June 20, 2021

Homily on Pentecost (St. Gregory the Dialogist)

Homily 30

June 3, 591

Pronounced before the people
in the Basilica of Blessed Peter the apostle in Rome,
on the day of Pentecost

By St. Gregory the Dialogist

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and we will make him our dwelling place. He who does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you have heard is not of me, but of the Father who sent me. I have told you these things as long as I live with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and he will remind you all that I have said to you. I leave you peace, I give you my peace. I do not give it to you as the world gives it. Let not your heart be troubled; that he is not afraid. You have heard that I said to you, I am going away, and I am coming to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than me. And now I told you these things before they arrived, so that when they came, you would believe. I will not talk much more with you, for here comes the prince of this world, and he has nothing in me [which belongs to him]. But it is so that the world knows that I love the Father, and that I act according to the command that the Father has given me."

It pleases us, dear brothers, to pass quickly on the words of the Gospel that have been read to us, in order to be able to give more time then to the consideration of such a great solemnity. It is today, indeed, that the Holy Spirit suddenly came noisily upon the disciples, and that he changed the minds of these carnal beings, making them all love for him. And while tongues of fire appeared outside, their hearts within became a flame, because receiving God in the form of this apparent fire, they began to burn with a very sweet love (Acts 2:1). It is that the Holy Spirit himself is love. So John declares, "God is love" (1 John 4:16). He who desires God with all his mind, therefore, has, without doubt, the one he loves; indeed, no one could love God if he did not have in him the one he loves.

But if you ask every one of you whether he loves God, you answer, full of confidence and self-confidence, "I love him." Now, at the very beginning of this reading, you have heard that affirm the Truth: "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word." Love is therefore proved by the works that manifest it. Hence the word of John in his Epistle: "He that saith, I love God, but keep not his commandments, is a liar" (1 Jn 2:4). For we truly love God only if we strive to follow His commandments by restricting ourselves to our pleasures. It is indeed very evident that he who is still lost in forbidden desires does not like God, since his will is opposed to him.

2. "And my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and we will make him our dwelling place." Measure, dear brothers, what a feast it is to lodge God in his heart! If a rich and powerful friend entered your house, you would clean it up in haste, so that nothing could strike the eyes of the friend who enters. So that he who prepares for God a dwelling in his soul, blot out the defilements of his evil deeds.

But see what the Truth declares: "We will come, and we will dwell in him." It happens that God comes into the hearts of some without dwelling there, when these people, touched by compunction, are visited by the thought of God, but forget in the time of temptation that they were first touched with compunction, and return to their ancient faults as if they had not wept. But whoever truly loves God and keeps his commandments, the Lord comes into his heart and dwells in it, for the love of God penetrates him so much that he does not depart from it in the time of temptation. He, therefore, really loves, who does not allow himself to be dominated by the delectation of sin to the point of consenting to it. In fact, the more we take pleasure in what is low, and the further we get away from the love from above. Hence the rest of the text: "He who does not love me does not keep my words."

Go back to yourselves, dear brethren, and inquire whether you really love God; that no one, however, accepts the answer of his soul if he can not join the testimony of his works. To verify that one loves his Creator, it is his language, his thought and his life that must be questioned. The love of God is never idle. If it exists, it operates great things; but if he does not want to do anything, it's not love.

"And the word that you have heard is not of me, but of the Father who sent me." You know, dear brothers, that the one who speaks, the only begotten Son of God, is himself the Father's Word. and for this reason the words spoken by the Son are not of the Son, but of the Father, because the Son is himself the Word of the Father.

"I have told you these things, as long as I dwell with you." When would he cease to dwell with them, he who, on the point of ascending to Heaven, made this promise: "Behold, I am with you all? the days until the consummation of the ages "(Matt. 28:20). But the Incarnate Word remains and goes at once; he goes away by his body, he remains by his divinity. He declares, therefore, to have remained with the disciples until then, since if he was ever present by his invisible power, he was now going away from their fleshly eyes.

