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Pentecost is the season of warmth and unity, of love and harvest. As Christmas was the season of light, and Easter the season of life, so Pentecost is the season of love and the fruitfulness of love.

Pentecost is the festival time of maturing as Christ’s mystical body here on earth. We, his members, are his harvest. And during this time we discover that the effect of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and on us is unifying and inspiring. We remember that the Spirit’s flame sent the apostles bursting out of the Upper Room ready to teach Christ in burning words.

A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean Restout, 1732A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean Restout, 1732The keynote of the Pentecost season is love. In this season of unity and culmination, the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water with their symbolic meanings appear. The imagery of water is carried over from Easter, for this too is a time for baptisms. And air is here, as breath and as wind—the wind of the Spirit who is the breathing forth of love between the Father and the Word. This is the wind whose effect is to shape human breath into speech; a gift of tongues which will speak words. And the wind of the Spirit will carry those words to all parts of the world. (John 3. 7-8)

The Holy Spirit appears under the form of another of the elements—in tongues of fire. (Acts 2.3-4). The picture appears as if the apostles were made into living torches. Like torches they not only gave light, but they also set aflame everything they touched. The Spirit invests people with tact. Tact is the ability to talk with others in “their own language”, to engage with others on their own terms.

The fourth element, earth and its fruitfulness, is the most important of all during Pentecost season. We think back to the time of Lent for the beginning of the long fruition. At Easter the warmth of joy caused the seed to break out of the dark ground. Gradually it grew and ripened, and then when the wind of the Spirit blew at last, it was ready for harvesting.

Union with Christ which issues in fruitfulness is the proper work of the Spirit of love, for love is a unifying force, and fruitfulness is a result of union. From this union springs our zeal to further the growth of the Kingdom of God.

Pentecost is the Season of the Holy Spirit.

…all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.
When the tongues of flame are in-folded into the crowned knot of fire
and the fire and the rose are one.”
T.S. Eliot (from “Little Gidding”)

From Transfigured World, by Sr. M. Laurentia, CSJ

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There is a mysterious passage in the Book of Revelation, a book of Sacred Scripture more mysterious than most. It comes from the concluding promise at the end of one of the letters to the seven churches that inaugurates that book:

To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)

There are, I believe, events or episodes in each life where we are given that white stone, containing our new name, our true name. Some are very private and others are quite public.

As a monk for over 30 years, I have seen and been involved in many liturgies and religious ceremonies, including reception of postulants, the profession of vows, and of course liturgies of farewell and of funerals. But no monastic ceremony speaks more strongly to me of this mysterious promise than the clothing of a novice.

The candidate, who has completed a postulancy or testing period, comes before the community and formally enters the monastic life. He promises to live the Rule, and to conform his ways to the monastic way until such time as he either makes a solemn vow to embrace this way for all his days, or until he or the community discern that another Gospel path is his call.

Clothing of Br Charles McMulkin, 6 May 2016Br. Charles, newly clothed, before the altar to be blessed and sprinkled with holy water by the Superior, Br. RobertThe ceremony is simple and powerful. Its visual climax is the clothing of the postulant in the habit of the community, an outward and visible sign, if you will, of an inward and spiritual disposition.

New names, new clothes…these speak of the mysterious working of the Spirit who has promised to make all things new. We know, of course, that we are all unfinished works in this promise of transformation, and shall remain so until death and perhaps even beyond. But the promise and the pledge is acted out, so to speak, in front of our eyes. And we are caught up again in the mystery of our own conversion, however partial and incomplete.

And so it is at births and baptisms and graduations and weddings and ordinations and funerals…each is an effective reminder and sacrament of the promise and power of God to transform our lowly way of life into a way of grace.

Brothers of The Order of the Holy Cross, in Toronto, 6 May 2016Back row (left to right): Br. Randy, Br. Christian, Br. Brian, Br. Richard, Br. David (Prior), Br. Charles, Br. Reginald-Martin (Novice Guardian). Front row (left to right): Br. Leonard, Br. Robert (Superior)As I presided at the service of Br. Charles’ novice clothing on May 6, 2016 at Holy Cross Priory in Toronto, Canada, I could not help but think of my own so many years earlier. My Prior gave me a card that day on which he had written a verse from Psalm 102: “…as clothing you shall change them [i.e., the foundations of the earth], and they shall be changed.”

Indeed they will. And so will we all.

Br. Robert Sevensky, OHC, is the Superior of The Order of the Holy Cross.

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Ascension Day has always held a special place in my heart, as I was made Deacon on the Feast of the Ascension in 2006. The Gospel account of the Ascension that sticks out most for me, and still directs my ministry today, is that of St. Luke: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”(Luke 24: 50-53).

The Ascension Window, Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St., TorontoThe Ascension Window, Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St., TorontoOne of my professors during my days at the seminary at Huron University College, Canon Todd Townshend (now the Dean of Theology at Huron University College), made a point of emphasizing that in Luke’s account of the Ascension, Jesus blessed His followers as he withdrew from them and ascended. Today, that blessing extends to us. The ministries we undertake are not done in vain, but are blessed by our Lord (and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost).

