10th June, 2019

Pentecost Homily


Please see below Fr Gabriel's Homily for Pentecost.

In the creed we say the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy and undivided Trinity is the ‘Lord, the giver of life’. All the three Persons of the Trinity can be, and are, described as ‘Lord’, though as it is said in what is known as the Athanasian creed the indivisibility and undivided nature of the Trinity is such that there are not three Lords, but one Lord.

The Holy Spirit is the one whose coming upon the disciples and those gathered in the Upper Room in the form of tongues of fire, we celebrate today on the feast of Pentecost, he who is the Lord, the giver of life.

Last Wednesday morning at 8.45 in ‘Prayer during the Day’ the monastic community, a small band of brothers, in the temporary chapel of Bolton House, which we have occupied for the past eighteen months, as part of regular routine, sang among other psalms, Psalm 126. The first line of this psalm goes thus ‘If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour’.

Now why should I mention something so routine, and no doubt apparently so random as this? Well a day for small things perhaps, but the significance of this Prayer during the Day, last Wednesday, is that it was the last formal prayer of the monastic community in its temporary home. By Vespers on Wednesday we had moved back to celebrating our daily round of prayer in this Abbey Church, from which we have been in temporary and partial exile. We are very fortunate indeed, and it is thanks to very generous donors and to the hard work of several professional teams, that after two centuries of hard use, we now have a refurbished monastery to which to move back. May it be for the flourishing of this monastic community, which of course in its deepest reality is not a building, important though this is, but a band of brothers. And as we prepared to move back we sang, just in the regular routine ‘If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour’.

We depend in our lives, all of us, on God’s will and on God’s grace, on God the Holy Spirit and on his gift of life. The house the Lord builds for us is ultimately the house of our lives and of our hearts, it is the building of an eternal dwelling. This is true for us as a monastic community, it is true for all of you. I think and pray today particularly for those of you who will be leaving school this term for the last time, after however long spent here, and who now face with great hope your future and indeed your destiny.

May the Lord, the giver of life indeed build the house of your lives. May you move into it in faith, with hope, in love. Of course there will be sorrows, challenges, disappointments for you. There are going to be all of these too for the monastic community. But it can always be that in this house which the Lord, the Holy Spirit, builds for you, that you live joyfully, albeit at times a deeper joy lived amid a crown of thorns.

From where can come this joy, a joy experienced amid a crown of thorns? In today’s second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says that the Spirit has made his home in you and that this enables you to pray, to cry out indeed, Jesus’ own prayer which begins in a most intimate form of address ‘Abba Father’. In the difficulties we all face it can only be through an ever deepening and renewed prayer that we find this deeper joy. I, like most of you, am not so sure that I am always so good at praying, but this prayer, ‘from the depths’ is in fact the prayer deeper than words that the Holy Spirit alone can pray in us.

In today’s gospel Jesus says ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him’. And he says that he will do this in the power of another Advocate, of the Holy Spirit, who will be with us for ever. God so wills it, he so creates us, that there is room in us for him. May we in our lives be open to the house that God the Holy Trinity wills to build and that he alone can build in us and in which today he wills to dwell.