Pentecost -- Whit Sunday

"From the Holy Ghost springs a never-ending joy, the likening unto God." -- Saint Basil

Pentecost with the Jews was a feast in memory of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, amidst thunder and lightning, fifty days after their deliverance out of Egypt. Their feast was a type of ours, for on this day the Holy Ghost wrote the New Law, amidst a new kind of noise and fire, in the hearts of the faithful disciples, and by their mouths published it to the world.

"When the days of Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: and suddenly there came a sound from Heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: 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. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation under Heaven. 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. And they were all amazed and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these, that speak, Galileans: and how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians: we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:1-11)

The Holy Ghost came in the form of fire to denote that He is a spiritual fire which enlightens the soul, purifies and inflames the heart, consumes what is vicious in it, and raises, consecrates, and sacrifices it to God.

He assumed the shape of tongues to express how He inspired the Apostles with knowledge and zeal, in order to enlighten and inflame the minds of men, and to preach the Gospel of Christ to all the world.

Three thousand were converted by Saint Peters's first sermon, and five thousand by his second. These first-fruits of the Gospel gave themselves at once to the practice of the evangelical doctrine of Christ, and so became models of sancity. The loved one another so that they all seemed to have but one heart and soul.

The pagans, astonished at this, exclaimed: "See how the Christians love one another? They lived in common, selling all they had, and giving the price to the Apostles to be distributed according to each one's necessities. They rejoiced in sufferings and privations fo the sake of Christ. They met daily to pray, to receive instruction, and to partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord.

Not less remarkable was the change in the Apostles themselves. Before the descent of the Holy Ghost they were ignorant and fearful, but after, the were so enlightened as to be able to explain all the Scriptures and Divine mysteries; so courageous as to proclaim openly Christ's Ressurection, which they confirmed by astonishing miracles, and by suffering persecution and death itself in testomony of the truths they preached.

We ought, on this great feast, to beg the Holy Ghost to imprint on our hearts the Law of God and the maxims of Jesus Christ; to give us a lively faith in, and a great love for, them, and courage to confess them by a life in conformity with their teaching. We ought also to resolve to imitate the lives of the first Christians by resignation in suffering, sincere love of our neighbour, assiduity in prayer, attention to the Word of God, alms-giving, and the frequentation of the Sacraments, and thus show ourselves worthy children of our Holy Mother the Church.

"Refine and purge our earthly parts;
But, O, inflame and fire our hearts!
Our frailties help, our vice control,
Submit the senses to the soul.
And when rebellious they are grown,
Then lay Thy hand, and hold them down.
Make us eternal truths receive,
And practice all that we believe.

Example -- Saint Polycarp

Saint Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle Saint John, and Bishop of Smyrna, suffered martyrdom under Marcus Aurelius. The Proconsul Quadratus caused him to be arrested and brought before him as being a chief propagator of a religion prohibited by the Emperor. He had his tribunal erected in a amphitheatre. Polycarp stood before him, in the presence of an immense multitude of pagans, who, in spite of their hatred for the Christians, could not help admiring him, being so venerable, and having such a sweet majesty and holy joy in his features.

"Polycarp!" said the Proconsul, "swear by the fortune of Caesar, and curse Christ." The holy man replied, smiling: "For eighty-six years I have served this good Master, and I have received nothing but benefits from Him. What odious ingratitude it would be, then, to blaspheme Him! Ah! I will bless Him till my last sigh, and I am happy to be able to glorify Him by declaring that I am a Christian"

A few minutes later the public crier said: "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian."

All the multitude demanded that he should be burned alive. In a short time the stake and fire were ready. Polycarp divested himself of his principal garments, and then mounting the faggots, he offered himself to God as a holocaust, and recited the following prayer:

"Receive, O Father Eternal, the life which Thou hast given me. I thank Thee for deigning to number me amoung Thy martyrs, and for making me a sharer in the chalice and sufferings of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I praise Thee, I glorify Thee, I bless Thee with Thy only Son, Who is the Sovereign Priest and Eternal Pontiff, Who livest and reignest with Thee an the Holy Ghost for ever and ever."

Amidst wonderful miracles, and the admiration of the spectators, his glorious soul went unto the bosom of the Eternal Father, January 26, A.D. 169.

Taken from Catholic Life (pages 63-67), available from The Neumann Press.