Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for Pentecost: If God rests in a heart, then this heart rests in God, and it is at peace.

Homily of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, May 23rd, 2021
Illumina cor hominum.
Illuminate men’s hearts.
(Hymn of Wednesday Vespers)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My dearly beloved Sons,

The feast of Pentecost, through the great richness of its texts, and the outstanding beauty of its melodies, evokes with a great liturgical simplicity the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, gathered in the Cenacle with Mary. A mighty wind fills the whole house. Tongues as of fire appear, part themselves, and sit upon the head of each of the disciples. These begin to speak with different tongues, according to what the Holy Spirit gives them to speak.

Obviously, these phenomena are not limited to the sole room of the Cenacle. A crowd gathers outside, drawn by the noise, and curious to see what is happening. Inhabitants of Jerusalem, devout Jews coming from all the nations, are bewildered because all of them can hear the words of the disciples in their own tongue. They bear witness to what the disciples are proclaiming, “the wonders of God.”

After having meditated on the Lord’s resurrection, the cause of our salvation, the events taking place this morning in the Cenacle should lead us to desire a new Pentecost. The liturgy, for that matter, urges us to call for it, “Veni, Come.”

The state of our world is neither better, nor worse, than that of the decadent Roman Empire. In the Cenacle, the Apostles did not make plans for a massive evangelization of the Mediterranean Basin; on the contrary, having received Jesus’ word, they ardently yearned for the coming of the Spirit.

As Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, likewise, the Apostles became fruitful through the pouring out of the Spirit. They were heard, and even understood, by those who did not understand their language. Whereas many Christians worry to live in a world that no longer understands them, wouldn’t the answer first and foremost lie in receiving the Spirit into our own hearts? Every day, ceaselessly, the faithful Christian must implore the coming of the Holy Spirit, “the soul’s sweet guest.”

Several times in the day, monks are wont to invoke the Holy Spirit in this way
Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
℣. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created.
℟. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O God, Who didst teach the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us by the same Holy Spirit to relish what is right, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us therefore enter the Apostles’ school. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles teaches us that after the Ascension, they came back to Jerusalem.

They went up into an upper room. […] All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. (Acts 1:13-14)

Beyond the power of this prayer in common, we know through the Gospel of St. John what are the Apostles’ interior and personal dispositions, a prerequisite for the reception of the divine gift. After the washing of the feet, Jesus utters His long farewell speech, His testament:

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. […] But 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)

Loving the Lord, keeping and meditating His words and teachings, are a call for the Father and the Son to come into our lives. The Father and the Son then make their abode with this loving heart, and the Spirit enlightens the latter. Loving the Word constitutes a magnet for the blessing of God, which then enkindles even more the believer’s heart pursuing his sanctification. If God rests in a heart, then this heart rests in God, and it is at peace.

The presence of the Spirit in a soul manifests itself through what theology calls the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
These transform human action and life. In the light of the gift of wisdom, the soul tastes the immediate presence of God. The gift of understanding helps us enter the Scripture’s mystery, and understand faith from within. Through the gift of knowledge, man acknowledges God at work in nature and history. The gift of fortitude ensures perseverance during trials, and the courage to bear witness. It is the gift that sustains the martyrs, and also helps, day after day, to carry out one’s duty of state and to live through the spiritual fight. Through the gift of counsel, the spirit receives the gift of spiritual discernment, of the just measure of what has to be done or avoided, to be said or kept secret. The gift of piety introduces us into experiencing God’s fatherhood, His propinquity, His tender kindness. It is the gift of spiritual childhood. Last, the gift of fear brings to the soul the conscience of its infinite distance from God. The disciples are thus strengthened, and they share between them, and reveal to the world, the fruits of the Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.

In the joy of today’s feast, it behoves us to echo the Apostles’ words, to proclaim the wonders of God, and to allow the fruits of the Spirit to radiate from us. As Eastertide is drawing to an end, let us make the firm resolution to invoke the Holy Spirit. May He continue the work begun on the day of our baptism, and renew the face of our hearts. May He be our Comforter in adversity. 

May Mary, the Mother of the Church, intercede for us. May she obtain for us a small part of this enkindled heart, which merited for her the name of Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love! Amen, Alleluia.