Blog Note: The following is a Pentecost sermon given by Archbishop Lefebvre. It initially appeared in the May, 1989 issue of The Angelus. We offer it here not only for its soundness of doctrine and beauty of devotion, but also because it becomes clear that the Holy Ghost seeks to give the graces of Pentecost, His own sevenfold gifts, by means of Tradition.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My very dear friends, my very dear brethren,
The Acts of the Apostles reports for us these words of our Lord, spoken before His Ascension, on the diffusion of the Holy Ghost whom He is about to send to His apostles:
Ioannes Baptista baptizavit vos aquae. John the Baptist baptized you with water. I will send you, after some days, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Baptizabimini in Spiritu Sancto.
These words recall, moreover, what our Lord Himself said to Nicodemus:
Nisi quis renatus fuerit ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto, non potest introire in Regnum Dei…unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Thus the apostles, who have been baptized by John the Baptist, are now going to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Now the Acts of the Apostles manifests what more the effects of this baptism of the Holy Ghost has in the souls of the Apostles. There was a radical change; a total renovation.
Some time before the Ascension of our Lord the apostles asked Him, “When are You going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?” Their occupations are still terrestrial. They think only of a kingdom of this world. They have not understood why our Lord has come. And our Lord reproaches them for their hardness of heart.
And so there was this extraordinary event which was the descent of the Holy Ghost. (There were, according to the Acts of the Apostles, some 120 there surrounding the Blessed Virgin.) He made them understand that what mattered was not a kingdom of earth: it was the kingdom of heaven.
Their faith, their hope, and their charity grew. And under the influence of the light of the Holy Ghost, they understood what was the object of their faith, what was the object of their hope, and what was the object of their charity: it was our Lord Jesus Christ. And from now on we shall see them preaching our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no longer anything but that which counts for them.
When Saint Peter was speaking to the assembled faithful, to the assembled Jews, they asked him, “What must we do?” “Do penance and be baptized!” And they baptized 5,000. And so this renovation of which the apostles were the object is also going to be that of the faithful who are going to be baptized. And little by little this fire shall be spread throughout the entire world.
And, as for us, we also have received our Pentecost. Our Pentecost was our baptism. And it can truly be said of most of us that we were baptized as children some days after we were born. We have not become sufficiently aware perhaps, of the extraordinary thing which has happened to us. We also have had our baptism. We also have been baptized with the Holy Ghost and our souls have been transformed even as were those of the apostles. It is the same Spirit! There are not two Holy Ghosts! There is only one! The Holy Ghost Who descended upon the apostles is the One Who descended upon our souls on the day we were baptized.
We must become aware of this transformation which was brought about in our souls in order to come to its aid so that we do not stifle it, so that we do not bring sorrow to the Holy Ghost, so that we do not prevent Him from acting within us, and so that we may see the same effects in us as were produced in the apostles after Pentecost.
To live for Jesus, that our Lord Jesus Christ may be truly, and at the same time, the object of our faith, the object of our hope, and the object of our charity. And we must ascertain, in effect, that if we are truly Christian, that is, attached to our Lord Jesus Christ, our whole life becomes transformed. Our lives have an entirely different meaning from those of the pagans whose hope is only in this earth.
Faith! Faith in the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; faith in His coming amongst us upon earth. That is, moreover, all that the gospel teaches us. Our Lord repeats it often enough. St. John and St. Paul say it likewise without ceasing: we must believe, believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. He who believes shall be saved: he who does not believe shall be condemned.
And our Lord, speaking to Nicodemus, adds these important words, “He who does not believe is already judged.” “I have not come to judge the world but to save it”, said our Lord to Nicodemus, “but he who does not believe is already judged”. Terrible! To be judged, judged for eternity! If only they might at least be converted and believe.
It is therefore faith which is at the root of our renovation; which is the first effect that is produced in our souls by the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of our baptism. And besides, what did we ask for on the day of our baptism? We asked from the Church; the faith. Well, this grace of the Holy Ghost has given us back the faith. We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are Christians. And that, once again, has an influence upon all our daily actions. We put ourselves under the law which our Lord Jesus Christ has given us; the law of love.
Love God and love your neighbor. For our Lord has taught us that the whole decalogue is resumed in these two precepts: love God and love your neighbor.
And this love transforms families. It transforms society. It has made pagan society into Christian society, this mutual love, this love, this respect for others, this desire to do good to others. To do them good, that is to bring to them our Lord Jesus Christ; to help them to better imitate our Lord Jesus Christ in their lives, for that is true love. True love causes souls to be brought to God. It puts us in the atmosphere of the descent of the Holy Ghost, of this fire of love which must fill our souls.
And I insist not only upon faith but also upon hope; a virtue too much forgotten. Now it is the virtue of the pilgrim. We are pilgrims. If our faith teaches us the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, hope makes us hope and desire to be united to Him for eternity, to enter into the glory of the Blessed Trinity through our Lord Jesus Christ and in our Lord Jesus Christ. And that is no small thing.
If we lived more in hope we would not fear death. Many fear death, have a horror of death. Whereas death is really a deliverance, when our souls (this is why they were created) go towards eternal happiness. Let us compare our souls to caterpillars which are enclosed in their cocoons, and which gently, very gently, prepare to fly away. The caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly which flies away towards the sun. Well, it is a little bit like that for us here below. We are like the caterpillars. But one day, though our bodies will be inanimate, our souls will fly towards the good Lord, towards the Eternal Sun, towards God Who is Eternal Light.
