Jesus has ascended, and so we come to this fantastical event: Pentecost. It’s where the Apostles seem to “come into their own,” so to speak, as apostles and as leaders of this new Christian community. Not only do tongues of fire miraculously come down and rest on their heads, and not only do they begin to speak in all manners of foreign tongues they had never known before, but their entire disposition is changed. Suddenly they are no longer the ones who do not understand. Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, which has now come. By the Holy Spirit, they now understand, and are ready to go forth as Christ has instructed them to in the Great Commission.
We see this dramatic change which has just taken place in Peter’s address to the crowd, where he begins to teach the crowd how this is the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel foretold, to teach them who this man they had just put to death truly was, and calls them to believe. He ties the entirety of the Old Testament into his address, helping the crowd to understand that all of history was leading to this moment. And all of history is now changed by this one man, Jesus, and this one resurrection and ascension.
This is the crucial point of Pentecost. It’s the moment when we realize that Jesus is truly the Lord of History (which is what Guardini names chapter seven here). All of history was leading to this man, preparing the way for the arrival of God made flesh. And now begins the new history, a history in which not only the message and teaching of Christ will be proclaimed, but also a history in which the Holy Spirit lives and moves within us and the Christ’s Church. The Paraclete is the one who enables us to have faith at all, as we read yesterday, but He is also the one who enables us to carry out Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The Apostles waited for this Paraclete, and how He has arrived, and thus they are made ready, not by their own power or will, but by the working of the Holy Spirit.
“Something infinitely significant has happened. On Pentecost faith was born, and with it Christian existence. Consciousness of a life grounded in Christ, its beginning and end, opened people’s eyes. The Christians looked about them, reviewing the past, not only that of individuals but in the collective form of human history; they recognized themselves as part of that history and claimed it for their own.”
-Romano Guardini ("The Lord")
And this new history, too, will come to an end. Jesus stands in the middle of history, between the Old and the New, but once again he will return to stand between history itself and the eternal. With the Second Coming, he closes the book on history and the faithful are welcomed into the perfect fulfillment that can only come in eternity—that is, in the New Creation.
Man has always sought to be more than he is, even in simple ways like starting a new job or adopting a new exercise regime. But man will only ever find disappointment and failure in that endeavor—he will only ever ultimately remain as he is. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, man experiences the true renewal that only comes through union with Christ. True movement toward this fulfillment of our being that we desire is suddenly made possible in Christ through the Spirit. One day, by grace, we will experience that ultimate fulfillment and stand united to Christ in eternity. But in the meantime, the Spirit is here to help us on that path and to be the one who helps us cling to Christ. The Spirit is here to constantly renew us, to sanctify us, and to enable us to carry out the Great Commission until that time when Jesus arrives again.
Every day of Lent, I am writing a reflection piece on two chapters of "The Lord" by Romano Guardini. If you'd like to read or follow along, you can find the full calendar of where we're at below, or Click Here for the main landing page.