The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Third Glorious Mystery
After the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus, He stayed with His Apostles and Disciples for forty days to ingrain in them all the instruction He had given them regarding the Reign of God. As part of that teaching, He told them about the fulfillment of His Father's promise. They were about to return to Galilee. He told them not to leave Jerusalem. "Wait, rather, for the fulfillment of My Father's promise, of which you have heard Me speak. John baptized with water, but within a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5)
He connected the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the mandate for Evangelization. He said to them, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down upon you; then you are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes even to the ends of the earth." With that, the Evangelist Luke tells us Jesus was "lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took Him from their sight." (Acts 1:9)
From the very beginning, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were intended to give the followers of Jesus the fortitude and the power to fulfill the mandate to evangelize. That's why the gift was given them, this special Signal Grace. Jesus knew before He left them how much they would need it.
They really had no idea what Jesus meant. They were not ready for their transition from followers to leaders, from fishermen to Fishers of Men, from lay people to Priests and Bishops and Popes. We're told that as He left them, they just kept looking up into the sky. They probably expected Him to come down again. But they were snapped out of their reverie by two Angels.
"They were still gazing up into the heavens when two men dressed in white stood beside them. `Men of Galilee,' they said, `why do you stand here looking up at the skies? This Jesus Who has been taken from you will return, just as you saw Him go up into the heavens.'" (Acts 1:11)
After the Ascension of our dear Lord Jesus, we have to believe that the big factor, that which gave them confidence to go back to the upper room, and wait and pray, was Mary. She was with them. She held them together. She was at the Ascension, and she went back with them and prayed with them for that first novena, that nine day period, knowing that if her Son said it, it would happen. She was their link with Jesus. If she stayed, for sure they were not dreaming; Jesus would send His Holy Spirit. They weren't quite sure what was going to happen when the Holy Spirit came. They knew they were supposed to go out to all the world, but how was that going to happen? They were fishermen. Jesus was the preacher; they were not. True, Peter had a big mouth; and John was a lovable person. Neither one was dynamic enough to have drawn a crowd on his own. But Mary was there. She lent credibility to everything. She made it right!
We were giving a talk at a CCD Conference. We made the statement: with our limited knowledge of the Saints (as there are thousands), we have never read of one who went directly to Jesus; they all went to Jesus through Mary.
Well, this young man, a catechist, called me aside. He said, Bible tucked under his arm, ready for battle, "Well, I guess you don't know much about Holy Scripture." I conceded, probably not as much as he, but what was his problem? He said that the Apostles did not go through Mary, but went directly to Jesus. Now, he was playing in my court. Maybe I didn't know chapter and verse, but I knew the relationship between a mother and her child, between the Mother and her Son Jesus. Now, I was hot! "Are you telling me," I countered, "that our Lord Jesus was so cruel, He left His Mother behind for no reason?" If the Apostles and disciples did not need Mother Mary to represent her Son, to give them the strength and the courage to live for Christ and to later die for Him martyrs' deaths, why did Jesus not take her up with Him when He ascended? Why did He wait almost twenty years (according to City of God) to assume her into Heaven?
The Day of Pentecost and the Descent of the Holy Spirit
"When the day of Pentecost came, it found them gathered in one place. Suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like a strong, driving wind which was heard all through the house where they were seated. Tongues as of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamations as the Spirit prompted them."(Acts 2:1-4)
The Apostles were so filled with the Holy Spirit, they began speaking in foreign tongues. They ran down, into the streets. Jews from different parts of the world were in Jerusalem that day. They heard the commotion. At first, they thought the Apostles were drunk. But then everybody could understand what they were saying, although all the Jews spoke different languages. Peter was on fire. He was the first to speak. He captivated them with his words and his zeal. He couldn't say anything wrong. On that day, Peter and the apostles baptized 3,000 people. From there it accelerated; it went on and on. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they followed Jesus' mandate, fulfilling His prophecy:
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down upon you; then you are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes even to the ends of the earth."(Acts 1:8) Every day became a new Pentecost.
The rest of the Acts of the Apostles is dedicated to just that one work of the Apostles, their witnessing to the ends of the earth, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Fear and indecision had left them. Power surged through them. They went on to spend the rest of their lives as zealots in the service of the Lord. The Church as we know it today exists because of that explosion of power provided by the Holy Spirit. It was so strong it became contagious. The charismatic gifts of The Third Person of the Holy Trinity shot out from one to the other to the other, and on and on until disciples were running to the four corners of the earth, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. Before you know it, Paul got into the picture. He carried the torch of the Holy Spirit into Asia, then to Europe, Greece, and finally to the center of the world of that time, Rome.
But the gift was not just for that time, or for those people. If it were for any time in the history of our Church, it's for us, now! We read it right there in Scripture. In that same chapter of Acts, where we read of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, in the very next section, Peter's Discourse, our first Pope addresses us, the Church of the final days, quoting from the Prophet Joel:
"It shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
that I will pour out a portion of my spirit
on all mankind;
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions
and your old men shall dream dreams.
I will work wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below;
blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of that
great and glorious day of the Lord.
Then shall everyone be saved
who calls on the name of the Lord." (Acts 2:17-21)
St. Louis Marie de Montfort, one of Mary's heroes, a Marian prophet of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, and one of the most powerful advocates of Mary's place in the Church and in the world, had this to say about the role of the Holy Spirit through Our Lady in these last days.
"....towards the end of the world, ....Almighty God and His holy Mother are to raise up saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs." (True Devotion to Mary #47)
"These great souls filled with grace and zeal will be chosen to oppose the enemies of God who are raging on all sides. They will be exceptionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Illumined by her light, strengthened by her spirit, supported by her arms, sheltered under her protection, they will fight with one hand and build with the other. With one hand they will give battle, overthrowing and crushing heretics and their heresies, schismatics and their schisms, idolaters and their idolatries, sinners and their wickedness. With the other hand they will build the temple of the true Solomon and the mystical city of God, namely, the Blessed Virgin... " (True Devotion to Mary #48)
"They will be like thunder-clouds flying through the air at the slightest breath of the Holy Spirit. Attached to nothing, surprised at nothing, they will shower down the rain of God's word and of eternal life. They will thunder against sin; they will storm against the world; they will strike down the devil and his followers and for life and for death, they will pierce through and through with the two-edged sword of God's word all those against whom they are sent by Almighty God." (True Devotion to Mary #57)
"They will be true apostles of the latter times to whom the Lord of Hosts will give eloquence and strength to work wonders and carry off glorious spoils from His enemies. They will sleep without gold or silver and, more important still, without concern in the midst of other priests, ecclesiastics and clerics. Yet they will have the silver wings of the dove enabling them to go wherever the Holy Spirit calls them, filled as they are, with the resolve to seek the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Wherever they preach, they will leave behind them nothing but the gold of love, which is the fulfillment of the whole law. (True Devotion to Mary #58)
"They will have the two-edged sword of the Word of God in their mouths and the blood-stained standard of the Cross on their shoulders. They will carry the crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart. (True Devotion to Mary #59)
"Mary scarcely appeared in the first coming of Christ... But in the second coming of Jesus Christ, Mary must be known and openly revealed by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus may be known, loved and served through her." (True Devotion to Mary #49)
Father Harold Cohen has been appealing to the people of God since we have known him, over six years, to ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He understands the value of the power of the Spirit. Now more than ever, he sees the need for us to have that Power on our side. The enemy has too much power. The ironic part of this is that we can have that Power. The scales can be balanced so easily. It's up to us. We all wail and moan that Satan is taking over the world, and that's true. But what nobody will come to terms with is, the reason that's happening is, we're allowing it. We're not taking advantage of that gift of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. That strong driving wind, those tongues of fire, that fearlessness, that zealous nature is ours for the asking. But we have to ask!
Our Lady said to us at the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in Paris in 1830, "But come to the foot of the altar. Great graces will be poured out on those who ask for them." The key words here are, "those who ask for them!" When Catherine Laboure‚ asked Mary why rays were not coming from all her fingers, she answered, "These are graces which people have not asked for."
Father Cohen tells us that when he was a child, his first words were not Mamma or Daddy; they were "more". He still wants more, more Holy Spirit. We're not equating Father Cohen with St. Louis Marie de Montfort, but then again, why not? We're all called to be Saints of these last days. What about you? Are you a powerful saint of these last days? Ask for more. Ask for the Holy Spirit!
Meditations on the Rosary