That is our life. That is why we were made. So, if we have hope, death will not frighten us, and, on the contrary, we will desire it as St. Paul desired it. “Copio disolvi et esse cum Christo”, said St. Paul. “I desire to leave my body and to be with Christ.” And how many holy souls have also desired this moment to go and join God in eternity, to join our Lord! We must live according to this hope.
And we must likewise live according to charity. Already now, we can enjoy God through the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ within us by the presence of His Spirit within us. We must enjoy the presence of God within us. And particularly through the sacraments, which maintain the presence of Our Lord within us, and especially the Holy Eucharist. That is the result of Pentecost.
It is a source of consolation which the pagans do not know, and that is why we must desire to be missionaries and want to spread around us the good news of the coming of our Lord amongst us; to want to communicate His Spirit through the sacrament of baptism to all souls who surround us, to all souls whom we know and who are still far away from our Lord Jesus Christ.
That is the missionary spirit of the Church. That was the missionary spirit of the apostles. See how they went out to cross the world, twelve apostles, a tiny and insignificant little group. They brought the fire of love to the four corners of the world. They transformed the world. That should also be our thought, our desire.
But, as you know well, we are today living through a drama. This faith, this hope, and this charity are decreasing and seem about to disappear inside the Church and in Christian surroundings. Many no longer believe in the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many abandon their faith, their religious practice, and join the sects which do not believe in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is apostasy, an apostasy which is becoming more and more general! They are joining that immense group of those who do not have the faith and who are already judged by God, by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Now all that is most painful and we must not console ourselves concerning this situation. That is why we must, more than ever, do penance and pray for the conversion of souls.
You, my very dear brethren, you have taken the resolution to keep the Catholic faith. And you ask “how?” in this atmosphere which is sometimes even quite close to you. In your families even, you see these people who abandon their religious practice and who seem to no longer have the faith. Instead of allowing yourselves to be tempted by this bad example you have taken the resolution to maintain your faith.
And how have you been able to maintain your faith? What was the means which seemed to you right for maintaining the Catholic faith, to remain Christian? It was Tradition!
You wanted to imitate your parents, you grandparents, and your great-grandparents. Our parents acted in such a way that they were able to keep the faith. They kept the faith! They died in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. You want to do as they did. And consequently, you want to maintain what they have achieved, what the Church has taught them, what they have practiced, what the holy priests have taught them, what the holy bishops have taught them. And you are right!
It is thus that you maintain your families in the Catholic faith. It is a great grace in the middle of this universal disarray, as it can be called in reality. So we must make the resolution to maintain this tradition. And you, my very dear friends, it is you who are going to be, and indeed already are, the instruments of this permanence of tradition.
You have found this tradition here in your seminary. You have found it in your studies. You develop your Catholic Faith through the studying which you do here. You can consult all the older books in your library, the books of the Fathers. You can consult that which was the faith in past centuries and imitate that faith. You can read the lives of saints: how the saints acted, these saints who were the models of adhesion to the divinity of Christ and of receptivity to the Holy Ghost Whom they received. And you try thus to follow our ancestors who listened to and maintained the traditional teaching of the Church, and who put the Christian virtues into practice.
And so, strengthened by these examples, strengthened by this tradition, you are going, with the grace of the good Lord, to be clothed in the grace of the priesthood; also an effect of this Pentecost, an effect of the coming of the Holy Ghost.
You will have noticed that all ceremonies of ordination make allusion to the grace of the Holy Ghost descending upon you in a more particular manner, yesterday, during the ordinations to the diaconate. Well, you will be the instruments of the maintaining of the Catholic faith, the instruments of the maintaining of hope and the instruments of the maintaining of charity. Thus, you will maintain what was called Christian civilization, Christianity! Without you, if there are no longer going to be these heroes who manifest the teaching of our Lord, who manifest this hope, this diffusion of the Holy Ghost in the world, how will Christian families maintain the faith? It is impossible!
That is why we deeply desire to be able to give you successors in the episcopate; so that they may keep you, maintain you, in this Catholic faith, that they may maintain you in this hope, that they may maintain you in this charity, in order to be able to continue the witness which was given by the apostles after Pentecost; to not allow the grace of the Holy Ghost to be stifled; to not have it reduced to nothing. For it is easy, in an environment like that in which our Christians live in the world, to lose the faith, to abandon the faith, if they do not have, through your mediation, through your help, the graces of which they have need in order to keep the Catholic faith, their hope and their charity. For these are souls who are in danger of becoming coarsened amongst the ranks of those who live as if they no longer believed.
So let us ask the good Lord to make it possible for tradition to continue. That is what we have always asked of Rome, to let us carry out the experiment of tradition. Give us the means to continue with tradition in order to maintain this Pentecost, the true Pentecost, the Pentecost which has been given to us by the sacraments, by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, for the Church; so that we may be able to maintain it. That is what we are asking without cease of Rome.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary in this month of May, in the remembrances of our Lady of Fatima, bring us to this goal, and insure that the Catholic faith, along with hope and charity, may be maintained in souls.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
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A thorough book review by Dr. Wolfgang Koch.
About Dr. Koch: After his studies in Physics and Mathematics, Wolfgang Koch graduated with a PhD degree in Theoretical Physics at Aachen Technical University (RWTH) and a habilitation degree at the University of Bonn in Computer Science. He is head of a research department the Fraunhofer Society, Professor for Computer Science at Bonn University, Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Distinguished Lecturer, and active in the Board of Governors of the IEEE, Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society and the International Society of Information Fusion.