After a hiatus, we're back! Today we're talking about Easter and Pentecost--AKA, the season that just ended in the Catholic Church.
Most everyone knows that Easter is the day Christians believe Christ rose from the dead. In the Catholic Church, Easter is a season that lasts for 50 days--until Pentecost--and is the greatest feast of the Church year.
Easter has an octave, just like Christmas--octave meaning "eight"--so for eight days in the Church, we celebrate like it's still Easter Sunday (or Christmas). The idea is that the sheer awesomeness of the feast cannot be contained to one day--we have to celebrate with the same intensity for eight days, looking at the feast from all different angles and perspectives.
Pentecost is the Church's birthday. We celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. Pentecost is 10 days after the Ascension, when Jesus went back up to Heaven and left the apostles on Earth to do His work.
Catholics talk about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles received that day: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, and Fear of the Lord. Every Catholic receives these gifts at Confirmation. (The third sacrament of initiation--We'll talk more about that when we get to sacraments.)
The Holy Spirit is always sort of hard to talk about, because it's a spirit. He's usually imagined as tongues of fire (like above), or a dove, like in this Veronese painting I saw at the Getty in LA:
The Holy Spirit is the "Sanctifier"--he makes things Holy. When a Catholic is confirmed, s/he receives the gifts that will help him most in his mission here on Earth. As we know, God gave us each a unique purpose--and the Holy Spirit helps us accomplish it.
At Pentecost Mass, the Pentecost Sequence is sung or recited:
Come, O Holy Spirit, come! From Your bright and blissful Home Rays of healing light impart. Come, Father of the poor, Source of gifts that will endure Light of ev'ry human heart.
You of all consolers best, Of the soul most kindly Guest, Quick'ning courage do bestow.
In hard labor You are rest, In the heat You refresh best, And solace give in our woe.
O most blessed Light divine, Let Your radiance in us shine, And our inmost being fill.
Nothing good by man is thought, Nothing right by him is wrought, When he spurns Your gracious Will.
Cleanse our souls from sinful stain, Lave our dryness with Your rain, Heal our wounds and mend our way.
Bend the stubborn heart and will, Melt the frozen, warm the chill, Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful who in You, Trust with childlike piety, Deign Your sevenfold gift to send.
Give them virtue's rich increase, Saving grace to die in peace, Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.
Evening Prayer II of Pentecost ends the Easter season--and we're back to Ordinary Time, which isn't "Ordinary", since the next few Sundays are big feasts on the Church calendar. But we'll get to that. Later. I promise.