Category Archives: Prayers for Ascension and Pentecost



Holy Spirit,
on the first Pentecost,
through Your inspiration many were transformed,
becoming adopted children of God
and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
They were animated by the love of God
that is poured into us
by You, Holy Spirit,
who are given to us.
Enlighten the minds of unbelievers,
incline their wills to accept the Good News,
and prompt them to be obedient
to the Teachers of the Church
about whom Christ said:
‘He who hears you hears Me;
he who rejects you rejects Me’ (Lk 10:16).
Teach them how to pray
and prepare their minds and hearts
for Your coming into their souls.





Now Christ, ascending whence he came,

Had mounted o’er the starry frame,

The Holy Spirit on man below,

The Father’s promise, to bestow.


The solemn time was drawing nigh,

Replete with heav’nly mystery,

On seven days’ sevenfold circles borne,

That first and blessed Whitsun-morn.


When the third hour shone all around,

Then came a rushing mighty sound,

And told the apostles, while in prayer,

That, as promised, God was there.


Forth from the Father’s light it came,

That beautiful and kindly Flame:

To fill with fervour of the Word

The spirits faithful to their Lord.


With joy the Apostles’ breasts are fired,

By God the Holy Spirit inspired:

And straight, in divers kinds of speech,

The wondrous works of God they preach.


To men of every race they speak,

Alike Barbarian, Roman, Greek:

From the same lips, with awe and fear,

All men their native accents hear.


But Juda’s sons, e’en faithless yet,

With mad infuriate rage beset,

To mock Christ’s followers combine,

As drunken all with new-made wine.


When lo! with signs and mighty deeds,

Stands Peter in the midst, and pleads;

Confounding their malignant lie

By Joel’s ancient prophecy.


To God the Father let us sing,

To God the Son, our risen King,

And equally let us adore

The Spirit, God forevermore.



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This joyful day, with gladness fraught,

Again the circling year hath brought,

When bright o’er each apostle’s head,

The Spirit Paraclete was shed.


On each the fire, descending, stood

In quivering tongue’s similitude,

That eloquent their speech might be,

And fervent they in charity.


In varying tongues their God they praise;

The Gentiles listen in amaze:

Men mock, as if new wine had fired

The breasts God’s Spirit had inspired.


‘This here the mystic figures meet;

The fifty days are now complete,

The sacred number, which set free

The debtor, at the Jubilee.


O God of love, before thee now

Thy flock in supplication bow;

On us from heaven, in plenteous store,

The graces of thy Spirit pour.


And as their breasts, this festaltide,

By thy sweet gifts were sanctified;

Do thou, O Lord, our sins forgive,

And grant us thy peace to live.


To God the Father let us sing,

To God the Son, our risen King,

And equally let us adore

The Spirit, God forevermore.



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And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered upon the face of the whole earth.
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.


“It would be easy to show that the Tower of Babel story reproduces in part legends about Babel, or Babylon, the most famous capital of the time, with its brick buildings and its strange, unfinished-looking towers. The biblical author retains an ambiguous expression from these pagan legends: the gods were afraid of the arrogance of humans who were threatening them in their celestial dwellings.

God has given us the mission to occupy the land and make it fruitful. People often prefer their own security to being creative.

The great projects for which the legitimate rights of millions of slaves have been lightly sacrificed remain unfinished. Resentment and oppression have contributed to irreparable divisions for the following generations or the next century.

God alone can bring us together: the first promise to Abraham was that he would gather all the nations around his offspring (Gen 12:3).
When the Holy Spirit would come into the hearts of believers on Pentecost (Acts 2), he would enable them to understand one another in the unique language of love. One people: this will be the Church.

While the sinful work alone and develop an oppressive and sterile male-centred culture, the believer builds through intercommunication and communion in the same Spirit (Eph 2:14-22).”