The Ascension marks the beginning of an ‘in-between’ time; an ‘in-between time’ within which we—the Church of Christ today—live out our Christian life and work. The Ascension marks the conclusion of Christ’s earthly ministry and inaugurates this ‘in-between’ time until Christ’s promised return; until, as NT Wright regularly reminds us—notably in his book “Surprised By Hope” —Heaven comes to earth and Christ returns in glory.

But, in the meantime, we followers of Christ are here on earth as signposts pointing to the promised return of our ascended Lord by the various ministries that we undertake. Our ministries are not carried out so as to ‘earn’ salvation; so that when we die God will give us a pat on the back and send us up to Heaven to float around on a cloud. No, our ministries are a response to our risen and ascended Lord. Christ has conquered death forever by his resurrection, and has promised to return to resurrect us too, bodily, as heaven comes to earth. How can we not share this Good News?

So, if we are to share this Good News in this ‘in-between’ time on earth, signified by the Ascension, how are we to do it? The Rev’d. Canon Dr. Tim Elliot, who recently was a speaker at a Clergy Conference in the Diocese of Huron, entreats us to ask three questions to help us in the discernment of our baptismal ministry (both individually and collectively): What am I good at? What do I like to do? What needs doing?

As we reflect on the things we are good at and the things we like to do, each of can begin to recognize the gifts God has given us to carry out what needs to be done in Christ’s name. And all to glorify God in this ‘in-between’ time. Since God has created each of us as unique, our gifts will be uniquely ours. Thanks be to God for this!

Notice that at the end of Luke’s account of the Ascension, the disciples “…were continually in the temple blessing God.” We know they didn’t stay there. They came together, offering themselves to God in worship so that God might transform their hearts in His love. Then they went out from there and utilized their unique God given gifts to proclaim the risen and ascended Lord. And the risen and ascended Christ blessed their work and God transformed the world—as God continues to do today through us!

As we celebrate the Ascension may we, the Church today, have hearts open to God’s transformation in worship, minds keen to discern our ministries each according to our unique gifts, and the courage to be the signposts pointing to Christ’s resurrection and promised return. We can do this, together. Because we know that the ascended Christ blesses our ministries until that time at which our Lord stands again on earth in the fullness of his Glory. Until that time at which, by His mercy, we experience the fullness of the resurrection and all things are made new!

The Rev’d Daniel Bowyer is an Associate of Holy Cross Priory, Toronto, and the Rector of St. Paul’s, Stratford, Diocese of Huron.

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Resurrection of the Dead on Enamel PieceResurrection of the Dead on Enamel Piece. Limoges artwork, at Victoria and Albert Museum, London, photographed by Marie-Lan Nguyen.

The Christian way has been one of constant challenge from the beginning. The account in St. Luke’s Gospel, 24:1-10, of the women going to the tomb of Jesus after the Passover to ensure that his body was properly treated with spices tells of their encounter with two men in dazzling robes. The women’s reaction is at first fear. Everything they held dear was being brought into question. “Why seek the living among the dead?” was the challenge relayed to them by these heavenly beings. All the traditional customs to which they were still clinging, their lack of understanding of what Jesus had told them, their inability to make sense out of it all—everything was challenged. No wonder they fell on their faces in fear! The women did nevertheless act on the challenge and went straight to find the others in the community.

Two thousand years later, we also so often “seek the living among the dead.” We cling to what is familiar, the things we were taught as children, practices we have taken on as part of our Christian lives—often never thinking about them in relation to new circumstances in our lives. Our tendency to cling to the familiar is all too typical and can lead to a stultifying of our faith and an unwillingness to venture into new depths of understanding. The world around us is in constant flux and new ideas and situations present themselves without cessation. We tend to stay faithful to what we know; like those women at the tomb we carry our spices to honor the dead. Yet Jesus shocks us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to seek His presence, risen and glorified, and to find Him in the reality of what is happening around us.

The celebration of Easter brings to each of us that same message: “Why seek the living among the dead?” The challenge of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is that we constantly face up to what Jesus is calling us to do—and while He and His love for us never change, the path of discipleship continually opens up new vistas and challenges. We do well to ask “What am I clinging to? What is Jesus calling me to explore? How do I experience resurrection at this moment?” The scriptures often present us with a word that dazzles us as those heavenly beings dazzled the women at the tomb. Let us not miss the moment of challenge but rather be awake and alert to what the resurrected Lord Jesus wants us to see and act on now.

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“The Cross, the shape of Christ’s dying, his agony and our reproach; the utter fallibility of everything in this world which one day must perish, even the sacred things we most cherish. But it is too, the shape or our hope, recalling the place where God redeemed the death of his son, and forgave us for it and lifted us with him to a wholly new kind of life which can never be taken away.

The Cross is a new plan of existence that cuts across our little tracks, one that is beyond death itself, yet entered through it. It is beyond pain, and yet discovered in pain; beyond all defeat and betrayal, yet meeting us precisely there. This is the Cross of Christ in the midst of which we meet, which he holds out to us, at that busy intersection where his life and ours are intertwined, where sometimes we see his body hanging and sometimes see only the bare wood because he is no longer there, he is risen.”

The Very Rev’d Francis B. Sayer, sometime Dean of the Cathedral of St. Peter & St. Paul, Washington, D.C. From his book To Stand in the Cross, Seabury Press, 1978.

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