‘When the Holy Spirit has come upon you’:
A lockdown liturgy for Christian Pentecost in 2020
Lockdown is easing in many places and in some countries the church buildings are re-opening even if we cannot really gather in them and rejoice as the People of God
So many of us will have to celebrate Pentecost as, fifty days ago, we celebrated Easter: with a home liturgy.
This notion of a liturgy in one’s home seems strange – liturgy always seems to imply a big, highly organized affair with a ritual specialist leading the community – but it is worth recalling that Luke when he tells his story of the disciples celebrating Pentecost imagines it taking place in a house in Jerusalem.
For us, the disciples of Jesus, this feast celebrates the gift of the Spirit who enables us to see God’s presence in our world, to recognize that Jesus is the Christ, to call God our Father in the midst of the Church, and testify to God’s goodness. Without the Spirit, Christianity would be just one more ideology rather than a network of relationships: each being a sister or a brother, and all children of God.
So how can we celebrate today? We use images and symbols to help us contemplate and pray, so use an image today. Have you a world map on a wall or a globe? If not, see above.
Begin with an introduction like this:
Today is Pentecost and, for us Christians, this feast is about the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and the hearts of all humanity.
Now spend a few moments in reflection on this silent, unseen presence of God.
Look at all the countries on the map or globe and imagine all the millions and millions of people – men, women, young, old, poor, rich, happy, sad, religious, not-religious … . There is no end to human variety: think of the languages you can name … and there are thousands more and no two people speak their language in exactly the same way.
Yet the Spirit is active, somehow, in each and every human heart.
We may seek to acknowledge this – and it is hard enough for most of us to acknowledge it – but for most people this presence goes un-noticed. But just as the Spirit hovers over the creation, so the Spirit draws, silently, each person towards the light. So begin the liturgy by reflecting on this diversity and, if you are in lockdown with others, encourage them to think about the diversity of the human family.
After you have spent a couple of minutes in this reflection – perhaps taking about it and expressing how hard it is to believe that the Spirit is present in every human heart – read this passage or ask someone to read it:
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked:
“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
The word of the Lord.
Paul told the Romans that ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.’ So let us pray in silence for all who are in need.
Conclude by saying:
Father in heaven,
For fifty days we have celebrated the fullness of the mystery of your revealed love.
See your people gathered here in prayer, open to receive the Spirit’s flame.
May it come to rest in our hearts and disperse the divisions of word and tongue.
With one voice and one song may we praise your name in joy and thanksgiving.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
When it is time to eat, use a grace like this:
We bless you Father for this food and all your gifts, but especially today we thank you for the gift of your Spirit in our hearts who intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Alleluia!
And then when the meal is over and it is time to clear up;
We bless and thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for the joy that your Spirit brings us in our lives and for the joy we have had in eating this food and sharing this meal. May you be praised for ever, through Jesus the Lord. Alleluia!
Pentecost was and is a great Jewish feast celebrating God’s gifts, it took on a new significance among the followers of Jesus as the moment to recall the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of truth who guides us into all the truth (Jn 16:13). With this feast, Eastertide ends! Alleluia!