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Pentecost was originally a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 5 July 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. From the foregoing catechesis on the article of the creeds on the Holy Spirit, one observes the rich biblical foundation of the pneumatological truth. At the same time, however, we must also note the difference of delineation, in divine revelation, of this truth in relation to the Christological truth. It is evident indeed from the sacred texts that the eternal Son, one in being with the Father, is the fullness of God's self-revelation in human history. In becoming "son of man," "born of woman" (cf. Gal 4:4), he was manifested and acted as true man. As such he also definitively revealed the Holy Spirit, announcing his coming and making known his relationship with the Father and the Son in the mission of salvation and therefore in the mystery of the Trinity. According to the announcement and promise of Jesus, the Church, the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:27) and sacrament of his presence "with us until the end of the world" (cf. Mt 28:20), has her beginning with the coming of the Paraclete.

However, the Holy Spirit, one in being with the Father and Son, remains the "hidden God." While operating in the Church and in the world, he is not manifested visibly, unlike the Son. The Son assumed human nature and became like us, so that the disciples, during his mortal life, could see him and "touch him with (their) hands," he, the Word of life (cf. 1 Jn 1:1).

On the other hand, the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, based on faith in Christ's revelation, is not supported by the vision of a divine Person living among us in human form, but only by the observation of the effects of his presence and operation in us and in the world. The key point of this knowledge is the Pentecost event.

2. According to the religious tradition of Israel, Pentecost was originally the feast of the first fruits of the harvest. "Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel" (Ex 34:23). The first time was for the feast of the Pasch; the second for the harvest festival; the third for the so-called Feast of Tabernacles.

The "feast of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field" (Ex 23:16), was called "Pentecost" in Greek, because it was celebrated fifty days after the feast of the Pasch. It was also called the feast of weeks, because it fell seven weeks after the Pasch. The feast of ingathering was celebrated separately, toward the end of the year (cf. Ex 23:16; 34:22). The books of the law contained detailed instructions for the celebration of Pentecost (cf. Lev 23:15ff.; Num 28:26-31), which later also became the feast of the renewal of the covenant (cf. 2 Chr 15:10-13), as we shall see in due course.

3. The descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and on the first community of Christ's disciples who, in the upper room of Jerusalem, "devoted themselves with one accord to prayer," together with Mary the mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1:14), is linked with the Old Testament meaning of Pentecost. The feast of harvest becomes the feast of the new "harvest" for which the Holy Spirit is responsible: the harvest in the Spirit.

This harvest is the fruit of the seed sown by Christ. We recall Jesus' words in John's Gospel: "I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest" (Jn 4:35). Jesus gave the apostles to understand that only after his death would they reap the harvest of the seed he had sown: "'one sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their gain" (Jn 4:37-38). From the day of Pentecost, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the apostles will become the reapers of the seed sown by Christ. "He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together" (Jn 4:36). And indeed on the day of Pentecost, after Peter's first discourse, there was an abundant harvest. "Some three thousand" were converted (Acts 2:41): a cause of great joy both for the apostles and their Master, the divine Sower.

4. The harvest is the fruit of Christ's sacrifice. Jesus spoke of the sower's "toil," and this consists especially in his passion and death on the cross. Christ is that "other one" who has labored for this harvest. He is "another" who has opened the way for the Spirit of truth, who, from the day of Pentecost, begins to work effectively by means of the apostolic kerygma.

The way was opened through Christ's self-offering on the cross: through his redemptive death, confirmed by the pierced side of the crucified. From his heart "there issued at once blood and water" (Jn 19:34), a sign of physical death. However, one can see in this fact the fulfillment of the mysterious words spoken by Jesus on one occasion on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit: "If any one thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" The evangelist comments: "He said this about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive" (Jn 7:37-39). This was as if to say that the believers would have received much more than the rain prayed for on the Feast of Tabernacles, drawing on a fountain from which would truly have come the living water of Sion, announced by the prophets (cf. Zech 14:8; Ez 47:1 f.).

5. Concerning the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised: "When I go away I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7). Truly, the water that issues from the pierced side of Christ (cf. Jn 19:34) is the sign of this sending. It will be an abundant outpouring: actually a "river of living water," a metaphor expressing a special generosity and kindness in God's self-giving to man.