3. "But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and he will remind you all that I have spoken to you." Many of you know, my brethren, that the Greek word "Paraclete" means in Latin "Defender" or "Comforter".

If he is called Defender, it is because he intercedes with the Father's justice for lost sinners. It is said that this consubstantial Spirit to the Father and to the Son prays for sinners, because he makes those whom he has invaded pray. Hence the word of Paul: "The Spirit Himself begs us for ineffable groans" (Rom. 8:26). But the supplicant is less than he who is supplicated; how then can one say that the Spirit begs, when it is not inferior? Well, the Spirit begs in the sense that those whom it has invaded, it incites them ardently to beg.

This Spirit is also called Comforter, because by placing in the hope of forgiveness those who are sorry for having sinned, he relieves their soul of an overwhelming sadness.

We are rightly promised him: "He will teach you all things." For if this Spirit is not present in the heart of the listener, the word of the doctor is useless. Let no one attribute to the man who teaches it what the mouth of this teacher makes him understand: if there is anyone to teach us inside, it is in vain that the language the doctor works outside. See, you all hear a single voice speaking to you in the same way, and yet you do not understand the meaning of that voice you hear. Since the voice is the same for all, how to explain that the intelligence of this voice is not the same in the heart of each of you, if not because of the existence of this inner Master who teaches some of in a very personal way, in order to give them the intelligence of the words of exhortation which are addressed to all in a general way? From this anointing of the Spirit, John again says, "Just as his anointing teaches you about all things" (1 Jn. 2:27). It is therefore that the voice does not instruct if the soul does not receive the anointing of the Spirit. But why speak of the teaching of men, when the Creator himself can not instruct man by words without speaking to him also by the anointing of the Spirit? Before committing his fratricide, Cain heard, "You have sinned, stop" (Gen 4:7, from the Septuagint). But because of his faults, the anointing of the Spirit did not accompany the voice that warned him, he could hear the words of God, but he did not care to put them into practice.

We still have to ask ourselves why we are told of this Spirit: "He will remind you everything", whereas remembering is usually proper to an inferior. But from the fact that we sometimes use subministrare to suggest, when we say that the Invisible Spirit reminds us [everything], we do not mean that it brings us the science of low, but the science of what is hidden.

"I leave you my peace, I give you my peace." Here, I leave it; to those who reach [there], I give it.

4. Behold, dear brethren, that we have quickly explained the words of the sacred text; Now let's move on to the contemplation of such a big party. And since, with the reading of the Gospel, you have also made the Acts of the Apostles, let us draw something to nourish our contemplation.

You have heard, indeed, that the Holy Spirit appeared above the disciples in the form of tongues of fire and gave them knowledge of all languages. What did this miracle mean, except that the Holy Church, filled with this Spirit, was going to speak the language of all peoples? Those who tried to build a tower to oppose God lost community and unity of language, while [at Pentecost] it was in favor of those humbled by a humble fear of God. unity of all languages; here, humility has thus obtained the prodigy; there, pride has produced confusion.

5. We must look for why the Holy Spirit, co-eternal with the Father and the Son, appeared in the form of fire; why both in the form of fire and tongues; why he showed himself sometimes in the form of a dove (cf Lk. 3:21-22), and sometimes in the form of fire; why he appeared on the only-begotten Son in the form of a dove, and on the disciples in the form of fire, so that he did not come upon the Lord in the form of fire, nor upon the disciples in the form of of a dove. Let us return to these four questions that we have just asked.

a) If the co-eternal Spirit to the Father and to the Son was in the form of fire, it is because God is an incorporeal fire, ineffable and invisible, as Paul testifies: "Our God is a consuming fire. "(Heb. 12:29). God is called fire, because through him the rust of sins is consumed. It is from this fire that the Truth declares: "I have come to cast fire on the earth, and what do I want, except that it light up?" (Lk. 12:49). It is the earthly hearts that are designated by the earth, because always piling up in them very low thoughts, they are trampled by the evil spirits. But the Lord sets fire to the earth when, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, it inflames the hearts of carnal men. And the earth lights up when a carnal heart, all cooled in its bad pleasures, abandons the concupiscences of this century and ignites of love for God. It is, therefore, fitting that the Spirit has appeared in the form of fire, since it expels the cold numbness of all the hearts that it invades, and that it kindles in them the desire of its eternity.

