top of page

What should I ask of the Holy Spirit (Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, May 28, 2023)

Here, now, at the end of Paschaltide, we are back where we started. It seems strange, that after seven weeks of celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord, we return to the same Gospel passage we read on the Octave of Easter six weeks ago. Is it merely because the Lord on that day, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection, referred to the Holy Spirit when He breathed upon the Apostles and gave them the power to forgive sins, that we return there now at the end, this Pentecost Sunday?

No – there is something more. This room in which the Apostles are gathered is not just any place. It is the “upper room,” the same room in which they gathered for the Last Supper, where the Lord first appeared to them as a group after the Resurrection, where He pardoned Thomas’s incredulity, and where now, after the Lord’s Ascension, they gather once again to await the promised coming of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which commemorates the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

And so likewise we come back to the beginning. The leitmotif or recurring theme throughout this Easter season has been: to the problem of evil, of suffering and pain, God proposes not an answer, but a victory, a victory present in a Person, who is His Son, Jesus Christ. Today, though, we see that there is not just one Person in which this victory is enacted, but actually two!

God the Father gives us not only His Son, but His Spirit. Just as the Last Supper and the Crucifixion were incomplete without the Lord’s Resurrection, and the Resurrection relied upon the transformation of the Lord’s Death into a free offering of love at the Last Supper, so too is the sending of the Holy Spirit today tied up into this one event of the Paschal Mystery. The Holy Spirit, through whom the Lord fulfills His promise not to leave us orphans, is the fulfillment of the promise of the Lord’s Resurrection: that the Lord’s new life is not only an historical event from two thousand years ago, but the promise of new life here and now.

But how does the Holy Spirit bring us new life? For many Christians, the Holy Spirit is the “unknown” person of the Trinity. If asked if we pray to the Holy Spirit, the honest response is likely, “no.” Why is that so? We do we so little direct ourselves to the Advocate and Consoler promised to us by the Lord, whose name we invoke each time we make the Sign of the Cross, but so rarely think to address in prayer, or whose presence we so little call to mind?

Most likely, we simply do not know what to ask of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we have heard of His seven gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, Fear of the Lord. But what are the practical circumstances in our lives into which we can invite the Holy Spirit? We can find some great ideas in the beautiful sequence chant in today’s Mass, the Veni Sancte Spiritus. Let’s take a look at its text:

“Veni, Sancte Spiritus, et emitte caelitus lucis tuae radium.” “Come, Holy Spirit, and send out from heaven the ray of your light.”

The first manifestation of the Spirit at Pentecost was “a noise like a strong, driving wind,” and yet the first gift for which we beg the Spirit is something completely silent: light. The Holy Spirit sometimes makes His presence known in dramatic ways, but often in subtle ways that pass unnoticed if we are inattentive. A parallel can be heard in the music at Mass today: befitting the second-greatest feast of the Church’s year, there are moments of triumph and grandeur that call to mind the loud noise by which the Spirit manifested Himself at Pentecost. But there will also be moments of subtlety and lightness, typifying the consolation and peace He also brings.

“Veni, pater pauperum, veni, dator munerum, veni, lumen cordium.” “Come, father of the poor, come, giver of gifts, come, light of hearts.”

The first title given to the Holy Spirit in this chant is “Father of the Poor.” We can invite the Holy Spirit into our experience of poverty. This can be present in the normal sense of poverty, if we lack the material goods we need or that can reasonably be regarded as important. As Father of the Poor, the Holy Spirit helps those who experience poverty to feel God’s particular love for the poor, and to experience in their need an awareness of their even greater need for the Lord. Poverty is much more than just financial poverty, though. There is poverty of physical ability, and the reality of spiritual poverty. We experience spiritual poverty when we are faced with a difficult situation and just do not know what to do, when you feel helpless or powerless in the face of suffering or trials. The Holy Spirit is the Father of the spiritually poor, and He can help you to experience God’s love in the midst of trials, to transform your helplessness or powerlessness into an opportunity for God to act within you.

“Consolator optime, dulcis hospes animae, dulce refrigerium.” “Greatest comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet consolation.”

