypt. Cyrene was the principal city of Libya, where there were many Jews. The Greeks had brought their language into Egypt, but the people there doubtless continued to speak their Egyptian tongue as well as Greek. Strangers of Rome were Jews who lived in Rome, but were then visitors in Jerusalem. They spoke Greek and Latin. These Romans were either Jews by birth, or proselytes, i.e., converts to Judaism. The Cretes were inhabitants of the island of Crete; they spoke a Greek dialect.

We have heard, etc. (verse 11). The Greek has the present tense, “we hear.”

It seems beyond doubt that the gift of tongues, received by the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, was the same as that often spoken of in different places in the New Testament (Acts 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor 12:10; 14:2, 5, 6, 13, 22, 29); the same words are used in each instance. Moreover, St. Peter (Acts 11:15) expressly says that there was given to Cornelius and his family the same gift of tongues which the Apostles had received.

The purpose of the gift of tongues is disputed. Some interpreters hold that it was for the sake of preaching, to enable the Apostles to preach the Gospel in every language and to every people. The majority, however, of commentators and all modern exegetes maintain that the gift was simply ordained to the praise and glory of God. This latter opinion seems the more probable for the following reasons: (a) St. Paul (1 Cor 14:2) expressly says that he who has the gift of tongues possesses it, not for the sake of speaking to men, but in order to speak to God, and that he ought not to use it in church unless there be present an interpreter; (b) the gift of tongues was communicated first in the Cenacle, and to others besides the Apostles who were not to be preachers of the Gospel; (c) we know from the Fathers that St. Mark was the interpreter of St. Peter and that consequently Peter could not speak the language of his hearers in Rome; (d) the incorrect way in which some of the Apostles used the Greek language shows clearly that their knowledge of it was not infused, but rather acquired by practice.

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Father’s Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 7:37-39 for the Vigil of Pentecost

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 5, 2011

Joh 7:37  And on the last, and great day of the festivity, Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.
Joh 7:38  He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith: Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

On the last day, the great day of the feast, that is, the eighth day, Jesus cried aloud to the people assembled at the temple. His words mean: If anyone thirst spiritually, let him come to Me by faith, and grace shall be abundantly poured into his soul. The words: Out of his belly, &c., are nowhere to be found in the Old Testament; but, as signifying the abundance of grace in the new dispensation, they convey the sense of many passages of the Old Testament. See Is 41:18, 44:3; Ezek 34:25; Joel 2:28.

Joh 7:39  Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in him: for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

The Evangelist gives an authentic interpretation of our Lord s words: For as yet the Spirit was not given. These words explain why our Lord spoke of the abundant outpouring of the Spirit as still to come, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, inasmuch as Christ was not yet glorified (Jn 16:7). When it is said that the Holy Ghost was not yet given, the meaning is, that He was not yet given so abundantly, so manifestly, or so universally, as He has been since the first Pentecost. It is not meant that the Holy Ghost had not been given to the just of the Old Testament. They, as well as we, had the grace of the Holy Ghost in their souls; moreover, according to the common teaching of the fathers and theologians, they, like the just now, had the Holy Ghost united to their souls, not merely by His grace, but also by a substantial union. This union is not, however, peculiar to the Holy Ghost, but is common to the Three Divine Persons, by reason of their unity of nature, and is only by appropriation attributed to the Holy Ghost. See Franz., De Trin., last Disp.; Corl., pp. 198, 199.

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St Gregory Nanzianzen: A Pentecost Oration

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 5, 2011

The following is excerpted from St Gregory Nanzianaen’s ( or Nanzianzus”) 41st Oration. For a good, brief summary of St Gregory’s life and work see here, and here. For the entire 41st Oration, go here.

