The Archbishop Speaks

Sermon of Archbishop Lefebvre

Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X
on the Feast of Pentecost, 1978

at Ecône,

Translated by Bernard Hall


My dear brethren,

The Feast of Pentecost is always a moving occasion, demonstrating as it does the intervention in a most unique way of the Holy Ghost in the world. The Church teaches us that all things have been created by the Holy Ghost: Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur - Send forth thy Spirit and all shall be created. And it was, in fact, through this Spirit that the earth was created: Genesis itself contains an allusion to the Holy Ghost at the moment of the world's creation, this being the first occasion on which the Holy Ghost intervenes in the world. The second intervention is at the conception of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary: et repleta est Spiritu Sancto - she was filled with the Holy Ghost, and through His operation she became the Mother of God.

The Feast of Pentecost is nothing other than the third intervention of the Holy Ghost in the world; in this real manner, this visible and living manner, the Holy Ghost establishes the Esslesia - the Church. Even during the period immediately preceding the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, the Gospel shows that they still had not understood, and that even after the forty days they had spent with Our Blessed Lord after His Resurrection, they still doubted. What is more, on the eve of His Ascension, after having spent three years in His company, they asked Him: "When are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" - in other words, when will You be the temporal King of this nation so that it may rule the world? This is how the Apostles were still thinking: their ideas were still steeped in the splendors and glories of this world. They were still, in fact, worldly men with their thoughts concentrated on this life.

This makes the event of Pentecost, forty days after Our Lord's Resurrection, all the more remarkable because it enables the Apostles, finally, to understand; at last they comprehend the mystery of Hall Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is as if the heavens are opened to them and, like St. Stephen at the moment of his martyrdom, they see Our Blessed Lord sitting at the right hand of the Father. The man they had known and touched, as says St. John the Apostle, the man they had spoken and conversed with for the last three years: this same man was God! The Son of God, the Word of God! And Our Lord had promised them: Accipietis Spiritum Sanctum et eritis mihi testes in Judea, et ain Samaria, et usque in ultimum terrae - You shall be my witnesses here in Judea, in Samaria and unto the ends of the earth. And now the promise of Jesus is fulfilled. The Apostles become the witnesses of Jesus Christ; such was, in fact, the immediate effect of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them: et coeperunt loqui - they began to speak. But what did they say? Coeperunt loqui loquentes magnalia Dei, it says in the Epistle we read today - loquentes magnalia Dei. Understanding now the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, finally convinced that He is the Son of God, the Word of God, that He has returned to the glory of the Father, they cannot keep themselves from singing the praise of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the praises of God, the great things that God has achieved: magnalia Dei -  the great achievements of God, of which they are at last convinced. And this is why they begin to preach; they speak in tongues, tongues which all the listeners can understand, many different tongues. They are accused of being drunk, but Peter, speaking out, denies this. They preach Our Lord Jesus Christ: "Now we are telling you, all you Jews listening," (and there was certainly a considerable number, since after St. Peter had finished preaching, three thousand people were baptized - there must, therefore, have been many thousands listening to him) - "now we are telling you that the man you refused was the Christ, you crucified Him. And this Christ whom you have crucified is risen from the dead, He is alive, and only through Him can you be saved." Many of those listening ask questions, and the Evangelist tells us compuncti sunt corde - their spirits were broken; they were shattered to realize that the Man they had refused to accept, the Man they had crucified was God, the God of Israel, the Messiah who had been promised to them! This was the Christ, the promised Savior, and they had crucified Him! And in the Acts of the Apostles it says: Compuncti sunt corde - and they beat their breasts saying "What are we going to do? What is to become of us? What have we done? What can we do now?" they ask the Apostles, "What must we do?" "Repent, be sorry for your sins, be baptized in remission of your sins, and you will be filled with the Holy Ghost." And so three thousand people were baptized and received the Holy Ghost.

The Acts of the Apostles continues with the magnificent and extraordinary events which follow, and which demonstrate once more the determination of the Apostles to preach Our Blessed Lord. These words, my dear brethren, you should read again and again, you who are destined to preach Our Lord Jesus Christ; you should often read this moving account so that you too may be filled with the Holy Ghost - as I hope you are and will be even more at the moment of your ordination. You will have to preach Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is said of these three thousand newly-baptized that afterwards they persevered in doctrina, in fractione panic et in orationibus. This is an image of the Seminary! It is your own Seminary! In doctrina - that is, that you learn doctrine: you are gathered here to learn who is Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God, to learn of all the benefits He has given us, so that you in turn will be able to preach the Gospel in doctrina.

In fractione panis - the breaking of bread - is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. So we have the doctrine and the Mass . . . .and isn’t this exactly what you do here! Your Seminary, therefore, is nothing other than the continuation of what the first Christians did. How much this thought should comfort you! How it should make you realize the importance of your Seminary! The effect of the Holy Ghost on the first Christians was to gather ­them into a seminary, nothing more, nothing less. And they sold their belongings to live in community. By this, Our Lord shows us that the Holy Ghost detaches us from worldly goods.