That Pentecost at Jerusalem confirmed this divine abundance, promised and granted by Christ through the Spirit.

In Luke's narrative the same circumstances of the feast seem to have a symbolic meaning. The descent of the Spirit occurs at the conclusion of the feast. The expression used by the evangelist suggests a fullness. He said, "When the day of Pentecost had come..." (Acts 2:1). On the other hand, St. Luke again recounts that "they were all together": not only the apostles, but the entire original group of the nascent Church, men and women, together with the mother of Jesus. It is the first detail to be borne in mind. However, in the description of that event there are also other details which are no less important from the point of view of the "fullness."

Luke writes: "Suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.... And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:2, 4). One should note that emphasis on fullness ("filled the house," "they were all filled"). This observation can be taken in conjunction with what Jesus said when going to the Father: "Before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5). "Baptized" means "immersed" in the Holy Spirit: this is expressed by the rite of immersion in water during Baptism. The "immersion" and the "being full" signify the same spiritual reality, caused in the apostles and in all present in the upper room by the descent of the Holy Spirit.

6. That "fullness" experienced by the small original community on the day of Pentecost can be considered a spiritual continuation of the fullness of the Holy Spirit that "dwells" in Christ, in whom there is "all fullness" (cf. Col 1:19). As we read in the encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, all that Jesus "says of the Father and of himself—the Son, flows from the fullness of the Spirit which is in him, which fills his heart, pervades his own 'I,' inspires and enlivens his action from the depths" (n. 21). For this reason the Gospel can say that Jesus "rejoiced in the Holy Spirit" (Lk 10:21). Thus "the fullness" of the Holy Spirit which is in Christ was manifested on the day of Pentecost by the "filling with the Holy Spirit" of all those assembled in the upper room. Thus there was instituted that Christ-Church reality to which the apostle Paul alludes: "You have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority" (Col 2:10).

7. It may be added that the Holy Spirit on Pentecost "becomes the master" of the apostles by demonstrating his power over their humanity. The manifestation of this power has the character of a fullness of the spiritual gift which is manifested as a power of the spirit, a power of mind, will and heart. St. John writes that "to him whom God has sent...he gives the Spirit without measure" (Jn 3:34). This applies in the first place to Christ; but it can also be applied to the apostles to whom Christ has given the Spirit, so that they in turn may transmit him to others.

8. Finally, we note that on Pentecost the prophecy of Ezekiel was fulfilled: "I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you" (36:26). Truly this "breath" has brought joy to the reapers, so that it can be said with Isaiah: "They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest" (9:3).

Pentecost - the ancient feast of the harvest - is now presented in the center of Jerusalem with a new meaning, as a special "harvest" of the divine Paraclete. Thus is fulfilled the prophecy of Joel: "In those days I will pour out my spirit on all flesh" (Joel 2:28).


After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

JE SUIS HEUREUX de saluer en premier lieu Son Excellence Monsieur Joseph Amichia, Doyen du Corps Diplomatique accrédité prèse Saint-Siège, entouré de nombreux membres de sa famille et auxquels j’exprime mes meilleurs sonhaits. 

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DE TOUT CŒUR, j’adresse un salut spécial aux aumôniers, aux responsables et aux délégués des Associations scoutes catholiques du Proche-Orient et d’Afrique du Nord. Chers amis, que votre séjour romain de réflexion, de prière, d’amitié vous soit une aiede très précieuse pour persévérer sur le chemin déjà bien commencé du dialogue et de l’action entre jeunes des diverses Eglises chrétiennes, catholiques et non-catholiques, ainsi qu’avec les jeunes des religions monothéistes!

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UN CORDIAL SALUT aux étudiants chrétiens africains d’Alger! Que l’Esprit Saint vous soutienne dans le témoignage de foi que vous avez le courage de donner dans vos Instituts universitaires!

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UN MERCI aux membres du groupe œcuménique venu de l’Ile de Syros, guidé per le Père Antoine Vutzinos: je les encourage vivement à témoigner de la possibilité de l’union des Eglises! 

