The following is a reflection on today’s feast of Pentecost shared with our community by one of our sisters

In reflecting on the Readings for Pentecost Sunday I found myself praying the Alleluia Verse throughout the week:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; and kindle in them the fire of your love.

In Mary’s life, in Dominic’s life, in Catherine’s life, in Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s life, in the life of the Apostles and in our lives it is love that counts – a love that the Holy Spirit sets alight in our hearts so that it becomes a fire. A recent book on Mother Teresa by Joseph Langford, is entitled Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire. Oh that we could all have such a fire of love within our hearts. To pray this prayer ‘Come Holy Spirit ….. is a prayer directed at everyone – it is outward looking to include every person on earth and is exclusive of no one. It is a beautiful prayer because one could not pray for anything greater for anyone.

I have been re-reading the little booklet entitled The Contemplative Life by Fr. Anselm Moynihan OP. His words seemed to help me understand how the Holy Spirit could kindle in me and in all of us the fire of His love within the context of our contemplative life and of course always with the aid of Our Lady’s presence and prayer. Fr. Anselm says:

‘Contemplation, is the great work, in fact, the only one, which is directly concerned with God Himself, and directly expresses our love for Him. The reasons for this are, firstly, that it is only by the spiritual operations of our mind and will, such as contemplation brings into action, that we can contact God directly, and, secondly, because the first effect of the true love of God is to make us desire to gaze upon His Beauty, to contemplate Him imperfectly in this life and perfectly in the life to come. Therefore, to give oneself in contemplation of God is the primary and most authentic expression of divine love, the most genuine “work of charity”. “Through loving God,” writes St.Thomas, we are aflame to gaze upon His Beauty,” and again: “Contemplation is in itself the most meritorious of all possible works of charity and so, apart from the Sacraments, the most efficacious means of growing in the love of God.”

To realise this is a great encouragement for us in our vocation as Contemplatives and I think it was providential that I came across this writing of Fr. Anselm’s at this time when Sr. Niamh is about to make solemn profession and also at a time in the Church in Ireland when things are so difficult and our life of redemptive love is so vital. Fr. Anselm had a deep understanding of our life and could express it’s essence in a way that few could or can. He also wrote;

‘The contemplative life is truly par excellence the vocation of love, that which gives the highest expression to our love for God and at the same time provides the greatest stimulus to the increase of that love. That is why it is so vital to the Church, for it nourishes the very heart of the Church, the life-spring of all its work of bearing witness to God’s glory and saving the souls.’

It is good to be reminded of this and that our vocation is Love –as St. Therese of Lisieux expounded so fully. Fr. Anselm’s definition of contemplation is also helpful and in the following he explains the action and effect of the Holy Spirit in contemplation. This is how he defines it:

‘The supernatural contemplation of a Christian means a fixing of the mind’s loving gaze on God and the things of God. In some degree it is within the power of all who possess the virtues of faith and charity, but for its perfection it requires the special illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, acting through the gift of wisdom. The effect of this gift is to give the soul a certain experiential knowledge of God’s reality and goodness, as a result of which, writes St. Thomas, “it offers itself in sacrifice to God” and “ burns with the desire of seeing His Beauty face to face.”

We know too from her writings that Mother Teresa experienced this effect of the gift of wisdom for she had this yearning, this burning desire for God even amid her great interior darkness. We also know how she depended so much on our Blessed Mother’s help for her mission, begging Mary to lend to her and her sisters, her own heart, so that they could truly be enabled to satiate Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls.

Fr. Langford’s reflections and insights regarding Mary were very profound. I quote the following:

‘It is Mary’s role and her dignity to bring together the yearning of God and man, as she did first of all in her womb, as she did for John on Calvary, and as she did for the disciples at Pentecost, as she did for Mother Teresa and as she will do for each of us. She is the wedding place of God and man, the biblical “enclosed garden” ( Song of Songs 4:12), the new Eden to welcome and shelter our meeting with God.”

‘Mary’s presence remains forever a graced place of encounter between us and her Son, Jesus. She brings with her a sacred atmosphere filled with God’s presence, offering a refuge that purifies and prepares us for the encounter with God.’

We know that at the Visitation, at the coming of Mary, there was a new and fuller outpouring of the Holy Spirit, giving Elizabeth new energy and new hope for her task.

May we also, through Mary’s prayer and presence experience a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us as individuals and as a community so that we may persevere in our vocation in the Order and at the heart of the Church – to the glory of God and the sanctification and salvation of all people.

And so we pray as in the opening prayer for today’s Eucharist:
God our Father, let the Spirit you sent on your Church to begin the teaching of the gospel continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.