XI. He wrought first in the heavenly and angelic powers, and such as are first after God and around God. For from no other source flows their perfection and their brightness, and the difficulty or impossibility of moving them to sin, but from the Holy Ghost. And next, in the Patriarchs and Prophets, of whom the former saw Visions of God, or knew Him, and the latter also foreknew the future, having their master part moulded by the Spirit, and being associated with events that were yet future as if present, for such is the power of the Spirit. And next in the Disciples of Christ (for I omit to mention Christ Himself, in Whom He dwelt, not as energizing, but as accompanying His Equal), and that in three ways, as they were able to receive Him, and on three occasions; before Christ was glorified by the Passion, and after He was glorified by the Resurrection; and after His Ascension, or Restoration, or whatever we ought to call it, to Heaven. Now the first of these manifests Him—the healing of the sick and casting out of evil spirits, which could not be apart from the Spirit; and so does that breathing upon them after the Resurrection, which was clearly a divine inspiration; and so too the present distribution of the fiery tongues, which we are now commemorating. But the first manifested Him indistinctly, the second more expressly, this present one more perfectly, since He is no longer present only in energy, but as we may say, substantially, associating with us, and dwelling in us. For it was fitting that as the Son had lived with us in bodily form—so the Spirit too should appear in bodily form; and that after Christ had returned to His own place, He should have come down to us—Coming because He is the Lord; Sent, because He is not a rival God. For such words no less manifest the Unanimity than they mark the separate Individuality.

XII. And therefore He came after Christ, that a Comforter should not be lacking unto us; but Another Comforter, that you might acknowledge His co-equality. For this word Another marks an Alter Ego, a name of equal Lordship, not of inequality. For Another is not said, I know, of different kinds, but of things consubstantial. And He came in the form of Tongues because of His close relation to the Word. And they were of Fire, perhaps because of His purifying Power (for our Scripture knows of a purifying fire, as any one who wishes can find out), or else because of His Substance. For our God is a consuming Fire, and a Fire (Heb 12:20) burning up the ungodly (Deut 4:24); though you may again pick a quarrel over these words, being brought into difficulty by the Consubstantiality. And the tongues were cloven, because of the diversity of Gifts; and they sat to signify His Royalty and Rest among the Saints, and because the Cherubim are the Throne of God. And it took place in an Upper Chamber (i.e., the Upper Room, or Cenacle where the Passove had been celebrated, see Mark 14:15), because those who should receive it were to ascend and be raised above the earth; for also certain upper chambers (Ps 104:3) are covered with Divine Waters (Ps 148:4), by which the praise of God are sung. And Jesus Himself in an Upper Chamber gave the Communion of the Sacrament to those who were being initiated into the higher Mysteries, that thereby might be shewn on the one hand that God must come down to us, as I know He did of old to Moses; and on the other that we must go up to Him, and that so there should come to pass a Communion of God with men, by a coalescing of the dignity. For as long as either remains on its own footing, the One in His Glory the other in his lowliness, so long the Goodness of God cannot mingle with us, and His lovingkindness is incommunicable, and there is a great gulf between, which cannot be crossed; and which separates not only the Rich Man from Lazarus and Abraham’s Bosom which he longs for, but also the created and changing natures from that which is eternal and immutable.

XIII. This was proclaimed by the Prophets in such passages as the following:—The Spirit of the Lord is upon me (Isa 61:1); and, There shall rest upon Him Seven Spirits; and The Spirit of the Lord descended and led them (Isa 11:2; 63:14); and The spirit of Knowledge filling Bezaleel (Ex 31:3),  the Master-builder of the Tabernacle; and, The Spirit provoking to anger (Isa 63:10); and the Spirit carrying away Elias in a chariot ( 2 Kings 2:11), and sought in double measure by Elissaeus; and David led and strengthened by the Good and Princely Spirit (Ps 51:12; 143:10). And He was promised by the mouth of Joel first, who said, And it shall be in the last days that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh (that is, upon all that believe), and upon your sons and upon your daughters (Joel 2:28), and the rest; and then afterwards by Jesus, being glorified by Him, and giving back glory to Him, as He was glorified by and glorified the Father (Jn 14:16). And how abundant was this Promise. He shall abide for ever, and shall remain with you, whether now with those who in the sphere of time are worthy, or hereafter with those who are counted worthy of that world, when we have kept Him altogether by our life here, and not rejected Him in so far as we sin.