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TOUS MES SOUHAITS aux nombreux groupes de religieuses. Que ce séjour à Rome les confirme dans la beauté et les exigences de leur vocation!

A tous les pèlerins de langue française, je renouvelle ma gratitude pour leur présence et j’accorde une large Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO OFFER a warm welcome to members of the General Chapter of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters.

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MY SPECIAL GREETING goes to the pilgrim from Saint Gregory the Great Parish in Hamilton Square, New Jersey. Dear friends: I am pleased to bless the foundation stone of your new Parish Centre. May it ever serve as a reminder that Christ is the cornerstone of the Church.

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I AM ALSO HAPPY to welcome the Korean-American pilgrims from San Francisco, as well as pilgrim groups from South Africa and Pakistan. Upon all visitors from English-speaking countries I invoke the blessings of peace and joy in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ad alcuni gruppi di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

NACH DIESER KURZEN Betrachtung grüße ich euch alle sehr herzlich, die ihr als Pilger aus deutschsprachigen Ländern an dieser Audienz teilnehmt. Für eure Begegnung mit den Heiligen Stätten in Rom erbitte ich euch den besonderen Beistand des Heiligen Geistes. Möget ihr dadurch geistlich reich beschenkt werden und mit neuem Mut zu einem lebendingen Glaubenszeugnis in eure Heimat zurückkehren. Von Herzen erteile ich euch und euren Lieben daheim meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

ME COMPLACE SALUDAR a las personas, familias y peregrinos de América Latina y España presentes en esta Audiencia. En particular, mi afectuoso saludo se dirige al grupo de misioneras “Hijas de María Auxiliadora“, así como a los Religiosos Escolapios y profesores seglares de Valencia (España). Me es grato extender mi saludo a las delegaciones juveniles de balonmano de Centro América, a los estudiantes argentinos que acaban de participar en los “Juegos de la Juventud”, de Roma, y a la peregrinación de México. Como recuerdo de vuestra visita a la tumba del Apóstol Pedro, os invito a dejaros guiar por los designios amorosos de Dios, abandonándoos plenamente a su voluntad.

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DESEO DIRIGIR finalmente mi más cordial saludo a la peregrinación de Puerto Rico, presidida por el Señor Cardenal Luis Aponte Martínez, Arzobispo de San Juan. Agradezco, ante todo, vuestra presencia en este encuentro, lo cual demuestra el filial afecto y devoción de los portorriqueños por el Papa, como pude experimentar en mi visita pastoral a vuestra hermosa Isla. Confío que esta peregrinación que estáis llevando a cabo, estimule vuestra vida cristiana, y cuando regreséis a casa testimoniéis con mayor valentía a Cristo en todos los momentos de la jornada. Que Nuestra Señora de la Providencia os ayude en tan generoso cometido.

A vosotros y a todos los presentes imparto de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese 

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

SAUDO QUANTOS me escutam, desejando-lhes graça, paz e felicidades no Senhor; em particular, os Brasileiros vindos do Rio de Janeiro e de São Paulo: sede bemvindos! E que, para vós e para todos, as férias sejam também tempo de encontro com Deus! 

Ai connazionali polacchi 

POSDRAWIAM SERDECZNIE wszystkich pielgrzymów: w szczególności z Krakowa, z parafii św. Katarzyny, wspólnotę “ WiaraZycie ”; z Oświęcimia, z parafii Matki Bożej Wspomożenia Wiernych, księża salezjanie; pielgrzymkę z archidiecezji gnieźnieńskiej; scholę “ Puelle Orantes ” z bazyliki katedralnej z Tarnowa; grupę młodzieży z diecezji tarnowskiej, z parafii Matki Boskiej Nieustąjicej Pomocy z Łysej Góry; z Dębicy, z parafii Matki Bożej Anielskiej; z Rybuika - nauczycieli i lekarzy z parafii św. Teresy; z Boguszowic, z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa; z Kielc - ministrantów z parafii Św. Krzyża - księża salezjanie; z Płocka, duszpasterstwo akademickie księży salezjanów; z Międzyrzeca Podlaskiego, diecezja siedlecka - młodzieś z kościoła Świętych Piotra i Pawła; z Syrokomli, z parafii św. Stanisława, biskupa i męczennika, diecezja siedlecka; z Olsztyna, z parafii św. Józefa; z Lęborka, z parafii Najświiętszej Maryi Panny; ze Słupska, z parafii św. Maksymiliana Kolbe; z Duminowa i innych parafii diecezji koszalińskokołobrzeskiej; z parafii Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej; z Rybania, z parafii św. Szczepana diecezja koszalińsko-kołobrzeska; z Wrocławia, z parafii św. Stanisława, biskupa i męczennika i św. Doroty; z Lubina, nauczycieli z parafii św. Maksymiliana Kolbe; uczestników Uniwersytetu Letniego Kultury Polskiej w Rzymie; grupę polsko-amerykańską ze Stanów Zjednoczonych, grupę polsko-amerykańką “ Polonia ” grupę Towarzystwa Polsko Hiszpańskiego z Katowic; oddział Huty Katowice w Dąbrowie Górniczej; nauczycieli i lekarzy z parafii Najświetszej Maryi Panny Królowej Polski w Głogowie, diecezja gorzowska; z Czarnkowa, z parafii Jezusa Chrystusa Najwyższego Kapłana; grupę nauczycieli z Ropczyc-Rzeszowa; prócz tego Orkiestrę Dętą kopalni Miechowice z Bytomia . . .

Dobrze wiemy, jakie znaczenie mają zbiory również w naszej Ojczyźnie, zbiory dokonywane na polach. Patrzymy, oczekujemy, czy zbiory będą obfite, czy będzie urodzaj i modlimy się o urodzaj, o urodzaj ziemi. Trzeba się stale modlić o urodzaj, który pochodzi od Chrystusa przez Ducha Świętego. Trzeba także stale się modlić o dary Ducha świętego dla wszystkich Polaków, zwłaszcza dla tych, którzy przejmują odpowiedzialność za wspólne sprawy naszej Ojczyzny, o dary Męstwa, dary Rady - ażeby dobrze pokierowali wspólną sprawą i uksztaitowali lepszą przysziość naszego kraju. 

Ad alcuni pellegrini italiani 

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare al gruppo di religiosi della Confederazione dei Canonici Regolari di Sant’Agostino, convenuti a Roma per un loro congresso.

Mi auguro, cari fratelli, che i vostri incontri valgano a cementare sempre più la carità fraterna nella comune ricerca della perfezione evangelica, della comunione con Dio e nel servizio generoso all’uomo del nostro tempo. 

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Saluto pure i ciclisti del Gruppo Aziendale Siemens Telecomunicazioni, appartenenti all’Associazione Volontari Italiani del Sangue (AVIS). Essi parteciperanno, in questi giorni ad un giro ciclistico a tappe che, partendo da Cassina de’ Pecchi, in arcidiocesi di Milano, raggiungerà lo stabilimento di Marcianise, in diocesi di Caserta.

Carissimi vi auguro di cuore che questa iniziativa, destinata a far conoscere i nobili fini della vostra benemerita Associazione, abbia pieno successo e serva ad incrementare i gesti umanitari in favore di quanti hanno bisogno di plasma.

A tutti voi va la mia affettuosa Benedizione. 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli 

Desidero ora rivolgere il mio particolare saluto ai giovani, agli ammalati, agli sposi novelli, convenuti a Roma quali pellegrini, guidati da sincero amore alla Chiesa.

Carissimi, il vostro pellegrinaggio vi ha condotti alle Tombe dei Beati Apostoli Pietro e Paolo, che gli antichi maestri della fede chiamavano, a ragione, le “Colonne della Chiesa”; e qui, vicino alla loro “Memoria”, voi state incontrando il Vicario di Cristo. In questi giorni sappiate rinsaldare il vostro attaccamento alla Chiesa, pregate per essa per la sua missione di salvezza e di pace. Vi chiedo anche una preghiera per me che, quale Successore di Pietro, ho ricevuto il ministero di guidare la nave della Chiesa nel mare, a volte tempestoso, delle vicende del mondo.

A tutti la mia Benedizione!

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