Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for Pentecost: "Are our souls intimately united with the Lord?"


Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, May 15, 2016)

Initial "S" of the Introit of the Feast

Repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
(Acts 2:14)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

The feast of Pentecost commemorates the gift of the Holy Spirit that has been granted to the Apostles gathered in the Cenacle around Mary, as Jesus had promised them shortly before His Ascension. The Lord Who went up to Heaven has not left His disciples orphans. This assertion is still valid. Nobody has ever been forsaken by God, nor will anybody ever be, unless he should refuse the gift of God, the light that comes from God and illuminates every man.

In the Gospel, the Lord utters very firm words, which three of the Evangelists, St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, have mentioned:

Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, nor in the world to come. (Mt 12:32)

The book of the Acts of the Apostles mentions the steps taken by those who are preparing to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit:

All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:14)

In their prayer, the Apostles were preparing from afar for their mission. The gospel of the Mass emphasises the sacred character of such a time, and of such a gift:

If any one love me, he will keep My word. And my Father will love him and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My words. And the word which you have heard is not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent me. […] The Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you. (Jn 14:23-26)

The love of the Father and the Son, as well as the prayer of the disciple, build in his heart a temple, where the Holy Spirit keeps developing His work. Today’s liturgy, which has a felicitous development during the Octave, can be summed up in a yearning, “Veni, Come!”

The texts show an abundance of titles that have been conferred upon the third Person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit is He Who teaches hearts, warms, purifies, and enlightens them, and sets them ablaze with charity. He is the Father of the poor, the Giver of all gifts, He Who renews the face of the earth. He is the Comforter, the sweet Guest of the soul. 

Through all these names, it is quite easy to see how the Holy Spirit acts in a unique way to unite intimately the souls of the faithful with their Lord. Not only has not the Lord left us orphans, but He has given us the Holy Spirit, Who is, as it were, the link and the connection between the soul and the Holy Trinity. When He works to renew the souls, He works to renew the face of the earth. The feast of Pentecost is an invitation to examine how intimately our souls are united with the Lord, and therefore to renew our disposition to receive the action of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. 

It is quite possible to be very generous, and enter priesthood, or religious life, or to engage in apostolic works, or to carry out one’s duty of father or mother, or to obey one’s parents, or to be eager to be of service to them, or to remain faithful to morningand evening prayers, and nonetheless not to have a true intimacy with the Lord. When our hearts are entangled into action, into routine, they do things more than they offer them up. The house is built upon the sand, and the first storm will sweep away both house and inhabitant. A true and deep love, a real communion was lacking. 

We must beseech from the Holy Spirit such a grace. As to us, let us follow the example of the Apostles, and dispose everything so as to receive the light of the Spirit in the silence of our hearts. Let us devote time and energy to establish this silence. St. Benedict left the world so as to seek God. Even now, monks still leave the world to find a place where everything is set up to carry out such a quest, which is meant to end up into contemplation. “I gaze at Him, and He gazes at me,” was wont to say the parishioner of the holy Curé of Ars. This amount of time, which might seem barren, is in actual fact a prerequisite for any true mission, a prerequisite also for a living membership of the Church:

For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him. (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, n. 4; cf. Eph 4:16)

Communion with God, communion with the Church, and communion with our brothers and sisters, that is one and the same thing, and that is the work of the Spirit. The Vatican II Council sums up:

When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth (cf. Jn 17:4) was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father (cf. Eph 2:8). He is the Spirit of Life, a fountain of water springing up to life eternal (cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39). To men, dead in sin, the Father gives life through Him, until, in Christ, He brings to life their mortal bodies (cf. Rm 8:10-11). […] The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits (cf. Eph 4:11-12; 1 Co 12:4; Gal 5:22). By the power of the Gospel He makes the Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly He renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse 1. The Spirit and the Bride both say to Jesus, the Lord, “Come!” (Ap 22:17) Thus, the Church has been seen as “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit 2.” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, n. 4)

During the days just before Pentecost, Mary was with the Apostles to beseech with them for the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who had already overshadowed her on the day of Annunciation. May she, who is hailed as the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, intercede for us, so that a new outpouring of the Spirit should illuminate our tired hearts and warm them. With her, and united with the Apostles, let us say to the Spirit, “Come!”

Amen, Alleluia.

1. Cf. S. Irenæus, Adv. Hær., III, 24, 1 (PG 7, 966 B); Harvey 2, 131, ed. Sagnard, Sources Chr., p. 398.
2. S. Cyprian, De Orat. Dom., 23 (PL 4, 583; CSEL [Hartel], III A, p. 285). S. Augustine, Serm. 71, 20, 33 (PL 38, 463 s.). S. John Damascenes, Adv. Iconocl., 12 (PG 96, 1358 D).