We are preparing for Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church. Next week, we are remembering Jesus’s return to Heaven. In two weeks time we are celebrating the birth-day of the church; the rebirth and renewal of who we are now as children of God.
With Pentecost, the old man will die. Our past ways will become past, our sins, when confessed, forgotten. This will be our spiritual resurrection, being resurrected by joy and Life.
So these last days of the Easter period is an anticipation of the end of our own lives, when our life will be ending, and, our new life, our new existence begins with the Risen Lord. How does this preparation look like from our personal perspective, and from the point of view of the Lord? I found a beautiful passage from Saint Francis de Sales, which illustrates this passage from the old life into the new.
‘Finally, the heavenly King having brought the soul which he loves to the end of this life, he assists her also in her blessed departure, by which he draws the soul to the marriage-feast of eternal glory, which is the delicious fruit of holy perseverance. And then, this soul, wholly ravished with the love of her well-beloved, putting before her eyes the multitude of favours and succours with which she was prevented and helped while she was yet in her pilgrimage, incessantly kisses this sweet helping hand, which conducted, drew and supported her in the way; and confesses, that it is of this divine Saviour that she holds her felicity, seeing he has done for her all that the patriarch Jacob wished for his journey, when he had seen the ladder to heaven. O Lord, our soul then says, you were with me, and guided me in the way by which I came. You did feed me with the bread of your sacraments. You did clothe me with the wedding garment of charity. You have happily conducted me to this abode of glory, which is your house, O my eternal Father. Oh! what remains, O Lord, save that I should protest that you are my God for ever and ever! Amen.’
So, from our point of view, let these two weeks be a thorough review of the gifts you were given. Let it be a thorough recalling of the persons, the great helps, supports, our challenges and our escapes, our recoveries from illness. Let it be part of our daily prayers of ‘instantly kissing this sweet hand’ of Providence. Also, let us give thanks for gift of our faith, for its ups and downs. ‘Seeing what Jesus has done for our soul’, will increase our joy and prepare our feast at Pentecost. What a privilege it is to stand in the long line of faith, indeed starting from the Patriarchs!'
But also, let us be challenged by Saint Francis’ vision from a different angle. Let us try to enter our Lord’s mindset. What will be his feelings and thoughts of thanksgiving on the day of Ascension? What a wonderful and rich prayer it must have been when he looked back on his life with his beloved disciples? What future he saw in them, what future joys of their faithful service.
And let us humbly imagine, and this is not imagination, ourselves in the prayers of our Lord. For in his love for his disciples all future Christians were included. All future disciples. And this humble and the same time most privileged title is the key. In his return to the Father, when surveying his mission on Earth, he prayed, and went through the lives of all his disciples, future and present. This is the stake in our lives: to be counted as his disciples. To have this special relationship, to be part of his special love and prayers for his disciples.
Cannot we conceive Pentecost as Jesus’ permanent, ever-lasting prayer, of which prayer we are part of? From this perspective, Pentecost simply means, ‘being prayed for’. Let us take Saint Francis’ vision seriously, as a guide, to ‘put before our eyes the Lord’s multitude of favours’ for us. Let us grow together into a living faith of thanksgiving. Let us become his disciples through this thanksgiving.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..