“St Luke places the account of the event of Pentecost that we heard in the First Reading in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The chapter is introduced by the words: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Ac 2:1). These words refer to the previous setting in which Luke described the small company of disciples that had gathered perseveringly in Jerusalem after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven (cf. Ac 1:12-14). It is a description rich in detail: the place “where they were staying” – the Cenacle – was an “Upper Room”, the 11 Apostles are listed by name and the first three are Peter, John and James, the “pillars” of the community; mentioned with them are “the women” and “Mary the Mother of Jesus”, and “his brethren”, already an integral part of his new family, no longer based on blood ties but on faith in Christ.


The total number of people which was “about a hundred and twenty”, a multiple of the “Twelve” of the Apostolic College, alludes to this “new Israel”. The group constitutes an authentic “qlhll”, an “assembly” in accordance with the model of the First Covenant, the community summoned to listen to the Lord’s voice and to walk in his ways. The Acts of the Apostles stresses that “all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (1:14). Prayer, therefore, is the principle activity of the nascent Church through which she receives her unity from the Lord and let’s herself be guided by his will, as shown by the decision to cast lots in order to elect the one who would take Judas’ place (cf. Ac 1:26).


This community was gathered in the same place, the Upper Room, on the morning of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, the feast of the Covenant which commemorated the Sinai event, when God, through Moses, proposed that Israel be his own possession among all peoples to be a sign of his holiness (cf. Ex 19). According to the Book of Exodus, that ancient pact was accompanied by a terrifying manifestation of power by the Lord when we read: “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Ex 19:18). We find elements of wind and fire in the Pentecost of the New Testament, but untainted by fear. The fire specifically took the form of tongues of flame which settled on each one of the disciples who “were all filled with the Holy Spirit” and through the effect of this outpouring “began to speak in other tongues” (Ac 2:4). It was a true and proper “baptism” of fire of the community, a sort of new creation. At Pentecost, the Church was not established by human will but by the power of God’s Spirit. And it is immediately clear how this Spirit gives life to a community which is at the same time one and universal, thereby overcoming the curse of Babel (cf. Gn 11:7-9). Indeed, it is only the Holy Spirit who creates unity in love and in reciprocal acceptance of diversity which can free humanity from the constant temptation to acquire earthly power that seeks to dominate and standardize all things.


“Societas Spiritus”, a society of the Spirit, is what St Augustine calls the Church in one of his homilies (71, 19, 32: PL 38, 462). However, prior to him St Irenaeus had already formulated a truth which I would like to recall here: “Where the Church is, there is also God’s Spirit; where God’s Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace; and the Spirit is the truth; to distance oneself from the Church is to reject the Spirit”, and thus “exclude oneself from life” (Adversus Haereses III, 24, 1). Beginning with the event of Pentecost this union between Christ’s Spirit and his Mystical Body, in other words the Church, was fully manifest. I would like to reflect on a particular aspect of the Holy Spirit’s action, that is, the manner in which multiplicity and unity are interwoven. The Second Reading speaks of this, addressing the harmony of the different charisms in the communion of the same Spirit. But already in Acts we heard the account of this interweaving which is revealed with extraordinary clarity. In the event of Pentecost it becomes clear that many languages and different cultures are part of the Church; in faith they can be understood and make one another fruitful. St Luke aims unambiguously to convey a fundamental idea, which is, that the very act of the Church’s birth is already “catholic” or universal. From the outset the Church speaks in all languages, because the Gospel entrusted to her is destined for all peoples, according to the will and mandate of the Risen Christ (cf. Mt 28:19). The Church which is born at Pentecost is not primarily a particular Community – the Church of Jerusalem – but the universal Church, which speaks the languages of all peoples. From her other communities were to be born in every part of the world, particular Churches which are all and always actualizations of the one and only Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is therefore not a federation of Churches but a single reality: the universal Church has ontological priority. A community which was not catholic in this sense would not even be a Church.


In this regard, it is necessary to add another aspect: that of the theological vision of the Acts of the Apostles concerning the journey to Rome of the Church of Jerusalem. Among the peoples represented in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, Luke also mentions “visitors from Rome” (Ac 2:10). At that time Rome was still distant, “foreign” to the newborn Church: it was a symbol of the pagan world in general. But the power of the Holy Spirit was to guide the footsteps of the witnesses “to the end of the earth” (Ac 1:8), even to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles ends precisely when St Paul, through a providential plan, reaches the capital of the Empire and proclaims the Gospel there (cf. Ac 28:30-31). Thus the journey of the Word of God which began in Jerusalem reached its destination, because Rome represents the entire world and therefore embodies Luke’s idea of catholicity. The universal Church is brought into being, the Catholic Church, which is the extension of the Chosen People and makes its history and mission her own.

At this point, and to conclude , John’s Gospel offers a word that harmonized very well with the mystery of the Church created by the Spirit. The word that came twice from the lips of the Risen Jesus when he appeared among his disciples in the Upper Room on the evening of Easter Day: ‘Shalom’ – “peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19, 21). The expression “shalom” is not a mere greeting; it is far more: it is the gift of peace promised (cf. Jn 14:27) and won by Jesus at the price of his blood, it is the fruit of his victory in the battle against the spirit of evil. Thus, it is a peace “not as the world gives” but as God alone can give it.


On this feast of the Spirit and the Church, let us thank God for having given to his people, chosen and formed in the midst of peoples, the precious good of peace, of HIS peace! At the same time, let us renew the awareness of the responsibility that is connected with this gift: the Church’s responsibility to be, constitutionally, a sign and instrument of God’s peace for all peoples. I sought to pass on this message recently by going to the Headquarters of the United Nations Organization in order to address my words to the representatives of the peoples. However, we must not only think of these events “at the summit”. The Church carries out her service to Christ’s peace above all in the ordinary presence and action among men and women, with the preaching of the Gospel and the signs of love and mercy that accompany it (cf. Mk 16:20).

Of course, among these signs it is mainly the Sacrament of Reconciliation that should be emphasized. The Risen Christ instituted it at the very moment he gave the disciples his peace and his Spirit. As we heard in the Gospel passage, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). How important and, unfortunately, insufficiently understood is the gift of Reconciliation which sets the heart at rest! Christ’s peace is only spread through the renewed hearts of reconciled men and women who have made themselves servants of justice, ready to spread the peace in the world with the force of truth alone, without descending to compromises with the world’s mentality because the world cannot give Christ’s peace: this is how the Church can be the leaven of that reconciliation which comes from God. She can only be so if she remains docile to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if she carries the Cross like Jesus and with Jesus. The saints of every epoch witness precisely to this!

In the light of this word of life, dear brothers and sisters, may the prayer we are raising to God in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary become ever more fervent and intense. May the Virgin of listening, the Mother of the Church, obtain for our communities and for all Christians a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. “Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae – Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be recreated, and you shall renew the face of the earth”. Amen.”
– His Holiness Benedict XVI, Vatican Basilica Sunday, 11th May 2008



O Lord Jesus, I adore You, Son of Mary, my Saviour and my Brother, for You are God. I follow You in my thoughts, O firstfruits of our race, as I hope one day by Your grace to follow You in my person into heavenly glory. In the meantime, do not let me neglect the earthly task that You have given me. Let me labour diligently all my life with a greater appreciation for the present. Let me realize that only by accomplishing true human fulfilment can I attain Divine fulfilment and ascend to You at the completion of my work.



O Lord, Your Ascension into heaven marks the culmination of the Paschal Mystery, and it contains an important teaching for us. We may live life as an earthly reality and develop our human potential to its fullest. We may make use of the results of science to achieve a better life on this planet. But in our best moments we know that there must be more than all of this, a transcending Reality. As Christians, we know that this Reality is Your loving Father Who awaits us with You and the Holy Spirit. Where You have gone, we ultimately will come – if we are faithful.