Pentecost And Mary

By Fr. Gregory Crossthwait (2014):

I have a friend who camped out at Chick-Fil-A grand openings. I saw one of these recently in my part of town. There were many people sleeping in tents in a parking lot prior to the opening of a new store. It looked like a Feast of Booths for chicken sandwiches. That’s what the campers can win: chicken sandwiches. At these grand openings the first 100 people get one free meal per week for a year. I don’t think my friend won that particular prize. But she still had fun.

I would not have had fun. I don’t camp out. Not for chicken. Not for anything. I’m no longer a fan of crowds and hoopla. And this part of my temperament is an annual challenge for me at Pentecost.
Pentecost is the big event, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of the crowds of the Feast of Weeks the Spirit descends and hoopla ensues, holy hoopla, but hoopla nevertheless. What part and portion of this event is good news here for the reserved? 

Just as you can still eat a chicken sandwich if you didn’t camp out at a grand opening, so also the Holy Spirit of Pentecost isn’t restricted to the big event of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is also available for those who inhabit quiet, sparsely populated places. In fact, the small and the quiet preceded and followed the main event of the Spirit’s descent.

While the event of Pentecost happens in Acts 2, I think that we see the beginnings of the event in Acts 1. The Spirit of the Lord was active and present in the selection of St. Matthias. This is clear in the Apostlic prayer, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen” (Acts 1:24) This particular prayer should be kept in the context of the church’s first novena. “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14).

Here we see the church in its embryonic state. The assembly of men and women brought to life by, with, and in Israel’s risen Messiah. This small group, alive in Christ, is living by the means with which they will continue to share Christ’s life, devoted to prayer. This devotion to prayer continues even after the Day of Pentecost, just with more people. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

There was devotion to prayer after and before Pentecost because someone was devoted to prayer prior to the Incarnation and Holy Nativity of Jesus. That someone is Mary.

She’s there in Acts 1, “together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus.” In this small group is the nascent Church, wonderfully and mysteriously praying with Mary, who prayed with Israel’s Messiah himself when he was in her virgin womb. So if the fullness of Pentecost is found in Acts 2, with Acts 1 serving as a precursor, we can go still further back, to Luke 1.

In tracing the beginnings of Pentecost to Luke 1, we find that we are invited to pray both the beginnings and the fullness of the Feast in the Church’s Daily Office, morning and evening. This is the grace and glory of responding to the Holy Spirit who was poured out upon and within the Church for the sake of the world. 

This grace and glory is both particular and universal: the Holy Spirit particular in the incarnation of the Eternal Word in the womb of the Blessed Virgin; the Holy Spirit particular in the leaping prophet, John, in the womb of blessed Elizabeth; the Holy Spirit moving the formerly mute lips of Zechariah in the words of the Benedictus; the Holy Spirit continuing the same words in the praying Church Militant morning by morning in the Daily Office.

Each evening the Church joins with Our Lady in praying the Magnificat. The Holy Spirit, having moved Elizabeth to intone her three-fold blessing, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Herein we see the Holy Spirit moving and, by grace through faith, join the particular grace made universal by the same Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit moves upon Mary, whose singular vocation is to be the Mother of the Word made flesh. The Holy Spirit also moves upon all who share her faith and by the same grace offer her praises to God who “hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.” 

That Holy Spirit of God, moving upon the face of the new creation, the Church, as he once moved upon the face of the deep in Genesis 1, fashions and molds each of the baptized in their repentant faith for his or her particular vocation. He fashions them as they pray, morning by morning, evening by evening, Mass by Mass, in solitude, smallness, and even in crowds and hoopla (for those so inclined).

“Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Fr. Gregory Crossthwait is a priest of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas.

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