Materials for the days between Ascension Day and Pentecost (Whit Sunday)
First, for the evening of Ascension Day, a reflection on the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, with the Collect of the following Sunday. Then a general presentation of the hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus, “Come Holy Spirit.”
Following that, for each of the days up to Pentecost, a short reflection based on the individual verses of “Come Holy Spirit.”
For Ascension Day Evening
In St Luke’s account of Christ’s Ascension into heaven, as he returned to the Father, Jesus tells the apostles to stay in Jerusalem. He assures them that he will send the gift promised by God: they will be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24.53). Jesus too had promised this at the Last supper before his passion, death, and resurrection: “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter (Paraclete), that he may be with you for ever” (John 14.16). Paraclete is a word borrowed from the law courts, referring to an advocate for the defence called to one’s side in a trial. It also carries the senses of Consoler, Counsellor, and Supporter. It tells us two important things about both Jesus and the promised Holy Spirit:
- The Spirit will be “another Comforter” because Jesus is the original one (c.f. 1 John 2.1-2). The Paracelete is the Spirit of Jesus who comes, like him, to represent us to the Father. St Irenaeus called Jesus and the Spirit the “two hands of the Father.”
- Though the Spirit is a Comforter that does not make him/her a mere security blanket! The Spirit is God, and comes to challenge, provoke and stir us up – to convict the world of sin, for failing to recognise Jesus as the one sent by the Father (John 16.8).
- Since “Spirit” in Greek is neuter and in Hebrew and Syriac is feminine: s/he can also be spoken about using feminine pronouns and imagery. As God s/he is beyond any exclusive use of human language.
- On the Sunday after Ascension, the Church has a magnificent Collect fashioned by Archbishop Cranmer from an older prayer. It teaches us much about the relationship between the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends in the Father’s name:
O God the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
Praying for the Spirit
“Thy Kingdom Come” is rooted in ancient Christian tradition because the Church has always dedicated the days between Ascension and Pentecost (Whit Sunday) to prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We recall that the disciples went back to the Upper Room in Jerusalem and asked in prayer with Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers for what had been promised:
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of[c] James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
This too is very instructive. The disciples gathered as a community to wait, watch, and pray. The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force or energy that we just tap into at will. We need to ask for the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit is the free, sovereign God – God the Holy Spirit! Therefore, we must pray to receive the Spirit.
One of the most beautiful Pentecostal prayers of the Church is the famous text Veni Sancte Spiritus – Come Holy Spirit. It is a medieval poem written by a great Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton (13th century). Because of its beauty, it has been called “the golden sequence.” Many will know a shortened version sung at Taize services. Here is the full text, a translation in Common Worship, but adapted slightly for modern Christians. It is a powerful invocation – “Come!” – imploring the Spirit of God to descend on us, a good reminder that God is always free and must be asked. In prayer we should humbly call on God’s holy name. It would be good to recite this prayer every day as Pentecost approaches.
Veni Sancte Spiritus – Come, Holy Spirit
1.Come, Holy Spirit, send down from heaven’s height your radiant light.
2.Come, lamp of every heart, come, parent of the poor; all gifts are yours.
3.Comforter beyond all comforting,
sweet unexpected guest,
4.Rest in hard labour,
coolness in heavy heat,
hurt souls’ relief.
5.Refill the secret hearts
of your faithful,
O most blessed light.
6.Without your holy power
nothing can bear your light,
nothing is free from sin.
7.Wash all that is filthy,
water all that is parched,
heal what is hurt within.
8.Bend all that is rigid,
warm all that has frozen hard,
lead back the lost.
9.Give to your faithful ones,
who come in simple trust,
your sevenfold mystery.
10.Give virtue its reward,
give, in the end, salvation
and joy that has no end. Amen. Alleluia!
Materials for the days between Ascension Day and Pentecost
These are written by Fr Earl Collins, CMD Officer.
These include: for the evening of Ascension Day, a reflection on the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, with the Collect of the following Sunday. A general presentation of the hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus, “Come Holy Spirit.”, and a short reflection based on the individual verses of “Come Holy Spirit.”