What the Church's Birthday Teaches Us
How Pope Benedict celebrated Pentecost.
VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) — Pentecost shows the Holy Spirit created the Catholic Church for all people, Pope Benedict said in his homily to mark Pentecost Sunday, June 12.
“From the first moment, in fact, the Holy Spirit created (the Church) as the Church of all people. It embraces the entire world, transcending the boundaries of race, class, nation — it breaks down all barriers and unites people in the profession of the Triune God. From the beginning, the Church is one, catholic and apostolic,” said the Pope to a packed St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Pentecost is the one of the most prominent feast days in the Christian calendar. It is often referred to as the “birthday of the Church.”
It marks the day, nearly 2,000 years ago, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, who had been living in fear for 50 days following the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.
The Holy Spirit emboldened them, and the apostles set forth to tell all people in Jerusalem of the Resurrection. As they spoke in tongues given to them by the Holy Spirit, all nationalities present could understand them in their own mother tongue.
“With this we are told something very important: that from the outset, the universality of the Catholic Church is not the result of the inclusion of subsequent communities,” explained the Pope.
He added that the Catholic Church refers to itself as holy “not because of the merits of its members, but because God himself, with his Spirit, is always creating and sanctifying.”
The Pope explained it is the same Holy Spirit — as the third Person of the Holy Trinity — who also reveals God to humanity first through creation, then through the incarnation of Christ, and then through the founding of the Church.
“The Church does not derive from human will, from reflection, from man’s ability and organizational capacity, and if that were so, it would have become extinct a long time ago, like all human things,” he said.
Pope Benedict also used his homily to reflect on the nature of creation and revelation.
“For us Christians, the world is the result of an act of love of God, who made all things and who is pleased with all things because they are ‘good,’ ‘very good,’ as we remember the story of creation.
“God, therefore, is not totally ‘Other,’ unnamed and obscured. God reveals himself, has a face; God is right; God is will; God is love; God is beauty.”
“Faith in the creator Spirit and faith in the Spirit that the risen Christ gave to the apostles and gives to each of us, then, is inseparably joined,” Pope Benedict said.
The Pope finished his Pentecost Sunday liturgy by singing the Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven ), the traditional Easter season anthem to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In his address to accompany the Regina Coeli, he drew upon the words of the 19th-century Italian priest Blessed Antonio Rosmini, who explained, “In the day of Pentecost, the Christian God ... promulgated his law of love, writing with the Holy Spirit not on tablets of stone, but in the hearts of the apostles, and through the apostles, then communicating it to the whole Church.”
The Pope concluded by entrusting the Church to “the Virgin Mary, temple of the Holy Spirit” and imparted his apostolic blessing on the departing pilgrims.