On Thursday, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, in which Jesus departs from our universe in His glorified Body in order to receive the glory of Heaven which is fitting to His risen splendor. On Friday, the Church then begins her oldest novena – the prayer for the Holy Spirit to descend upon her at Pentecost. The first to pray the novena to the Holy Spirit were the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, surrounding the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother. Ever since that first period of supplication and vigilance in expectation of the Holy Spirit’s sending by the Father and the Son, the Church has instinctively marked the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost as a privileged time for prayer for the Holy Spirit.
Every Catholic will wisely pray some form of the novena to the Holy Spirit from Friday, May 30, until Saturday, June 7. In this time, he will be joined to that first Holy Gathering in Jerusalem, especially united with the Apostles and with Mary. Our union with the Apostles teaches us that we are not left alone in our weakness, that God will provide for us all the power and strength that we need from on high to fulfill the vocation to which He is calling us. God chose to the highest office in His Church – the supreme office of Apostle – men who were sinful and weak and unsuited in human terms to accomplishing the initial spread of His Holy Church. The sending of the Spirit made the Apostles strong and courageous and wise and ready to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The Apostles were transformed by the Power from on high, clothed with holiness, and made ready for their vocation to die for the Lord. Inspired by their example, we make our novena to the Holy Spirit in a great spirit of trust, asking for all the graces that we need to accomplish the Lord’s holy will in our lives. Our union with Blessed Mary in our novena is especially beautiful in that the novena begins when we are still in her special month of May. In our daily Rosary, we enter into the Heart of Mary, where she teaches us to pray and to love and forms Christ in our souls. As we join her in our novena to the Holy Spirit, we learn to trust in her powerful intercession as Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate. We go to Mary instinctively, as a frightened child runs into the arms of his mother. We find in her a safe and nourishing place to be kept free from sin and to await the powerful help of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles and disciples gathered around Mary represents for us the basic dynamic of the Church. The Gospel is preached and lived by all of those called to holiness only through the blessed intercession of the Mother of the Church, who makes fruitful the preaching of the Apostles and the lives of the disciples. In this way, she shows herself truly to be the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Wherever He finds Mary in a soul, He becomes fruitful in that soul. This is Pentecost. As we make our novena to Him, we unite ourselves with her, so that He may find her in us, and make us fruitful unto our own salvation and the salvation of the whole world.
Fr. Joseph Previtali