The Solemnity of Pentecost marks the culmination of the Easter season. Just as the work of the Holy Spirit is to complete and bring to fullness the work of the Father and the Son, so this feast brings to completion and fullness the “paschal seasons” of Lent, Triduum and Easter. We began with ashes and today, we end with fire.
White vestments and abundance of flowers have greeted us during the past eight weeks. Today, the vestments change to red, the color of flames and the color we associate with the Holy Spirit. Most likely red flowers have been added to the church decorations. Many parishes invite everyone who comes to Mass to wear the color red. It is easy to remember that the Spirit resides in and among us when the church is filled with the Spirit’s color.
On Pentecost, the Spirit is the focus of the prayers, readings and songs. Twice we invoke the Spirit during the eucharistic prayer. Each of these invocations is called an “epiclesis,” which means a “calling upon.” Before the words of institution are spoken the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine on the altar. This gesture is an ancient sign for the calling down and giving of the Holy Spirit. Father says, “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eucharistic Prayer 2 — the other eucharistic prayers express the same invocation with slightly different words.)
The second epiclesis comes later and asks the Spirit to transform us into the living body and blood of Christ: “May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit” (Eucharistic Prayer 2 – the other eucharistic prayers also include a similar prayer). This second invocation asks that WE be transformed into the Body of Christ. For that is the point, not just that bread and wine be changed, transformed into the body and blood of Christ (as wonderful as that is). So that as we eat this sacred meal WE are changed, transformed and united into the body of Christ so that we may become the presence of Christ in the world by the way we love and live.
This feast reminds us of the Spirit’s dwelling within us, bringing the seven gifts that bring us to holiness that we might live as God’s own. For that is how the Spirit works. Invited into our hearts and souls, the Spirit enlivens, inspires and transforms us. And through us, enlivens, inspires and transforms the world into God’s reign.
Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.