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Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Fire of Pentecost

Pentecost Dome
Begun 1063
Mosaics c 1160-80
St Mark`s, Venice


Antonio Gherardi (1644–1702)
The Dome of the Avila Chapel of Santa Maria in Trastevere
Begun 1680
Rome


Carlo Ceppi (1829–1921)
Dome of Madonna degli Angeli 1901
Turin, Italy



"The Son of God, dead and Risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit.

And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce?

Where there are divisions and estrangement the Paraclete creates unity and understanding.

The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family. People, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, when touched by the Spirit of Christ open themselves to the experience of communion, which can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new body, a new subject: the Church.

This is the effect of God's work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the "business card" of the Church throughout her universal history.

From the very beginning, from the Day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality.

The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with States nor with Federations of States, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier. ...

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit is manifest as fire.

The Spirit's flame descended upon the assembled disciples, it was kindled in them and gave them the new ardour of God. Thus what Jesus had previously said was fulfilled: "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Lk 12: 49).

The Apostles, together with diverse communities of the faithful, carried this divine flame to the far corners of the earth. In this way they opened a path for humanity, a luminous path, and they collaborated with God, who wants to renew the face of the earth with his fire.

How different is this fire from that of war and bombing! How different is the fire of Christ, spread by the Church, compared with those lit by the dictators of every epoch of the last century too who leave scorched earth behind them.

The fire of God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is that of the bush that burned but was not consumed (cf. Ex 3: 2). It is a flame that blazes but does not destroy, on the contrary, that, in burning, brings out the better and truer part of man, as in a fusion it elicits his interior form, his vocation to truth and to love. ...

We just observed that the flame of the Holy Spirit blazes but does not burn.

And nevertheless it enacts a transformation, and thus must also consume something in man, the waste that corrupts him and hinders his relations with God and neighbour.

This effect of the divine fire, however, frightens us; we are afraid of being "scorched" and prefer to stay just as we are. This is because our life is often based on the logic of having, of possessing and not the logic of self-gift.

Many people believe in God and admire the person of Jesus Christ, but when they are asked to lose something of themselves, then they retreat; they are afraid of the demands of faith. There is the fear of giving up something pleasant to which we are attached; the fear that following Christ deprives us of freedom, of certain experiences, of a part of ourselves.

On the one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other, we are afraid of the consequences entailed. "