b) It is in the form of tongues of fire that the Spirit has been shown, because this Spirit is co-eternal with the Son, that nothing is closer to the word than the tongue, and that the Son is the Word. from father. Thus, the substance of the Spirit and the Word [the Word] being one, this Spirit had to make itself visible in the form of tongues. Or again, as it is through language that the word is formed, the Spirit has appeared in the form of tongues because whoever is touched by the Holy Spirit confesses the one who is the Word of God, that is, to say the only Son; and he can not deny the Word of God when he already possesses the tongue of the Holy Spirit. Or again, the Spirit has appeared in the form of tongues of fire because it both burns and speaks to all those who have invaded.

Doctors have tongues of fire, for when they preach to love God, they inflame the hearts of their hearers. Vain, indeed, is the word of him who teaches, if it can not provoke the burning of love. This conflagration of doctrine, they had seen in them flow from the very mouth of Truth, the disciples who said: "Was not our heart all burning within us while he spoke on the way and explained the scriptures to us? "(Lk 24:32). The soul ignites the word it hears, its cold torpor leaves it; in his desire of Heaven, the mind no longer knows rest, and it makes itself stranger to earthly concupiscence. The true love that filled this soul torments her to tears; but this one, tormented with such ardor, feeds on her own torments. She likes to listen to the teachings of Heaven, and the commandments of which she is instructed are like so many torches that ignite her. She, once apathetic in her desires, now burns words [heard]. Hence the word of Moses, rightly here: "In his right hand is a law of fire" (Deut. 33:2). If the left designates the reprobate, who must one day be placed on the left, the right of God is the name of the elect. In the right hand of God, therefore, is a law of fire, since the elect do not hear the commandments of Heaven with a cold heart, but they are inflamed for them with torches of inner love. The word reaches their ears, and their angry spirit against itself is consumed with a sweet inner flame.

c) The Holy Spirit has shown himself sometimes in the form of a dove, sometimes in the form of fire, because he makes simple and ardent all those whom he has invaded: simple by innocence, ardent by fervor. For neither simplicity without zeal, nor zeal without simplicity can please God. The truth in person says on this subject: "Be careful as serpents and as simple as doves" (Matt. 10:16). It must be noted here that the Lord did not wish to propose as a model to his disciples the dove without the serpent, nor the serpent without the dove, wanting at the same time that the cunning of the serpent illuminates the simplicity of the dove, and that the simplicity of the dove moderates the cunning of the serpent. Paul says on this subject: "Do not be children in the relation of judgment ..." Here we have just heard the prudence of the serpent; let us now exhort the simplicity of the dove: "... but for malice, be like little children" (1 Cor 14:20). In the same sense, it is written about Blessed Job: "He was a simple and upright man" (Job 1:1). What is righteousness without simplicity, or simplicity without righteousness? Since the Spirit teaches us at once righteousness and simplicity, he must therefore appear himself, and in the form of fire, and in the form of a dove, so that every heart touched by his grace was at the same time a time pacified by the sweetness of his goodness and inflamed by the zeal of his justice.

6. d) Finally, we must ask ourselves why it is in the form of a dove that the Spirit appeared on our Redeemer, mediator between God and men, and in the form of fire on the disciples.

