Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
We sometimes take it for granted, this Feast of Pentecost. We know about the upper room, the tongues of fire, the preaching, the conversions of many…. But what an incredible story!
Pentecost (that’s Greek for “fiftieth”) has its roots in the Jewish Festival of Weeks, the 50-day celebration following Passover. The disciples gathered in the upper room were observing the Festival of Weeks when the Holy Spirit descended upon them in a great wind, with tongues of fire.
Remember, the story tells us, that “devout Jews from every nation under heaven” had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast; yet when the disciples came out of the upper room “speaking in tongues,” everyone could understand them. Back in Genesis 11:1-9, when the Tower of Babel was being constructed, there was a “confusion of tongues” and people were no longer able to understand one another. With the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the confusion is reversed—and people are once again able to communicate with one another.
At the Mass on this feast, Veni, Sancte Spiritus—the beautiful Golden Sequence—is sung. A Sequence is a piece of liturgical poetry which expands on and explains the meaning of the celebration. Veni, Sancte Spiritus is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry ever written.
Here, for your enjoyment, is the Sequence—in poetry and in Gregorian chant.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.