But the story of the first acts of the Apostles has still not finished. St. Peter and St. John, meeting a lame beggar by the gates of the temple, and not having any money to give him, cured him instead: in nomine Domini Jesu Christi surge et ambula - in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ arise and walk. And the whole of Jerusalem is thrown into turmoil by the news of this miraculous cure. The Apostles are surrounded by people wondering how it is possible. They all know the sick beggar who has been at the gates of the city for as many as thirty years - and here he is walking! They surround the Apostles asking how they did it, how can it be possible. And Peter replies: if we have been able to do this it is by the power and virtue of Our Lord Jesus Christ whom you refused and crucified. And they the priests, the pharisees and scribes, learning this, rush to seize the Apostles Peter and John - the first persecutions against the Name of Jesus! They lock them up, and then the next day before the assembly of all the priests of Jerusalem, all the scribes and pharisees, everyone - Annas, Caiphas and the rest of them who took part in the crucifixion of Our Lord - they demand of the Apostles Peter and John: "Tell us by what power you cured this sick man?" Which gave St. Peter a good opportunity to reaffirm what he had said before, namely, that they had cured him "in the Name of Jesus Christ, who is now seated at the right hand of the Father, the Man you crucified and who is risen from the dead!" And they were amazed to hear the Apostles speak with such assurance, says the Acts of the Apostles, these men who were sine litteris et idiotae! That is exactly the term used in Acts - they were men uneducated, uncultured, et idiotae - that is to say, common men without understanding.

And so the priests were amazed to see the force and vigor with which these men spoke; in the face of such assurance plus the man standing cured beside them, they could find nothing to say. So they had a secret meeting to decide what they should do. These men were not converted, they did not strike their breasts in repentance asking the Apostles what they must do. Instead, they called the Apostles and charged them not to speak in the Name of Jesus. "Do what you want, only don't speak any more about Jesus!" And here is the difference between the Jewish converts - the Jews well disposed towards Our Lord, who ask the Apostles what they must do, and who are converted - and those other Jews who resist, who want nothing to do with the Name of Jesus Christ. Here are the predecessors of all those who for the next twenty centuries would deny and persecute Our Lord Jesus Christ, who would not want even to hear Him spoken about. And we are living at a time when Our Lord Jesus Christ is particularly denied, not only by the enemies of the Church, but from within the very Church itself. They have infiltrated the Church and now deny Our Lord Jesus Christ; they no longer want His Kingdom.

The Apostles left the chief priests, without promising, of course, to do what they had been commanded - on the contrary, the Acts of the Apostles relate how they go back to the Christians and more than ever loquebantur cum fiducia Verbum Dei! They spoke the Word of God with even more power and confidence than before. Such was the beginning of Christianity, these were the effects of the Holy Ghost. And the Holy Ghost is as much alive at this moment as He was then, and of that there is no doubt. Our Sacraments give us the Holy Ghost now as He was given at the time of the Apostles. But do we receive Him in the same manner? Are we really disposed to receive Him in abundance? Are we ready to preach and be witnesses of Our Lord Jesus Christ? And what form will this witness take? Words? Yes, we just all preach Our Lord Jesus Christ, especially you, my dear seminarians, who are destined for this in a particular way, obviously. But we must preach first and foremost by example - out of love for Our Blessed Lord, as it says in the Gospel we read today. It is our love for Jesus Christ which shows our faith in Him; and this love is shown quite simply by the realization of our mission, our vocation.

And if there is one day above all others when we should feel this missionary spirit, it is the day of Pentecost Sunday. The Holy Ghost is sent by God, and He in turn sends the Apostles - He sends us all: from our birth we all have a mission to fulfill in this world, no matter how modest and insignificant it might seem! In the eyes of God our mission is always important - there is no such thing as a mission without importance. From the moment we have a soul our mission is important because it is spiritual, because we can sing to God in our hearts, we can thank God in our hearts; throughout the day amidst all our worldly duties we can be in a constant state of thanksgiving in union with Our Lord, accomplishing His commandments: "If you love Me," says Our Lord, "you will keep My commandments." And therefore, if on one hand we must have this attachment to the will of God fulfilling our duties, we must also have a great dread of sin, because if there is one thing opposed to our mission, to the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Holy Ghost, it is sin. Consequently, we must drive out our sins so as to be filled with the Holy Ghost, with the love of God and Our Blessed Lord. This is what the Holy Ghost inspires us to do. Let us, therefore, be worthy successors of those who received Him in abundance, and of those who gave their every drop of blood to witness their faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. After the Apostles how many generations of saints and martyrs are there whom we do not know? How many millions of souls have there been who merely fulfilled their duty, who loved Our Lord and were united to Him all their lives? We are the successors of these souls.

Today, we must make the resolution to act so as to bring about the Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the grace of the Holy Ghost, it is His will that we may realize the reign of Our Lord within us, within our families, within society. Let us promise Our Lord to work for this kingdom. There is a small example of this in Holy Scripture, a small example but of great significance, mentioned during the forty days Our Lord was present with His Apostles after His Resurrection: what He said then must have been of great importance as you can imagine - the Apostles were ready to found the Church, Our Lord was leaving them in a few more days! The last words of Our Lord, therefore, must have been extremely important. What did Our Lord speak to them about? De Regno Dei. About the Kingdom of God. That is all, so simple and yet so complete; everything is contained in these two words. And for us, too, the sole thing we should love, the sole thing we should desire is the Kingdom of God. May this Kingdom come within us, may it come around us on earth, as it is in heaven, as we say in the "Our Father."

Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary; Pope Plus XII reaffirming what the early Fathers had already said, reminded us that it was through Our Blessed Lady that the grace of the Holy Ghost came to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; she was already filled with the Holy Ghost and so she could not receive Him any more abundantly than she already had. Therefore, it was not the Blessed Virgin Mary who was the object of the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, but it was through her prayer and through her suffering united to that of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that the Apostles received the Holy Ghost. Let us, therefore, ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Heavenly Mother, full of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, to communicate to us these gifts in abundance.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Courtesy of the Angelus Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109

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