The only Son of God is the Judge of the human race. But who could bear his justice if he wanted to put all the rigor of his zeal to examine our faults, before having brought us back to him by his gentleness? Made man for men, he was therefore gentle with men. He did not want to strike the sinners, but to bring them back to him. He wanted to begin by correcting them with kindness, to have then to save during the judgment. It is therefore in the form of a dove that the Spirit should appear on him who did not come then to strike sins with rigor, but to bear them still more gently. On the disciples, on the contrary, the Holy Spirit was to be in the form of fire, so that those who were mere men, and therefore sinners, would be inflamed against themselves with the ardor of the Spirit and punish themselves by the penance of sins that God, in his goodness, forgave them. Even those who adhered to the divine teaching could not be without sin, as John affirms, saying, "If we say that we are without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn. 1:8). He came then to the men in the form of fire, while he appeared on the Lord in the form of a dove, because our sins, which in his sweetness the Lord bear with kindness, we must, we, consider them carefully. with rigorous zeal and consume them unceasingly by the ardor of our penance. Thus, the Spirit showed himself on the Redeemer in the form of a dove, but on men in the form of fire, since the more the severity of our Judge is softened towards us, the weaker our weakness must for his to ignite against itself.

This completes the explanation of the four propositions; let us pass to the contemplation of the gifts of this Spirit.

7. It is written about him, "His Spirit has adorned the heavens" (Job 26:13). In fact, the ornaments of heaven are the virtues of the preachers. It is these ornaments that Paul enumerates when he says: "To one has been given by the Spirit a word of wisdom, to another a word of knowledge by virtue of the same Spirit, to another faith in the same. Spirit, to another the gift of healing in one and the same Spirit, to another the power to perform miracles, to another the prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another the diversity of languages, to another the interpretation of speech. But it is one and the same Spirit who operates all this, distributing his gifts to each one as he pleases "(1 Cor. 12:8-11). All these gifts of preachers are therefore so many ornaments of heaven.

It is still written on this subject: "It is by the Word of the Lord that the heavens are made firm" (Ps 33:6). Indeed, the Word of the Lord is the Son of the Father. But to show that these same heavens, that is to say, the holy apostles, are the work of the whole Holy Trinity together, we immediately add, concerning the divinity of the Holy Spirit: "And all their virtue comes from the Spirit of his mouth. "Thus the virtue of heaven comes from the Spirit: never would the apostles have dared to oppose the powers of this world, unless the power of the Holy Spirit had strengthened them. For what were the teachers of the Holy Church before the coming of the Spirit, we know it well; and the strength of soul in which they were established after his coming, we have it before our eyes.

8. This Pastor of the Church, whose most holy body is very close to the place where we are seated, it will suffice to question the servant who was at the door, to tell her what her weakness and her terror were. before the coming of the Spirit (Jn. 18:17). A single word of a woman suffices to shake him: fearing death, he denied Life. And Peter rebuked on the earth just as the thief declared his faith on the cross. But this man who had abandoned himself to such terror, let us listen to how he behaves after the coming of the Spirit. A meeting of magistrates and elders meets; she enjoins the Apostles, whom she has made to beat with blows, to no longer speak in the name of Jesus. Peter answers with great authority: "It is better to obey God than men" (Acts 5:29). And again: "Judge if it is right before God to listen to you, rather than God. Because for us, we can not not say what we have seen and heard "(Acts 4:19-20). "As for them, they withdrew from the Council, rejoicing that they were judged worthy to suffer opprobrium for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5:41). Here Peter is delighted for blows, he who previously scared for words. And if the question of a servant first suffices to frighten her, he resists, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, to the full force of the princes, even once beaten.

It pleases us to cast a glance of faith on the power of this Artisan, and to consider here and there the Fathers of the Old and New Testaments. Here, having opened the eyes of faith, I contemplate David, Amos, Daniel, Peter, Paul, and Matthew, and I want to stop to consider which artisan is the Spirit, but I am short in such an examination. For he invades a young zither player, and makes him a psalmist. He fills a herdsman who is busy cutting the sycamores, and makes him a prophet (see Amos 7:14). He fills a sober young man, and he makes him the judge of old men (see Dan. 13:45-64). He fills a fisherman, and he makes him the preacher of the nations (see Mt 4:19). He fills a persecutor, and makes him the Doctor of the nations (Acts 9:1-15). He fills a publican and makes him an evangelist (cf Lk 5:27-28).

Oh! what a marvelous craftsman this Spirit! We learn from him, without delay, all that he wanted. Scarcely has he touched the spirit that he teaches it; and for him, to have only touched is to have taught. Indeed, as soon as it illuminates the human mind, it changes it: it makes him renounce in a moment what he was, so that in a moment it appears what it was not.

