Happy birthday to the Catholic Church! Happy birthday to you, who are the body of the Church!
We’re all familiar with our own birthdays, and we celebrate them because they mark the day of the year in which we entered into this life. But did you know you have a second birthday? Because you are part of the body of the Church, Pentecost is the Church’s birthday, and yours as well. And like any birthday, it’s a cause for celebration.
The word Pentecost is Greek and it means “50th day.” Fifty days after Easter Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and their followers, and the beginning of their Earthly ministry to make disciples of all nations.
Pentecost is also a Jewish holiday, which the Jews use to celebrate the end of Passover. Jews celebrate the gift of the law to Moses at Mt. Sinai on this day. But we, as Catholics celebrate the birth of our Church.
At Pentecost, the Apostles and their followers were gathered in a room. Jews from all over the world were gathered with Peter, the leader of the Apostles and the Eleven. At this time, a great wind blew and a flame appeared as a tongue of fire, which split itself into many individual flames above the heads of all those present. The Holy Spirit came upon these people and each began to speak in tongues. Despite the fact many had no common language, they were perfectly able to understand one another.
Others who were not so blessed, accused those speaking in tongues of being drunk, but Peter arose and addressed the crowd, explaining that it was only 9 o’clock, and that this phenomenon was not intoxication, but rather this was the work of the Holy Spirit, prophesized in the scripture.
Peter then called all those present to be baptized and about three thousand people were baptized that day.
These people were among the first Catholics, and Peter is the first pope of the Catholic Church.
The symbols of Pentecost are the flame, wind, and the dove, which represents the Holy Spirit. The colour of Pentecost is red and the priest wears red vestments on this day. Parishioners are also invited to wear red on this day. Red decorations as well as celebrations are appropriate, similar to any other birthday. Special prayers are often said just for Pentecost.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
731 On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance.122
732 On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him: in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the “last days,” the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated.
We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us.123
The Holy Spirit – God’s gift
733 “God is Love” 124 and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” 125
734 Because we are dead or at least wounded through sin, the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of our sins. The communion of the Holy Spirit 126 in the Church restores to the baptized the divine likeness lost through sin.
735 He, then, gives us the “pledge” or “first fruits” of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as “God [has] loved us.” 127 This love (the “charity” of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit. 128
736 By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” 129 “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.” 130
Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory. 131
The Holy Spirit and the Church
737 The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ’s faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prepares men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls his word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may “bear much fruit.” 132
738 Thus the Church’s mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity (the topic of the next article):
All of us who have received one and the same Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, are in a sense blended together with one another and with God. For if Christ, together with the Father’s and his own Spirit, comes to dwell in each of us, though we are many, still the Spirit is one and undivided. He binds together the spirits of each and every one of us, . . . and makes all appear as one in him. For just as the power of Christ’s sacred flesh unites those in whom it dwells into one body, I think that in the same way the one and undivided Spirit of God, who dwells in all, leads all into spiritual unity. 133
739 Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among his members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate them to his self-offering to the Father and to his intercession for the whole world. Through the Church’s sacraments, Christ communicates his Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of his Body. (This will be the topic of Part Two of the Catechism.)
740 These “mighty works of God,” offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church, bear their fruit in the new life in Christ, according to the Spirit. (This will be the topic of Part Three.)
741 “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”134 The Holy Spirit, the artisan of God’s works, is the master of prayer. (This will be the topic of Part Four.)
742 “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”‘ (Gal 4:6).
743 From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable.
744 In the fullness of time the Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparations for Christ’s coming among the People of God. By the action of the Holy Spirit in her, the Father gives the world Emmanuel “God-with-us” (Mt 1:23).
745 The Son of God was consecrated as Christ (Messiah) by the anointing of the Holy Spirit at his Incarnation (cf. Ps 2:6-7).
746 By his Death and his Resurrection, Jesus is constituted in glory as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36). From his fullness, he poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Church.
747 The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity’s communion with men.