Friday, May 29, 2020

Pentecost 2020

One of my favorite feasts of the year is here- Pentecost. The Easter Season has been very different for us this year and when we started quarantine way back in Lent, I prayed and hoped that we would be out of this by Pentecost.

Well, we are not "out" of it, but the Holy Spirit is coming regardless, and obviously, is always with us. One of the very cool things that I have been able to be a part of this Easter season are some virtual "retreats" run by Liturgy Training Publications. A friend from college works for them and asked me to present during one of the retreats way back in April. I was honored to be asked back to co-lead two additional retreats, including the one for the readings for this Sunday.

My presenter's view during this retreat. I'm in the middle at the bottom. The others featured were my co-leaders. Attendants chatted in the boxes on the side. I was so impressed by the platform and set up!

During the retreat, we of course called attention to the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit that are given to us at Baptism but that we can pray for an increase of at any time. I take for granted as a Religion teacher that I still have these memorized, but for those who might need a refresher (the acronym for the gifts that my students always used was "puffwick"):

Piety (or Reverence in the "new" language)
Fortitude (or Courage)
Fear of the Lord (or Wonder and Awe)

These are referenced in the Old testament in Isaiah and the fruits are referenced in the New Testament in Galatians:


When I think about these gifts and fruits, I often think about how I might need these gifts to help myself and my relationship with God. But last night during the retreat, retreatants shared how they were praying for these gifts to help them serve others. It was truly a humbling experience and moment. People were asking for prayers so that they can be more understanding and counsel their friends at this time or be more patient with loved ones. I was especially struck by a woman who said she was praying for Piety and reverence so that she could better respect and revere those around her.

At the beginning of quarantine, I was hopeful that we would emerge from this time better. After almost three months, I feel worn out and exhausted, even though I haven't really been "doing anything". It has been emotionally exhausting to try and feel of worth and productive and to try and be a part of a community at this time. I had hopes that we would come out of quarantine even more empathetic and compassionate, but when I look at what is going around in our world and on social media, it seems like we have become even more isolated the longer this goes on. But it doesn't mean that compassion can't still happen. The Holy Spirit is coming. We will be renewed.

Because the Holy Spirit doesn't pick and choose what it does when it is called upon. As we will hear in the psalm on Sunday: "Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth." When the Holy Spirit is called upon it will shake things up. That's just what it does by its nature.

When the Holy Spirit is described (even though we don't maybe think about the Spirit as often as the Father or Son) it is described through verbs and action which I will get to in a second. My solution when I have started to feel down during this quarantine has been to try and look back on the good and be grateful for the good that does exist. The retreat last night and the prayers and reflections on these gifts on the Holy Spirit was powerful. Another really powerful reflection from last night was looking at the Sequence that is said before the Gospel on the feast of Pentecost. It is something that is sometimes discarded or overlooked, but the words this year- just like many of the readings during this Easter Season- mean so much more during this time of quarantine.

You can read the sequence here with this link, but I wanted to post a picture of it as well. 

As I just mentioned, the Holy Spirit ("Ruah in the Hebrew which means "movement" or "wind" or "breath") is always described with such powerful verbs. COME. SHINE. POUR. HEAL. WASH. MELT...

I was really taken with the phrase "Melt the frozen, warm the chill" from this sequence last night. Isn't it true that we have felt "frozen" in time these last months? The Holy Spirit with its power and its gifts and its fruits can help us emerge stronger just like the apostles did after being locked up in their Upper Room scared and terrified.

I am very much looking forward to Pentecost this year. Even if it isn't going to look like what I thought or hoped it might at the beginning of this, I have to trust in that the Spirit will move us and will move us towards those gifts and fruits and that those gifts and fruits will help us help others. 

I am planning on attending Mass this Sunday as VA is now in "Phase 1" which means 50% capacity for churches. I was wondering how my parish was going to enforce this, but I received an email with a link to get a "ticket" for one of the Masses being offered this weekend, so I guess it is going to be first come first serve. Everyone has to wear a mask and keep proper distance...actually, my diocese released this video which I found really helpful and answered a lot of my questions.

Part of the beauty of the Holy Spirit is that it moves and we don't necessarily know where it is going to take us. But after this time of the Easter Season and quarantine, I am ready- maybe more than ever- ready to see where it takes us and how it renews us.

It's not a question. The Holy Spirit will renew us. We just need to be open to that movement. And I am so ready!

Happy Pentecost!

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