XIV. This Spirit shares with the Son in working both the Creation and the Resurrection, as you may be shewn by this Scripture; By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the power of them by the breath of His Mouth (Ps 33:6); and this, The Spirit of God that made me, and the Breath of the Almighty that teacheth me (Job 33:4), and again, Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth(Ps 104:30). And He is the Author of spiritual regeneration. Here is your proof:—None can see or enter into the Kingdom, except he be born again of the Spirit (Jn 3:3), and be cleansed from the first birth, which is a mystery of the night, by a remoulding of the day and of the Light, by which every one singly is created anew. This Spirit, for He is most wise and most loving (Wis 1:6), if He takes possession of a shepherd makes him a Psalmist, subduing evil spirits by his song (1 Sam 16:23), and proclaims him King; if he possess a goatherd and scraper (cultivator) of sycamore fruit (Amos 7:14), He makes him a Prophet. Call to mind David and Amos. If He possess a goodly youth, He makes him a Judge of Elders, even beyond his years, as Daniel testifies, who conquered the lions in their den (Dan 6:22). If He takes possession of Fishermen, He makes them catch the whole world in the nets of Christ, taking them up in the meshes of the Word. Look at Peter and Andrew and the Sons of Thunder, thundering the things of the Spirit. If of Publicans, He makes gain of them for discipleship, and makes them merchants of souls; witness Matthew, yesterday a Publican, today an Evangelist. If of zealous persecutors, He changes the current of their zeal, and makes them Pauls instead of Sauls, and as full of piety as He found them of wickedness. And He is the Spirit of Meekness, and yet is provoked by those who sin. Let us therefore make proof of Him as gentle, not as wrathful, by confessing His Dignity; and let us not desire to see Him implacably wrathful. He too it is who has made me today a bold herald to you;—if without rest to myself, God be thanked; but if with risk, thanks to Him nevertheless; in the one case, that He may spare those that hate us; in the other, that He may consecrate us, in receiving this reward of our preaching of the Gospel, to be made perfect by blood.

XV. They spoke with strange tongues, and not those of their native land; and the wonder was great, a language spoken by those who had not learnt it. And the sign is to them that believe not (1 Cor 14:22),  and not to them that believe, that it may be an accusation of the unbelievers, as it is written, With other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and not even so will they listen to Me saith the Lord (Isa 28:11). But they heard. Here stop a little and raise a question, how you are to divide the words. For the expression has an ambiguity, which is to be determined by the punctuation. Did they each hear in their own dialect so that if I may so say, one sound was uttered, but many were heard; the air being thus beaten and, so to speak, sounds being produced more clear than the original sound; or are we to put the stop after “they Heard,” and then to add “them speaking in their own languages” to what follows, so that it would be speaking in languages their own to the hearers, which would be foreign to the speakers? I prefer to put it this latter way; for on the other plan the miracle would be rather of the hearers than of the speakers; whereas in this it would be on the speakers’ side; and it was they who were reproached for drunkenness, evidently because they by the Spirit wrought a miracle in the matter of the tongues.

XVI. But as the old Confusion of tongues was laudable, when men who were of one language in wickedness and impiety, even as some now venture to be, were building the Tower (Gen 11:7) for by the confusion of their language the unity of their intention was broken up, and their undertaking destroyed; so much more worthy of praise is the present miraculous one. For being poured from One Spirit upon many men, it brings them again into harmony. And there is a diversity of Gifts, which stands in need of yet another Gift to discern which is the best, where all are praiseworthy. And that division also might be called noble of which David says, Drown O Lord and divide their tongues (Ps 55:9). Why? Because they loved all words of drowning, the deceitful tongue (Ps 54:2). Where he all but expressly arraigns the tongues of the present day which sever the Godhead. Thus much upon this point.

