Editor’s note: Today, we introduce you, our readers, to Dr. Peter Howard, a professor with the Avila Institute and an expert on Mariology and Venerable Fulton Sheen. Please welcome him warmly!
It is often the case that, after the Easter season, there is a spiritual let-down as we sigh and return to “Ordinary Time”. However, the great line up of major feast days immediately following Pentecost are in no way “ordinary”. They are, on the contrary, extra-ordinary because they serve as a spiritual compass for the Church as she turns her attention to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world.
Let’s look at this more closely because the Church is speaking to us and teaching us through it’s liturgical calendar – as the classic saying goes: lex orandi, lex credendi (as the Church prays, so She believes). Immediately following Pentecost, the Church turns her attention to the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, followed by the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and then the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. During these weeks we also find the movable feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. What is the Holy Spirit telling us by having these feasts immediately after Pentecost? Certainly more than a short blog entry can communicate. But we can, however, illuminate the intrinsic connection between all these feasts for the Church who sets out from Pentecost and enters what all recent popes have called a “new evangelization.”
The first Sunday after Pentecost is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Here, we focus on what the Christian life is all about – from whom we have come and to whom we seek communion. All Christian life begins with Baptism conferred “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It reveals not only that God is a communion of Persons in Love, but also how God acts toward His creation. The Father begets His Son, Who is sent to the world born of Mary, Who then prolongs and extends His presence by the power of His Holy Spirit, Who works with Mary, His inseparable Spouse, to bring Christ to the world. This is how God comes to us and, therefore, this is His blueprint revealing how He desires us to come back to Him. The entirety of the Church’s interior and apostolic life is oriented toward this mystery.
We then turn our attention to the mystery of the Eucharist with the solemnity of Corpus Christi. As the Church goes out to evangelize, Jesus reminds her: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). Is our Christian life one that truly centers on the Eucharist, revolves around it and flows from it? Remember Jesus’ first word to His disciples was “Come” – “Come to me . . .” It was only after they had drawn close to the Lord for three years and then received Him in the sacrament of the Eucharist that Jesus gives His final word, “Go!” – “Go into the world and teach all that I have commanded you, baptizing them . . .” The new evangelization must begin by drawing close to Our Eucharistic Lord.
The Church then celebrated the feasts wherein lies the full revelation of God’s love and mercy for His people – the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is really a union of two hearts that we celebrate, for Jesus’ Sacred Heart was fashioned from the Immaculate Heart of His Mother. It was equally Her heart that was pierced on the Cross and, therefore, her blood that flowed from Christ’s side which nourishes the Church. The mystery of Christ and Redemption is inextricably bound up in the mystery of the union of these two Hearts, so much, that at Fatima, Mary revealed that consecration to Her Immaculate Heart would be the great refuge for the Church during our troubling times.
Lastly, the Church turns our attention to Saints Peter and Paul, who represent the universal mission of evangelization and the authority under which that evangelization must be submitted. St. Paul’s humble submission to the authority of Peter is the example for all Christians who wish to be effective in spreading the Gospel. Without obedience to the Successor of St. Peter and the Magisterium of the Church, our interior life becomes nothing less than egocentric as we lose our connection to Christ Himself Who preserves unity in His Church through His Vicar. As the Prophet Samuel reminds us in his strong rebuke of King Saul: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice . . . . For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
Therefore, these feasts speak to every Christian pointing out who we truly are, where we are truly going and the narrow path that gets us there. This narrow path is characterized by a spiritual and apostolic life centered on the Eucharist, consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary and lived in humble, filial obedience to the Church who is both our loving Mother and Teacher (alma Mater et Magister).
Art: Dr. Peter Howard photograph used with permission. Holy Spirit Detail from “Chair of Saint Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica”, 03 05 2008, Sergey Smirnov, CCA-SA; Detail from The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ Son of God Gathering and Protecting Mankind, Frans Floris, 1562, PD, CC; modified detail Last Supper, Jaume Huguet, circa 1470, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; The picture depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus on an early 20th century painting (the painter is unknown). It is exhibited in the Greek Catholic Cathedral of Hajdudorog, Hungary. This painting decorates the Western wall of the Northern side-nave, undated, photographed by jojojoe, 26 April 2010, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; Vitrail représentant le Cœur immaculé de Marie, église Saint-Capraise, Saint-Capraise-de-Lalinde, Dordogne, France [Stained Glass Window representing the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint Capraise Church, Saint Capraise of Lalinde, Dordogne, France], 8 March 2012, Père Igor, own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; Saint Peter and Saint Paul, from 1560 until 1600, El Greco, PD-US; all Wikimedia Commons.