Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The First Pentecost

… He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, …

I was praying the Creed at mass on Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, when I looked up and saw the statue of Mary in front of me, her hands folded in prayer, and it felt as if we were praying together with the whole of the church. And then I remembered the feast day, Pentecost, the Holy Spirit coming, and then said the words describing when she first received the Holy Spirit, years before. And I felt the Immaculate Conception was like a first Pentecost --- although to be technically correct, I guess the Greek word to describe it would be Proti, instead of Pentecost, first day instead of fiftieth day. (Don’t ask me why that little technicality bugged me and I had to look it up; I guess you’d have to know me.)

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and the apostles received tongues of fire above them; on the day of Jesus’ conception, the Holy Spirit came to Mary and she received the Fire of Life within her. The Holy Spirit came to the apostles that we might receive life; He came to Mary so that she might give life, to Him, the man Jesus. Pentecost: the eternal life of Jesus came to us; The Immaculate Conception: the earthly life of Jesus came to us. Both were gifts of the Holy Spirit, both giving us life, visible gifts of the love of God --- for us.

Lord, send down Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Mary said yes to the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Proti, the First Day of God on Earth in the form of man began. Fifty days after Easter, Pentecost, the first day of God’s Spirit coming to man began. And He still comes to us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ death unlocked the gates to heaven for man, but Jesus did not force men into heaven. But He sent the Holy Spirit that we might know the will of God, an invite to come home through those open gates.

Pentecost is such an important feast. It’s our receiving a formal invitation to heaven, with constant follow-up reminders. The invite and reminders even contain directions on how to get there! But it is for us to prepare and actually get there, to accept the invitation. Like the waiting women, we need to make sure we get the oil and have our lamps ready so we can go through the door when the bridegroom comes. But it is also very important that we remember: without His mother, there would be no bridegroom.

A friend of mine wrote a blog post explaining why Catholics attach such an importance to Mary. As I prayed the Creed on Sunday, I saw the image of her praying also. On this Sunday, I prayed for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But she had received them first, and in a most important way. Why wouldn’t I honor her for this, and be so glad that she who had received the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit was praying with me, that the Spirit might come to me also.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners …

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