Pentecost is often called “the Church’s birthday”: the Holy Spirit breathed His own life into the Body and all the members. Scripture describes the coming of the Spirit, 50 days after the Lord’s Resurrection, as a mighty rushing wind and as fire. The descent of the Holy Spirit is one way in which Christ is faithful to His promise that He would be with us all days (Matthew 28:20).
Speaking of fire, do you recall that an angel with a fiery sword closed the gates of Paradise behind Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:24)? Let’s listen for a moment to St Cyril of Jerusalem (d 386):
“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:3-4). They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives lustre to the soul. This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles. And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads. A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift (Catechetical Lectures 17.15)
How personal Cyril makes the event of Pentecost for you and for me, for all of us.
How does the Holy Spirit brighten and give “lustre” to our souls?
First, the Spirit dwells in our souls and make us His holy temples. He gives us sanctifying grace, which brings also the theological virtues, His gifts and the fruits which grow from them.
If the virtues enable us to do what reason directs, the gifts help us follow His promptings, the benefits of which are the 12 fruits: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency and chastity.
These fruits are good habits performed under the Spirit’s inspiration. They make us happy and contented, and help us to be pleasing to both God and neighbour.
Do you and others see these fruits in you? Read the list again. If not, you need to make some changes.