XVII. Next, since it was to inhabitants of Jerusalem, most devout Jews, Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, Egyptians, and Libyans, Cretans too, and Arabians, and Mesopotamians, and my own Cappadocians, that the tongues spake, and to Jews (if any one prefer so to understand it), out of every nation under heaven thither collected; it is worth while to see who these were and of what captivity. For the captivity in Egypt and Babylon was circumscribed, and moreover had long since been brought to an end by the Return; and that under the Romans, which was exacted for their audacity against our Saviour, was not yet come to pass, though it was in the near future. It remains then to understand it of the captivity under Antiochus, which happened not so very long before this time. But if any does not accept this explanation, as being too elaborate, seeing that this captivity was neither ancient nor widespread over the world, and is looking for a more reliable—perhaps the best way to take it would be as follows. The nation was removed many times, as Esdras related; and some of the Tribes were recovered, and some were left behind; of whom probably (dispersed as they were among the nations) some would have been present and shared the miracle.

XVIII. These questions have been examined before by the studious, and perhaps not without occasion; and whatever else any one may contribute at the present day, he will be joined with us. But now it is our duty to dissolve this Assembly, for enough has been said. But the Festival is never to be put an end to; but kept now indeed with our bodies; but a little later on altogether spiritually there, where we shall see the reasons of these things more purely and clearly, in the Word Himself, and God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the True Festival and Rejoicing of the Saved—to Whom be the glory and the worship, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever. Amen.

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Pope Benedict XVI~A Homily on Pentecost, May, 2008

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 5, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

St Luke places the account of the event of Pentecost that we heard in the First Reading in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The chapter is introduced by the words: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). These words refer to the previous setting in which Luke described the small company of disciples that had gathered perseveringly in Jerusalem after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven (cf.  Acts 1:12-14). It is a description rich in detail: the place “where they were staying” – the Cenacle – was an “Upper Room”; the 11 Apostles are listed by name and the first three are Peter, John and James, the “pillars” of the community; mentioned with them are “the women” and “Mary the Mother of Jesus, and “his brethren”, already an integral part of this new family, no longer based on blood ties but on faith in Christ.

The total number of people which was “about a hundred and twenty”, a multiple of the “Twelve” of the Apostolic College, alludes to this “new Israel”. The group constitutes an authentic “qlhll”, an “assembly” in accordance with the model of the First Covenant, the community summoned to listen to the Lord’s voice and to walk in his ways. The Acts of the Apostles stresses that “[a]ll these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). Prayer, therefore, is the principle activity of the nascent Church through which she receives her unity from the Lord and lets herself be guided by his will, as shown by the decision to cast lots in order to elect the one who would take Judas’ place (cf.  Acts 1:26).

This community was gathered in the same place, the Upper Room, on the morning of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, the feast of the Covenant which commemorated the Sinai event, when God, through Moses, proposed that Israel be his own possession among all peoples to be a sign of his holiness (cf.  Ex 19). According to the Book of Exodus, that ancient pact was accompanied by a terrifying manifestation of power by the Lord when we read: “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Ex 19:18). We find the elements of wind and fire in the Pentecost of the New Testament, but untainted by fear. The fire specifically took the form of tongues of flame which settled on each one of the disciples who “were all filled with the Holy Spirit” and through the effect of this outpouring “began to speak in other tongues” (Acts 2:4). It was a true and proper “baptism” of fire of the community, a sort of new creation. At Pentecost, the Church was not established by human will but by the power of God’s Spirit. And it is immediately clear how this Spirit gives life to a community which is at the same time one and universal, thereby overcoming the curse of Babel (cf.  Gn 11:7-9). Indeed, it is only the Holy Spirit who creates unity in love and in the reciprocal acceptance of diversity which can free humanity from the constant temptation to acquire earthly power that seeks to dominate and standardize all things.