“Comforter” is one of the most frequently titles of the Holy Spirit. Those same experiences of spiritual poverty move us to call out to the Holy Spirit, the source of consolation and comfort. In every sorrow, frustration, or grief, the Holy Spirit can help us to experience God’s consoling presence. He is the sweet guest of the soul – a guest over whom you do not have to fret, whose presence does not impose any wearisome obligation, but Who comes merely to console and to love.

“In labore requies, in aestu temperies, in fletu solatium.” “In labour, rest, in heat, temperateness, in tears, solace.”

Mature faith recognizes that God will not always remove the source of our sorrow, just as He does not remove the need to work or the summer’s heat. But He does bestow the consolation needed to bear trials with equanimity and with the awareness that you are never alone.

“O lux beatissima, reple cordis intima tuorum fidelium.” “O most blessed light,

fill the inmost heart of your faithful.”

Light is another important metaphor for understanding the Holy Spirit’s presence. He is the light of hearts, bestowing the gifts of knowledge and counsel, that we might judge correctly about what is to be done when the paths ahead seem darkñ and the gift of understanding, when God’s ways seem so mysterious. When all seems dark, beg for the Holy Spirit’s light.

“Sine tuo numine, nihil est in homine, nihil est innoxium.” “Without your divinity, there is nothing in man, nothing that is good.”

The Holy Spirit helps us to recognize that all good things come from God. When you experience the Lord’s blessings, ask the Holy Spirit to keep you mindful of their origin in God.

“Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium.” “Cleanse what is unclean, water what is parched, heal what is wounded.” As we heard in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles, and shared by them with their successors, for the forgiveness of sins. After our sins have been forgiven, though, their effects can remain. Perhaps there are sins in your life that still make you feel unclean, dirty, unworthy of God’s love. Or maybe there are past sins that weigh you down by pulling you back into a cycle of addiction. Beg the Holy Spirit to cleanse what is unclean.

Or maybe your heart is parched: You no longer experience the same joy and desire for God, a member of your family, or a friend that you had before – something in your soul is arid. Or maybe there is a wound in your heart, a way in which you struggle to forgive. Beg the Holy Spirit to water what is parched and to heal what is wounded.

“Flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium.” “Bend what is inflexible, warm what is chilled, correct what has gone astray.” Maybe there is a part of you that is inflexible, that you struggle to bend to God’s will, or a way in which you are attached to your own will and preferences that harms your relationships with others – a way that you wish that you could change and be the son or daughter of God you want to be, but it just won’t happen. Maybe something in you keeps going astray despite your best efforts, or maybe your heart is broken over others who have gone astray. Beg the Holy Spirit to bend, to inflame, and to correct.

“Da tuis fidelibus, in te confidentibus, sacrum septenarium.” “Give to your faithful, who trust in you, the sevenfold gift.”

“Da virtutis meritum, da salutis exitum, da perenne gaudium.” “Give virtue's reward,

give salvation's end, give joy eternal.” The most important gift of all for which you ought to beg the Holy Spirit is the gift of final perseverance – to remain faithful in His grace until the last day when the promise of rest amidst labor is fulfilled in eternal salvation and eternal joy.

So here we are, back where we started. For fifty days we have celebrated the Lord’s Resurrection. With the men of Galilee, we stood in wonder as He ascended into Heaven, but rejoiced at the victorious triumph of His entry into Heaven. And now we know the place for the first time. We have seen how Christ’s victory over sin and death are the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart, and how the new life, and even the divinization, He promises us are the fulfillment of our greatest aspirations. To the trials, confusion, and suffering of this life, He proposes not a solution or an answer, but a person: the victory of His Son, and the gift of His Spirit. It is the Spirit who makes all things new; who assures our hearts that God’s existence does not mean that we are in trouble, but that there is someone to save us; who assures us that we are not alone; and who brings about the sanctification that is our participation in Christ’s victory. When we beg the Holy Spirit for the graces we need, as shown in today’s beautiful sequence, He will water what is arid, bend what is rigid, bring solace to tears, cleanse what is unclean, heal what is wounded, warm the frigid heart, and bring light to every darkness. Amen. Alleluia.

The Rev. Royce V. Gregerson

Parish Church of St. John the Evangelist, Goshen

Solemnity of Pentecost, A.D. MMXXIII


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page