Canterbury cathedral’s collected Paschal Candles: this year’s special Easter candles will be lit in churches today, the Church’s Birthday.
Reflections from Fr Anthony Charlton of St Thomas’, Canterbury.
In my previous parishes, on this feast of Pentecost the children released helium-filled red balloons, at the end of Mass, to celebrate the great feast. The feast is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the church, hence the balloons. Pentecost ushers in the age of the Church. Now Jesus lives and acts in, and with, the Church.
We are not merely remembering a past event, when those in the Upper Room were transformed and changed. For us, the Holy Spirit is not just a help for the mission of the church. He is salvation; he is life itself. We celebrate today that we are all filled with that Spirit — just as Mary, the women and the apostles were transformed.
Today we celebrate the gift that is given to all of us, this gift of love. We are all immersed in the ‘ocean of the Father’s love’, Cardinal Ranerio Cantalamassa wrote. ‘They discovered for the first time what the love of the Father was, this love that Jesus spoke to them about for so long and in vain. They discovered the tenderness that is in the name Abba which they had heard their Master share about many times.’
A great Pentecost hymn is Come down O Love divine, seek thou this soul of mine.
Because of the gift of speech, all were able to understand the apostles. It was the reversal of Babel. At the building of the tower of Babel, the people said, ‘Let us make a name for ourselves.’ Their focus was on themselves and not on God. At Pentecost, instead everyone understood each other, because they had forgotten about themselves. There was unity, harmony and communication. The apostles did not want to make a name for themselves, but for God. They were no longer discussing among themselves who was the greatest.
We need in our prayer to put the accent on praise. We no longer want to live for ourselves but for the Lord. ‘Praise is what best helps us to decentralise and to recentralise on God.’ We need to rediscover this living Christ, whom only the Spirit can stir up in us. Let us rediscover this personal experience of Jesus — who died and was raised for me.
We need to have the same burning experience that Paul had on the road to Damascus, when he asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ (Acts 9:5). From that moment on, Paul considered everything as worthless, so that he might gain Christ.
At this time some of the people of the parish are joining with others, throughout the Diocese, participating in the Life in the Spirit seminars. It is a seven-week course of renewal, and yesterday they went to St George’s Cathedral, for a day when they asked for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, sometimes referred to as ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’.
Let us all pray on this Pentecost Sunday:
Lord Jesus I open my heart to the Holy Spirit so that I may rediscover and proclaim you as Lord.