[Station at St. Peter.]
Whit, or White Sunday, is so called from those who were newly baptized, in the 4th and 5th centuries, putting on white garments as types of the spiritual purity received in baptism. Just as the truths and realities of the Gospel were slipping out of men’s hearts, the outward symbols of it were multiplied on their persons. In the best antiquity, there were few symbols and much of the inward truth and life of religion. The after-developments of the Church were outward and symbolic almost in proportion as the thing signified by the symbols were vanishing away; as if the growing consciousness of spiritual nakedness sought a covering in a new and enlarged religious wardrobe, rather than in that faith working by love which purified the heart and the life of the first Christians.
Today, the days of Pentecost as St. Luke says in the Epistle, are accomplished. We have had seven weeks since the Pasch; and now comes the day that opens the mysterious number of Fifty. This day is the Sunday, already made holy by the Creation of the Light, and by the Resurrection of Jesus; it is about to receive its final consecration, and bring us the fulness of God.
In the Old and figurative Law, God foreshadowed the glory that was to belong, at a future period, to the Fiftieth Day. Israel had passed the waters of the Red Sea, thanks to the protecting power of his Paschal Lamb! Seven weeks were spent in the Desert, which was to lead to the Promised Land; and the very next day was the day when the alliance was made between God and his people. The Pentecost (the Fiftieth Day) was honored by the promulgation of the ten commandments of the Divine Law; and every following year, the Israelites celebrated the great event by a solemn Festival. But their Pentecost was figurative, like their Pasch: there was to be a second Pentecost for all people, as there was to be a second Pasch for the Redemption of the whole world. The Pasch, with all its triumphant joys, belongs to the Son of God, the Conqueror of death: Pentecost belongs to the Holy Ghost, for it is the day whereon he began his mission into this world, which, henceforward, was to be under his Law.
The Sequence for today, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” (listen to the Chant), attributed to Innocent III, replaced under St. Pius V an older one of great beauty. This Sequence is repeated daily throughout the Octave:
Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
Veni, pater pauperum,
In labore requies,
O lux beatissima,
Sine tuo numine,
Lava quod est sordidum,
Flecte quod est rigidum,
Da tuis fidelibus,
Da virtutis meritum,
Come, Thou Holy Spirit, come,
Come, Thou Father of the poor,
Thou of Comforters the best
In our labor rest most sweet
O most blessed Light divine.
Where Thou art not, man hath nought.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew,
Bend the stubborn heart and will,
On Thy faithful who adore,
Give them virtue’s sure reward,
Peter is the leader around whom gathers the little flock of Sion on this first Christian Pentecost, and he inaugurates today his pontifical primacy when he announces for the first time the Gospel message to the representatives of the various nations, without distinction of race or nationality, of country or State. On this day, our Lord Jesus Christ, being seated on the right hand of God, sent, as He had promised, the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, who, after His Ascension, continued in prayer at Jerusalem, in company with the Blessed Virgin, awaiting the performance of His promise.
Let us pray in like manner with the Church: “Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.”
The Holy Ghost descends in power to vindicate the innocence of Jesus by filling the Church with such surpassing sanctity that it becomes, as it were, a fire prefiguring the final judgment on the enemies of God. The faithful kneel at the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, Who at the last day requires the restoration of the Christian soul to the body which has been His mystical temple.
This week, we will discuss the workings of the Holy Ghost, both in the Church, and in the faithful Soul. These seven days are given to us that we may know and appreciate the great Gift sent us by the Father and the Son. Moreover, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son has seven different ways whereby he manifests his presence in our souls.
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost are seven energies, which he graciously puts into the soul when he enters there by sanctifying grace. Actual graces put these divinely infused powers into motion, either all at once or separately; acts that are supernatural and meritorious of life everlating are produced by the free consent of our will.
The Gift of Fear of the Lord
The sacred Humanity of the Incarnate Son of God is the supernatural type of our own, and what the Holy Ghost operated in the former, for its sanctification, that same, in proportion, he wills to do in the latter. He infused into the Son of Mary the seven energies mentioned by the Propet; the same seven Gifts are prepared for regenerated man. But notice the order in which they come. Isaias begins with the Spirit of Wisdom and ends with the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord. Wisdom, as we will see further on, is the noblest prerogative of which man is capable; whereas the Fear of the Lord is just the beginning of Wisdom, as the Psalmist assures us. The Soul of Jesus was created for a personal union with the divine Word, and was therefore treated with exception honor; the first and foremost Gift infused into it was Wisdom, and the Gift of the Fear of the Lord followed, but as a completion. With us, on the other hand, frail and inconstant as we are, the Fear of God is the foundation of our whole spiritual building, and by it we raise ourselves gradually to that Wisdom which brings union with God. It is by means of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost that man attains to perfection, but they are bestowed upon him in reverse order which Isaias names them, when speaking of the Son of God. We receive them at the time of our Baptism, and when we have the misfortune to lose them (as we do when we lose sanctifying grace—that is, commit a mortal sin), they are restored to us by the Sacrament of Penance.
Consider how the whole work of our salvation and sanctification is marked with the mysterious number of Seven. There are seven principal Virtues which render us dear to our Maker; it is by seven Gifts that the Holy Ghost leads us to our last end; the seven Sacraments apply to us the merits of the Incarnation and Redemption; and it is after seven Weeks from the Pasch that the Holy Spirit is sent upon the earth to establish and maintain the kingdom of God. Is it any wonder, then, that Satan would sacrilegiously mimic the work of God by the seven deadly sins in an effort to destroy the creatures whom God would save?
Pride is the obstacle to man’s virtue and well-being. It is pride that leads us to resist God, to make ourselves our last end, to work our own ruin. Humility alone can save us from this terrible danger. And what gives us humility? The Holy Ghost, by infusing into us the Gift of the Fear of God.
This sentiment is based on the following truths, which are taught us by faith: the sovereign majesty of God, in comparison with whom we are mere nothingness; the infinite sanctity of that God, in whose presence we are but unworthiness and sin; the severe and just judgment we are to go through after death; the danger of falling into sin, which may be our misfortune at any time, if we do not correspond to grace, because even though grace itself is never wanting, we have it in our power to resist it.
Man, as the Apostle tells us, must work out his salvation with fear and trembling; but this Fear, which is a gift of the Holy Ghost, is not merely a dread of eternal punishments. It keeps alive within us an abiding compunction of heart, even thogh we hope that our sins have long ago been forgiven. It prevents our forgetting that we are sinners, that we are wholly dependent upon God’s mercy, and that we are not as yet safe, except in hope.
This Fear of God, therefore, is not a servile fear. Inasmuch as it is a filial dread of offending God by sin, it goes hand in hand with love. Arising as it does from a reverence for God’s infinite majesty and holiness, it puts the creature in his right place and, as St. Paul says, it contributes to the perfecting of sanctification. This is why the great Apostle assures us that he was severe in his treatment of himself, lest he should become a castaway.
The spirit of independence and false liberty is a great enemy to the Fear of God. The result is that there is no progress in virtue, and we fall prey to illusion, and the Sacraments, which previously worked so powerfully in our souls, and now virtually unproductive. This is because Gift of Fear has been superseded by a conceited self-complacency. Humility no longer has sway; a secret and habitual pride has paralyzed the soul.
Of the Fruits of the Holy Ghost, St. Paul enumerates twelve: