I wanted to share two quotes with as we finished Day 2 of our 9 Day Novena to the Holy Spirit through prayer and fasting.
One of my favorite Sunday scripture commentaries is from Dr. Brant Pitre, who is the Distinguished Research Professor of Scripture at The Augustine Institute. His commentary this week for The Ascension of the Lord ends by looking at what the disciples did for those nine days between Ascension and Pentecost. Like the early apostles, we are doing the very same thing.
“In order to prepare for Pentecost, I want to go back to that first verse. You will notice that it said in Acts 1 that the ascension took place 40 days after Easter. Now as we are moving into the celebration of Pentecost, I want to point something out before we get there. Namely this, when we look at Pentecost, the word Pentecost is going to mean 50 — or 50th ethnically — so the 50th day Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 57, 2 2 10 after Passover. So, the question becomes what were the apostles doing between the Ascension on the 40th day and Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, on the 50th day? Well if you look at Acts 1:12 and 14 it tells us that “they returned from Jerusalem to the mount called Olives” and it says “all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” So what happened in the nine days between the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit? The Apostles devoted themselves to nine days of prayer, day 41 all the way through the day 49, and then on the 50th day the Holy Spirit descends. I bring this up because this is the biblical route, or the biblical foundation, for the custom of praying a novena — especially the very venerable novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for the feast of Pentecost. Sometimes people will ask, “where does this idea of praying for nine days come from? It sounds kind of superstitious that if you pray for nine days there will be this special outpouring of grace.” Well it is actually not superstitious; it is imitation of the apostles. It is biblical. It is modeling ourselves on the apostles, who after the Ascension go back to Jerusalem, spend nine days in intense prayer, and on the 10th day, after they finish those nine days of prayer, they receive the great grace of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.”
The second quote is from Blessed Elena Guerra –
“Pentecost is not over. In fact it is continually going on in every time and in every place, because the Holy Spirit desired to give himself to all men and all who want him can always receive him, so we do not have to envy the apostles and the first believers; we only have to dispose ourselves like them to receive him well, and He will come to us as he did to them”.
I would encourage you to read this week about Blessed Elena Guerra.
Blessed Elena Guerra (1835-1914). This Italian nun wrote 12 confidential letters to Pope Leo XIII asking him to encourage greater devotion to the Holy Spirit among Catholics. The Pope responded by writing an encyclical on the Holy Spirit (Dividum Illus Munus in 1897). He also wrote a private letter to bishops around the world prescribing that a Novena to the Holy Spirit be prayed before the beginning of the 20th Century.
God Bless – Fr. Mark