“Societas Spiritus”, a society of the Spirit, is what St Augustine calls the Church in one of his homilies (71, 19, 32: PL 38, 462). However, prior to him St Irenaeus had already formulated a truth which I would like to recall here: “Where the Church is, there also is God’s Spirit; where God’s Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace; and the Spirit is the truth; to distance oneself from the Church is to reject the Spirit”, and thus “exclude oneself from life” (Adversus Haereses III, 24, 1). Beginning with the event of Pentecost this union between Christ’s Spirit and his Mystical Body, in other words the Church, was fully manifest. I would like to reflect on a particular aspect of the Holy Spirit’s action, that is, the manner in which multiplicity and unity are interwoven. The Second Reading speaks of this, addressing the harmony of the different charisms in the communion of the same Spirit. But already in Acts we heard the account of this interweaving which is revealed with extraordinary clarity. In the event of Pentecost it becomes clear that many languages and different cultures are part of the Church; in faith they can be understood and make one another fruitful. St Luke aims unambiguously to convey a fundamental idea, which is, that the very act of the Church’s birth is already “catholic” or universal. From the outset the Church speaks in all languages, because the Gospel entrusted to her is destined for all peoples, according to the will and mandate of the Risen Christ (cf.  Mt 28:19). The Church which is born at Pentecost is not primarily a particular Community – the Church of Jerusalem – but the universal Church, which speaks the languages of all peoples. From her other communities were to be born in every part of the world, particular Churches which are all and always actualizations of the one and only Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is therefore not a federation of Churches but a single reality: the universal Church has ontological priority. A community which was not catholic in this sense would not even be a Church.

In this regard, it is necessary to add another aspect: that of the theological vision of the Acts of the Apostles concerning the journey to Rome of the Church of Jerusalem. Among the peoples represented in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, Luke also mentions “visitors from Rome” (Acts 2:10). At that time Rome was still distant, “foreign” to the newborn Church: it was a symbol of the pagan world in general. But the power of the Holy Spirit was to guide the footsteps of the witnesses “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), even to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles ends precisely when St Paul, through a providential plan, reaches the capital of the Empire and proclaims the Gospel there (cf.  Acts 28:30-31). Thus the journey of the Word of God which began in Jerusalem reached its destination, because Rome represents the entire world and therefore embodies Luke’s idea of catholicity. The universal Church is brought into being, the Catholic Church, which is the extension of the Chosen People and makes its history and mission her own.

At this point, and to conclude, John’s Gospel offers a word that harmonizes very well with the mystery of the Church created by the Spirit. The word that came twice from the lips of the Risen Jesus when he appeared among his disciples in the Upper Room on the evening of Easter Day: Shalom – “peace be with you!” (Jn 19:19,21). The expression “shalom” is not a mere greeting; it is far more: it is the gift of peace promised (cf.  Jn  Jn 14:27) and won by Jesus at the price of his blood, it is the fruit of his victory in the battle against the spirit of evil. Thus, it is a peace “not as the world gives” but as God alone can give it.

On this feast of the Spirit and the Church, let us thank God for having given to his people, chosen and formed in the midst of all peoples, the precious good of peace, of his peace! At the same time, let us renew the awareness of the responsibility that is connected with this gift: the Church’s responsibility to be, constitutionally, a sign and instrument of God’s peace for all peoples. I sought to pass on this message recently by going to the Headquarters of the United Nations Organization in order to address my words to the representatives of the peoples. However, we must not only think of these events “at the summit”. The Church carries out her service to Christ’s peace above all in the ordinary presence and action among men and women, with the preaching of the Gospel and the signs of love and mercy that accompany it (cf.  Mk 16:20).

Of course, among these signs it is mainly the Sacrament of Reconciliation that should be emphasized. The Risen Christ instituted it at the very moment he gave the disciples his peace and his Spirit. As we heard in the Gospel passage, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). How important and, unfortunately, insufficiently understood is the gift of Reconciliation which sets hearts at rest! Christ’s peace is only spread through the renewed hearts of reconciled men and women who have made themselves servants of justice, ready to spread peace in the world with the force of the truth alone, without descending to compromises with the world’s mentality because the world cannot give Christ’s peace: this is how the Church can be the leaven of that reconciliation which comes from God. She can only be so if she remains docile to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if she carries the Cross like Jesus and with Jesus. The saints of every epoch witness precisely to this!

In the light of this word of life, dear brothers and sisters, may the prayer we are raising to God in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary become ever more fervent and intense. May the Virgin of listening, the Mother of the Church, obtain for our communities and for all Christians a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. “Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae – Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be recreated, and you shall renew the face of the earth”. Amen.

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