Preparing for Pentecost Filled with Joy

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | May 13, 2016

It is difficult for me to realize that the fifty days of Easter is about to end this Sunday. This Easter season has flown by. Our family has been busy, and it seems consistent that once the spring season and Easter is upon us there are more events on our calendar. We are winding down a school year which includes First Communions and graduations, I'm preparing for a foot surgery in less than two weeks, and school planning for next year has already begun in intensity. 

Despite or perhaps because of the busy-ness, our hearts need to be fixed within the Liturgical Year. We can find rest and consolation and direction with and from the liturgy of the Church. 

Ascension--We Are Filled with Joy

Last week (or this past Sunday) the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension. Formerly in the liturgy, the Paschal Candle would be snuffed and removed from the sanctuary after the Gospel, indicating how Jesus had left us. This practice has changed because it's important to show that the Easter season continues through Pentecost. The feast of the Ascension does mark the end of the Paschal Mystery, which includes the Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension of Jesus into heaven and Pentecost, but not an end to Easter.

Every year I find myself with mixed emotions contemplating the Ascension. I always think the Apostles would have felt some sadness and they would have  missed Jesus. They thought they had lost Him completely in His death on the cross, only to have the impossible and unthinkable of Him rising from the dead. Jesus was alive! For forty days Jesus appeared to them at various times. His presence wasn't the same as before, as He didn't eat and sleep and live with them anymore, but His resurrection and presence was even more of a gift.

And then He gives them His final commission and ascends to the Father, not to return in an appearance with His glorified body. Did the Apostles sometimes hope He would appear, or did they know that this was the last time they would see Him? It feels like it should be a sad day, with the Apostles missing the human presence of Jesus.

But the Gospel for the Ascension clearly says:

They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy
and they were continually in the temple praising God
(Luke 24:53).

The whole Ascension liturgy is filled with reference to joy and rejoicing. The Collect opens with

Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God,
and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving....

The Responsorial Psalm from Psalm 47 is full of rejoicing: 

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy:
a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

What is this joy we are to have, when it seems bittersweet for Jesus to leave us? The answer lies in the words of the Solemn Blessing:

And may you, who believe he is seated
with the Father in his majesty,
know with joy the fulfillment of his promise 
to stay with you until the end of time.

He is gone physically, but remains with us until the end of time. And that is the secret of our joy.

Preparing for the Departure

Starting in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus is with His Apostles at His Last Supper. There He is giving His final instructions, His most important teachings before His death. Instead of the liturgy unfolding these during Lent, we begin to hear them in the middle of the Fourth Week of Easter. The final weeks of the Easter season the liturgy has been preparing us for this final departure and coming of the Paraclete: "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another." "I am the True Vine, you are the branches, remain in Me." We hear the words of Jesus, His final instructions, but this time we hear them knowing in the fullness of the Faith; we hear them in the comfort of knowing the truth of the Paschal Mystery and Pentecost.

And the week or nine days between Ascension and Pentecost we hear the promise of the Advocate or the Holy Spirit. We await the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. All through Easter we hear in the Preface how we are "overcome with paschal joy." That is how we can look at these final instructions and anticipation for Pentecost, with the joy of knowing that He will remain with us always and we have the Advocate sent to us on Pentecost. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

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We are preparing our hearts and homes (and atrium) for this great feast. I've written a few posts the provide more specifics in celebrating this feast:

 

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, home schooler, and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org's liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: pandl82074 - May. 16, 2016 9:15 AM ET USA

    Thank you Jennifer for this post and all your work you do. How many don't realize that Pentecost was once celebrated as an Octave. Here is an interesting commentary on its disappearance-- http://vultuschristi.org/index.php/2009/05/in-praise-of-the-octave-of-pen-1/ May God reward you for your blog work here.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - May. 14, 2016 5:54 PM ET USA

    I have noticed three pictures of Pentecost in today's posts and each shows a different number of people.