9. Consider in what state the Spirit has today found our holy preachers, and in what state he has transformed them. They who stood in the same room for fear of the Jews, they certainly knew all their mother tongue, and yet, even in this language they knew, they dared not talk about Christ openly. The Spirit then came; he taught a multitude of tongues to their mouth, strengthening their minds by the guarantee of his authority. They began to speak of Christ in foreign languages, who previously feared to speak of it even in theirs. For their fiery hearts despised the tortures they had feared until then. The love of the Creator triumphed over the hold of carnal fear. And those who had first succumbed for fear of their adversaries now commanded them with authority. What can be said, then, of him who raised them to such heights, except that he has transformed into heaven the spirits of these earthly men?

Measure, dear brothers, if after the Incarnation of the only begotten Son of God, there is a solemnity of the importance of this day when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. This second party is worthy of being honored on a par with the first. For if in the first, God, without ceasing to be what he was, assumed humanity, in the second, men received the deity from heaven. In the first, God became man according to nature; in the second, men were made gods by adoption. If therefore we do not want to remain carnal beings subject to death, let us love, dear brothers, this Spirit who gives life.

10. But since the flesh hears nothing in the mind, one or the other, thinking according to the flesh, may be able to say to himself, "How can I love someone whom I do not know? "We agree on this point: the busy mind of visible things does not know how to see the invisible. He thinks only of what can be seen; even at rest, he draws images from him. And as long as it lies thus among the corporeal images, it can not rise to the intangible realities. Hence, the mind knows its Creator less well because he maintains in his thought more familiarity with bodily creatures.

If we can not see God, yet we have other ways to carry the eye of our intelligence to him. If it is impossible for us to see it in ourselves, we can see it now in his servants. By seeing that they are doing wonders, we become certain that God lives in their minds. We need to know how to take advantage, in these intangible realities, of the experience given to us by those which are bodily: none of us can look directly at the sun by looking at the record as it rises in everything. its brilliancy, for the eyes fixed on its rays are dazzled; but we look at the mountains that the sun illuminates, and we see that he has risen. Thus, since we can not see in ourselves the Sun of righteousness, let us look at the mountains that its brightness illuminates, that is to say, the holy apostles, who shine with their virtues, shine with their miracles and are inundated with the the brightness spread by this rising sun, which, although invisible in itself, has become visible to our eyes through them as by so many illuminated mountains. In fact, the power of divinity itself is the sun [seen] in the sky; the power of the divinity [poured out] over men is the sun [shed] on the earth. Let us look at it then on the earth, this Sun of righteousness that we can not yet see in the sky, so that by walking through it on the earth without stumbling in our works, we will one day have to look up to the to contemplate in the sky.

But we go on the earth without stumbling unless we love God and neighbor with all our mind. For one can not truly love God without loving one's neighbor, nor truly loving one's neighbor without loving God. And this is why, as we have already said in another sermon, the Spirit was given to the disciples twice: first by the Lord when he lived on the earth, then by the Lord when he reigned in heaven. He is given to us on earth to love the neighbor, from Heaven to love God. But why first on the earth and then in Heaven, if not to give us a clear understanding of this word of John: "He who does not love his brother whom he sees, how can he love God whom he does not see not?" (1 Jn. 4:20).

So, my brethren, let us cherish our neighbor well; let us love him who is near us, so that it becomes possible for us to love the one who is above us. May our spirit exercise itself in giving to the neighbor what he owes to his God, in order to deserve to enjoy in God a perfect joy with that same neighbor. It is then that we will reach this joy of the inhabitants of Heaven, whose pledge we have already received by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Tendons of all our love towards this end where we will rejoice without end. There lies the holy society of the citizens of Heaven; there, a certain feast; there, an assured rest; there, a true peace, which henceforth will not be left to us alone, but given by Our Lord Jesus Christ, who, being God, lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, in all the ages of centuries. Amen.