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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Liturgical Year: Pentecost (Moving from a sprint to a marathon)

By:   Barbara Cleary
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The Liturgical Year: Pentecost (Moving from a sprint to a marathon)

Happy Birthday, Catholic Church! For the next 23+ weeks, the Church liturgy is permeated with reminders as to how we can continue living the life of faith through the graces received at Pentecost, implementing the spirit of charity, relying on God’s mercy, and growing in our supernatural life.

We are at the halfway point in the Liturgical Year if you consider that Advent (the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year) begins at the end of November with the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30. It is now nearly June.

From Advent through Paschaltime the Church has arranged a series of short liturgical seasons. In Her wisdom, the calendar has been set so that it builds our souls in preparation for the long haul: Pentecost.

The Pentecost season, which in the modern calendar is called “Ordinary Time” can be a season of as many as 28 weeks, or as few as 23; in any case, the season comprises about six months.

The sprint

St. Paul has likened the Christian life to both a race and a battle. In both scenarios, the participant does much to prepare for the event. He says, regarding a spiritual race:

Do you not know that those who run in a race, indeed all run, but one receives the prize? So run as to obtain it. And everyone in a contest abstains from all thingsand they indeed receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable. I, therefore, so run as not without a purpose: I so fight as not beating the air; but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection lest perhaps after preaching to others I myself should be rejected. (1 Cor 9:24–27)

Regarding the battle, consider his often quoted verses from his letter to the Ephesians:

For the rest, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of his power. Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. Therefore take up the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and stand in all things perfect. (Eph 6:10–14)

It can be understood then, that the shorter seasons prepare us for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and, more importantly, completing the remainder of the Liturgical year in the Christian life.

  • Encouraged by St. John the Baptist, in Advent, we are called to “make straight his path” in preparation for the birth of Christ.
  • The very short Christmas season brings us the awareness of the first steps in our redemption: the birth of Our Lord; how even as a baby the forces of darkness seek to destroy Him; the wonders of His holy name; the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
  • In Epiphany, we marvel that the Gentile world, (the three Kings from the east), recognizes the birth of the Messias; we see Christ, at about 12 years old, amaze the teachers in the temple with his knowledge and understanding of God; and we are brought into the clearer knowledge of Christ’s divinity as he works his first miracle at the wedding in Cana.
  • The pre-Lent and Lenten seasons call us to walk side by side, as it were, with Christ as we learn the ways of mortification and sacrifice, of humility and patience, through his passion and death.
  • Easter and Paschaltime, that joyous time after Christ’s resurrection, fill us with holy hope and a greater understanding of the work of our redemption.

sea gullThe Marathon

The closer we come to the end of the race or the battle, the more urgent it is for us to increase our strength and determination.

With the grace we have earned in the first part of the year, as well as building our knowledge and understanding of the ways of God given to us through the Word made flesh, we are ready to march on through our life to do those things God wants from us.

Well, maybe. Recall that “spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” concept?

Of course, it would have been so much better if Christ could have stayed with us: our anchor and support against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

This was not to be. Christ, as he told his disciples, needed to return to the Father so that the “Spirit of Truth” could come. This Spirit will come, as St. John says, “to dwell with you forever” (John 14:16).

He will be our Advocate, Intercessor, our Protector, and Defender. He will strengthen our weaknesses.

Christ returns to the Father on Ascension Thursday, and the apostles return to the Cenacle for nine days of prayer and preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a violent wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as of fire, which settled upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in foreign tongues, even as the Holy Spirit prompted them to speak. (Acts 2:2–4)

So confirmed in the Holy Spirit, the Apostles were able to complete the mission Christ had given them to preach to all nations, baptizing with water and the Holy Spirit — truly renewing the face of the earth.

Happy Birthday, Catholic Church!

Follow Michael Matt on the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres! Chartres pilg 30 anniv

What is all this to me?

Actually, quite a bit.

For the next 23+ weeks, the Church liturgy is permeated with reminders as to how we can continue living the life of faith through the graces received at Pentecost, implementing the spirit of charity, relying on God’s mercy, and growing in our supernatural life.

Prominent themes about practicing virtue, humility, and love of our neighbor are all part of the lessons we hear in the Sunday Masses, as are the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.

These themes give us the continued energy to stay focused on the race we are running. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls, with all of His gifts, sustain us day to day, week to week, month to month.clouds

Run so as to obtain it

In the final weeks of Pentecost, the liturgy reminds us of our true end: our return from the exile of earth, our yearning for heaven, our final reward.

This is where the real reminders come back into play. Life is busy, noisy, and confusing. We lose sight of the things that are really important. Life is hard.

Christ teaches through parables how we are to live in this world, and the Church places before us stories of the Pharisee and the Publican, the parable of the Great Supper, and the Good Samaritan, as examples of how we should act toward God and our neighbor.

All that is well and good, but the Church in the final weeks of the season comes back to remind us about the stuff we perhaps don’t want to think about:

Death. Judgment. Heaven. Hell.

It makes sense in that we are closing out the Liturgical year, just as one day we will be closing out our own life.

These final weeks turn our focus not so much on the race we have been running, but on the battle we all must fight.

As St. Paul concludes in his letter to the Ephesians:

Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of justice, and having your feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace, in all things taking up the shield of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is the word of God. (Eph 6:14–17)

Receiving the gifts and fruits of the Spirit at Pentecost, and reinforced in the sacrament of Confirmation, we have the armament necessary to protect and defend ourselves in this life against the “wickedness and snares of the devil”.

In receiving these virtues, and in living them, we are also able to do good in the world, perhaps even bringing others to Christ, so that at the end of our earthly course, we can “stand in all things perfect”.

Let the marathon begin.

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Last modified on Wednesday, May 17, 2023