God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Epistle: Acts 2:1-11 The Gospel: John 14:15-31
Pentecost or Whit Sunday is a major festival of the Church of God, following after the Feasts of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the celebration of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the exalted Christ, to the Church of God on earth. It is "White-Sunday" because of the historic connection in the West of holy Baptism on this day and being vested in white robes.
Not only should we pray this Collect before reading the Epistle and Gospel in Divine Service but also privately after reading them.
The Collect, addressed to the Father of the only-begotten Son, begins with the people of God recalling the Event recorded in Acts 2, the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples to bring heavenly light, inspiration, guidance and power to them, so that they could go into the whole world to preach the Gospel. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, as he promised in the Gospel (John 14), has ascended: and the Father has sent in his Name and for his sake the Gift of his Spirit to be unto the disciples and in the Church the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Comforter and Counselor of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Spirit comes to the heart, the biblical word for the very center of human thinking and feeling and willing.
The earnest petition is that, indwelt by the same Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Christ, we today as the people of God will have spiritual insight, discernment and judgment in all things – in worship, in prayer, in reading the Scriptures, in evangelism, in pastoral and social work and so on. For only as our hearts are aligned with the will of God and the mission of Christ in the world are we able to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4) as the Spirit witnesses with our inner spirits that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16). We are to walk “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:31).
Here “the heart” is to be seen as the center of the human being, that which makes him to be a person created in the image of God, even though sinful. The entering of the Spirit of the Lord into the human heart is his entering into the emotions/affections, the mind and the will. In his natural state, because a sinner, man’s mind is clouded so that he cannot see spiritual truth aright, his emotions are disordered so that he cannot love God aright and his will is in bondage to sinful intentions. The Holy Ghost finds a way to regenerate, renew, re-order, enlighten and sanctify the heart so that the emotions are rightly ordered, the mind is able to think God’s thoughts and the will is empowered to do the divine will. Of course this does not happen all at once, but the Spirit of God is patient! And he works in different people in different ways according to their make-up and his wisdom.
The petition made by the Church today is that this one and the same Holy Ghost do for us what he did for the Church on that Day of Pentecost. We pray for a right judgment – for a sound mind, ordered affections and an obedient will – not occasionally but always and in all things. Sanctification is for all space and time! We also pray that, because the Comforter dwells within our hearts (see John 14-16), we shall rejoice always in God and in his salvation, as we know the strengthening and comforting of the indwelling Spirit of God. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
Few of us doubt but that our churches know too much formality, human activity and pride and thus too little of the presence, power, teaching and light, that the Holy Ghost is seeking to make our possession by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is available to us not only at Whitsuntide but also throughout the whole Year.
The Collect ends with a doxology which both celebrates the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, as Saviour and that of the Holy Ghost as the One who is the Unity of Love in the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity. So we are prepared to contemplate and adore the same TRINITY as we move to Trinity Sunday in a week’s time.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge