Our Lord told his Apostles that after he had returned to heaven, he would send them the Holy Spirit.
In his divine nature, Jesus is, with the Father, the principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and to souls is a priceless gift, since this Spirit is Divine Love in person. But this gift, like every grace, was merited for us by Jesus. It is the fruit of his passion. He purchased it by the sufferings he endured in his sacred humanity.
Was it not therefore just that this grace should not be given to the world until that humanity, whereby it had been merited, had been glorified? This exaltation of the humanity in Jesus was not accomplished in its fullness, nor did it reach its fruition until the day of the Ascension.
Glory of heaven
It was only then that the sacred humanity entered definitively into possession of the glory to which it is doubly entitled as being united to the Son of God, and as a victim offered to the Father thereby to merit every grace for souls.
Seated at the right hand of the Father in the glory of heaven, the humanity of the Incarnate Word was to be thus associated with the "sending" of the Holy Spirit by the Father and Son.
We now understand the reason Our Lord himself said to his Apostles: "It is expedient to you that I go; for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you, but if I go I will send him to you." It is as if he said: I have merited this grace for you by my passion; in order that it may be given you, it is first of all necessary that my passion should be followed by my glory.
The Fathers of the Church add another reason which relates to the disciples.
One day Jesus promised that living water should spring up in those that believed in him. St John the Evangelist, in relating this promise, adds: "Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive, who believed in him: for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
Faith was therefore the source, so to speak, of the coming of the Holy Spirit in us. Now as long as Christ Jesus lived upon earth, the faith of the disciples was imperfect. It would only be entire, it could only unfold in all fullness when the Ascension had taken the human presence of their divine master from their sight.
"Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed," said Jesus to Thomas after the resurrection, "blessed are they that have not seen and have believed!"
"After the Ascension, the faith of the disciples, better instructed, went further and higher to seek Christ sitting near to the Father and equal to the Father."
It is because the Apostles' faith, after the Ascension, had become purer, more interior, more intense, more efficacious, that the "river of living water" sprang up in them with such impetuosity.
We know, indeed, how magnificently Jesus fulfilled his divine promise, how ten days after the Ascension, the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, descended upon the Apostles assembled in the Cenacle, with what abundance of graces and charismata this Spirit of truth and love was poured forth in the souls of the disciples.
Dom Columba Marmion (1858-1923), abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Maredsous, Belgium, was born in Ireland. He is recognised as one of the great spiritual writers of the 20th century and will be beatified in September this year.
This Pentecost reflection is taken from Marmion's 'Christ in His Mysteries' (1919).