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Pentecost - Pentecostés - Pentecôte 2011

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Pentecost
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we are celebrating the great Solemnity of Pentecost. If, in a certain sense, all the liturgical solemnities of the Church are important, Pentecost is uniquely so. This is because, having reached the 50th day, it marks the fulfilment of the event of the passover, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus through the gift of the Spirit of the Risen One. In the past few days the Church has prepared us for Pentecost with her prayer, with her repeated and intense invocation to God to obtain a fresh outpouring upon us of the Holy Spirit. The Church has thus relived all that happened at her origins, when the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room of Jerusalem “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). They were gathered in humble and trusting expectation that the Father’s promise, announced to them by Jesus, would be fulfilled: “Before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit... you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:5,8).

In the liturgy of Pentecost Psalm 104 [103], which we have heard, corresponds with the account in the Acts of the Apostles of the birth of the Church (cf Acts 2:1-11): a hymn of praise of the whole creation which exalts the Creator Spirit who has made all things with wisdom: “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures…. May the glory of the Lord endure for ever, may the Lord rejoice in his works.” This is what the Church wants to tell us: the Spirit Creator of all things and the Holy Spirit whom the Lord caused to come down from the Father upon the community of the disciples are one and the same. Creation and redemption belong to each other and constitute, in depth, one mystery of love and of salvation. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost a Creator Spirit, hence Pentecost is also a feast of creation. For us Christians, the world is the fruit of an act of love by God who has made all things and in which He rejoices because it is “good”, it is “very good”, as the creation narrative tells us (cf Gen 1:1-31). Consequently God is not totally Other, unnameable and obscure. God reveals Himself, He has a face. God is reason, God is will, God is love, God is beauty. Faith in the Creator Spirit and faith in the Spirit whom the Risen Christ gave to the Apostles and gives to each one of us are therefore inseparably united.

Today’s Second Reading and Gospel show us this connection. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes us recognize the Lord in Christ and prompts us to speak the profession of the Church’s faith: “Jesus is Lord” (cf 1 Cor 12:3b). “Lord” is the title attributed to God in the Old Testament, a title that in the interpretation of the Bible replaced his unpronounceable name. The Creed of the Church is nothing other than the development of what we say with this simple affirmation: “Jesus is Lord.” Concerning this profession of faith St Paul tells us that it is precisely a matter of the word and work of the Spirit. If we want to be in the Spirit, we must adhere to this Creed. By making it our own, by accepting it as our word we gain access to the work of the Holy Spirit. The words “Jesus is Lord” can be interpreted in two ways. They mean: Jesus is God, and, at the same time: God is Jesus. The Holy Spirit illuminates this reciprocity: Jesus has divine dignity and God has the human face of Jesus. God shows himself in Jesus and by doing so gives us the truth about ourselves. Letting ourselves be enlightened by this word in the depths of our inmost being is the event of Pentecost. In reciting the Creed we enter into the mystery of the first Pentecost: a radical transformation results from the tumult of Babel, from those voices yelling at each other: multiplicity becomes a multi-faceted unity, understanding grows from the unifying power of the Truth. In the Creed — which unites us from all the corners of the earth and which, through the Holy Spirit, ensures that we understand each other even in the diversity of languages — the new community of God’s Church is formed through faith, hope and love.

The Gospel passage then offers us a marvellous image to clarify the connection between Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father: the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the Risen Jesus Christ (cf Jn 20:22). Here the Evangelist John takes up an image of the creation narrative, where it says that God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (cf Gen 2:7). The breath of God is life. Now, the Lord breathes into our soul the new breath of life, the Holy Spirit, his most intimate essence, and in this way welcomes us into God’s family. With Baptism and Confirmation this gift was given to us specifically, and with the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance it is continuously repeated: the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul. All the Sacraments, each in its own way, communicate to man divine life, thanks to the Holy Spirit who works within them.

In today’s liturgy we perceive another connection. The Holy Spirit is Creator, He is at the same time the Spirit of Jesus Christ, but in such a way that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God. And in the light of the First Reading we may add: the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church. She is not born from the human will, from man’s reflection, from his ability or from his organizational capacity, if this were so she would have ceased to exist long ago, as happens with all that is human. Instead the Church is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The images of wind and fire, used by St Luke to portray the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf Acts 2:2-3), evoke Sinai, where God revealed himself to the People of Israel and granted it his Covenant. “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke”, we read in the Book of Exodus, “because the Lord descended upon it in fire” (19:18). Indeed Israel celebrated the 50th day after the Passover, after the commemoration of the flight from Egypt, as the feast of Sinai, the feast of the Covenant. When St Luke speaks of tongues of fire to represent the Holy Spirit, this Old Covenant is called to mind, established on the basis of the Law received by Israel on Sinai. Thus the event of Pentecost is represented as a new Sinai, as the gift of a new Covenant in which the Covenant with Israel was extended to all the peoples of the earth, in which all the barriers fall from the old Law and its heart appears holier and more unchangeable; in other words as love, which the Holy Spirit himself communicates and spreads, a love that embraces all things. At the same time the Law is expanded, it is opened, even though it becomes simpler: it is the New Covenant which the Spirit “writes” in the hearts of all who believe in Christ. The extension of the Covenant to all the peoples of the earth is represented by St Luke with a list of peoples, that is considerably long for that epoch (cf Acts 2:9-11). With this we are told something very important: that the Church was catholic from the very outset, that her universality is not the result of the successive inclusion of various communities. Indeed, from the first moment the Holy Spirit created her as the Church of all peoples; she embraces the whole world, surmounts all distinctions of race, class and nation; tears down all barriers and brings people together in the profession of the triune God. Since the beginning the Church has been one, catholic and apostolic: this is her true nature and must be recognized as such. She is not holy because of her members’ ability but because God Himself, with his Spirit, never ceases to create her, purify her and sanctify her.

Lastly, today’s Gospel presents these beautiful words to us: “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (Jn 20:20). These words are profoundly human. The Friend lost is present once again and those who were formerly distraught rejoice. But it says far more. For the lost Friend did not come from just anywhere but from the night of death; and He passed through it! He is not just anyone; indeed He is the Friend and at the same time the One who is the Truth that gives life to men; and what He gives is not just any kind of joy but joy itself, a gift of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is beautiful to live because I am loved and it is the Truth who loves me. The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Today, at Pentecost, these words are also addressed to us, because in faith we can see Him. In faith He comes among us and to us too He shows his hands and his side and we are glad. Therefore let us pray: Lord, show yourself! Make us the gift of your presence and we shall have the most beautiful gift: your joy. Amen!"

Papa Benedetto's words at the Regina Caeli
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Solemnity of Pentecost which we are celebrating today concludes the liturgical season of Easter. In fact, the paschal mystery — the passion, death and resurrection of Christ and his ascension into Heaven — finds its fulfilment in the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered together with Mary, Mother of the Lord, and the other disciples. It was the “baptism” of the Church, baptism in the Holy Spirit (cf Acts 1:5). As the Acts of the Apostles recount, on the morning of the feast of Pentecost, a noise as of wind burst into the Upper Room and tongues of fire, as it were, came to rest upon each of the disciples (cf Acts 2:2-3). St Gregory the Great commented: “Today, the Holy Spirit has came down upon the disciples with an unexpected sound and changed the minds of carnal beings within his love; and while he appeared externally in tongues of fire, their hearts blazed within them, because in receiving God in the vision of fire, they burned gently with love.” God’s voice divinized the human language of the Apostles who were enabled to proclaim the one divine Word in a “polyphonic” manner. The breath of the Holy Spirit fills the universe, generates faith, leads to truth, and predisposes people to unity. “At this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language” of “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:6,11).

Bl Antonio Rosmini explained that “on the day of Christian Pentecost God promulgated… his law of love, writing it through the Holy Spirit not on stone but in the hearts of the Apostles, and through the Apostles, subsequently communicating it to the entire Church.” The Holy Spirit, “who is the Lord and Giver of life” — as we say in the Creed — is joined to the Father through the Son and completes the revelation of the Blessed Trinity. He comes from God like a breath from his mouth and has the power of sanctifying, abolishing divisions, dispelling the confusion due to sin. Incorporeal and immaterial, He lavishes divine goods upon living beings and sustains them so that they may act in conformity with the good. As an intelligible Light He gives meaning to prayer, vigour to the evangelizing mission, He makes the hearts of those who listen to the happy message burn and inspires Christian art and liturgical music.

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit who creates faith within us at the moment of our Baptism enables us to live as children of God, aware and consenting, in accordance with the image of the Only-Begotten Son. The power to forgive sins is also a gift of the Holy Spirit; in fact, in appearing to the Apostles on the evening of Easter Day, Jesus breathed upon them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 20:22, 23). Let us entrust the Church to the Virgin Mary, temple of the Holy Spirit, so that she may always live by Jesus Christ, by his word, by his commandments and, under the perennial action of the Spirit Paraclete, proclaim to one and all that “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Cor 12:3)."

After the Regina Cæli:

[In Italian] "Cari fratelli e sorelle, sono lieto di ricordare che domani a Dresda, in Germania, sarà proclamato Beato Alois Andritzki, sacerdote e martire, ucciso dai nazionalsocialisti nel 1943, all’età di 28 anni. Lodiamo il Signore per questo eroico testimone della fede, che si aggiunge alla schiera di quanti hanno dato la vita nel nome di Cristo nei campi di concentramento. Vorrei affidare alla loro intercessione, oggi che è Pentecoste, la causa della pace nel mondo. Possa lo Spirito Santo ispirare coraggiosi propositi di pace e sostenere l’impegno di portarli avanti, affinché il dialogo prevalga sulle armi e il rispetto della dignità dell’uomo superi gli interessi di parte. Lo Spirito, che è vincolo di comunione, raddrizzi i cuori deviati dall’egoismo e aiuti la famiglia umana a riscoprire e custodire con vigilanza la sua fondamentale unità.

Dopodomani, 14 giugno, ricorre la Giornata Mondiale dei Donatori di Sangue, milioni di persone che contribuiscono, in modo silenzioso, ad aiutare i fratelli in difficoltà. A tutti i donatori rivolgo un cordiale saluto e invito i giovani a seguire il loro esempio."

[In French] "Chers pèlerins francophones, la Fête de la Pentecôte nous rappelle chaque année que l’Esprit Saint est à l’œuvre en nous pour faire de nous des fils de Dieu. Puissions-nous écouter sa voix et demandons-Lui d’éclairer nos choix. Comme les Apôtres, en témoins zélés et infatigables de l’amour de Dieu, appelons avec détermination les autres à suivre le Christ! Je vous invite à prier pour les jeunes qui entendent cet appel, particulièrement pour ceux qui vont recevoir le sacrement de la Confirmation et pour les séminaristes qui vont être ordonnés prêtres. Que la Vierge Marie, Temple de l’Esprit Saint, marche avec nous !"

"I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Regina Caeli prayer. My particular greeting goes to the group of ringers from the United States. On this Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Let us pray that we may be confirmed in the grace of our Baptism and share ever more actively in the Church’s mission of proclaiming the Good News of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace."

[In German] "Einen frohen Pfingstgruß richte ich an die Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache – und heute besonders an die Teilnehmer der Parade mit den Rosserern und Musikkapellen aus Bayern und Österreich. Herzlichen Dank für die schöne Musik, die sie uns geschenkt haben und schenken wollen. – Vergelt’s Gott!

Wenn morgen in Dresden Alois Andritzki selig gesprochen wird, lenkt die Kirche unseren Blick auf einen jungen Priester, in dem das Wirken des Heiligen Geistes kraftvoll aufleuchtet. Er hat sich dem Druck der nationalsozialistischen Machthaber nicht gebeugt, sondern war selbst in den Qualen des Konzentrationslagers Dachau für seine Mitgefangenen wie auch für seine Verwandten Quelle des Glaubens und der Freude. Belebt und erfüllt vom unwandelbaren Trost des Heiligen Geistes schrieb er aus dem KZ: „Freut euch mit mir!“ Diese tiefe und wahre Freude, die nur der Heilige Geist schenkt und die niemand uns nehmen kann, wünsche ich euch allen."

[In Spanish] "Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española que participan en esta oración mariana, en particular a los fieles de la parroquia de Moral de Calatrava y al grupo de Oficiales de la Escuela Militar de Colombia. Celebramos hoy, cincuenta días después de la Pascua, la solemnidad de Pentecostés, en la que la liturgia revive el inicio de la misión apostólica a todos los pueblos. Invito a todos a perseverar junto con María, Madre de la Iglesia, en ferviente oración y a poner al servicio de toda la humanidad los diversos dones y carismas que el Espíritu Santo nos ha concedido, para continuar así anunciando la buena nueva de la resurrección de Cristo. Muchas gracias y feliz domingo."

[In Slovenian] "Lepo pozdravljam romarje iz Bakovcev v Sloveniji! Naj Sveti Duh vodi vsa vaša pota  in naj bo z vami moj blagoslov!"

[In Slovakian] "Zo srdca pozdravujem slovenských pútnikov, osobitne z Bratislavy a okolia. Bratia a sestry, slávime sviatok Zoslania Ducha Svätého na apoštolov. Povzbudzujem vás, aby ste boli stále vnímaví na pôsobenie Ducha Svätého. S láskou žehnám vás i vašich drahých vo vlasti. Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!"

[In Polish] "Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do Polaków. W uroczystość Pięćdziesiątnicy Apostoł Paweł przypomina nam, że „nikt nie może powiedzieć bez pomocy Ducha Świętego: «Panem jest Jezus»” (1 Kor 12, 3). Dziękujemy więc Bogu za dar Ducha Świętego, który uzdalnia nas do wiary w Zmartwychwstałego i pozwala uczestniczyć w owocach Jego zbawczego dzieła. Światło i moc Ducha Pocieszyciela niech stale wam towarzyszy."

[In Italian] "Rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai giornalisti e ai relatori riuniti a Pistoia per il Forum dell’informazione cattolica per la salvaguardia del creato, organizzato dall’associazione Greenaccord sul tema: “Lo spazio comune dell’uomo nel creato”. Ai giornalisti impegnati per la tutela dell’ambiente va il mio incoraggiamento.

Saluto infine con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare i giovani di Caprino Veronese e i ragazzi di Casaleone che hanno ricevuto la Cresima. Saluto quanti hanno partecipato agli incontri promossi dal Movimento dell’Amore Familiare su “La preghiera del Padre Nostro e le radici cristiane della famiglia e della società”. Saluto i soci del club “Passione Rossa Italia”. A tutti auguro una buona festa, una buona domenica, una buona settimana. Grazie. Buona festa di Pentecoste."

BXVI - St Peter's, Sunday, 12 June 2011 - © Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana