“The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ – the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, ‘until he comes.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1076).
We speak about Pentecost as the beginning of the Church, but do we really know what we mean when we are saying that? Often our “great commission” is quoted, that we need to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. Yet the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost is not only for the purpose of evangelizing non-Christians. The Holy Spirit helps us experience that invisible heavenly reality through the Sacraments and other sacramental signs. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand how Christ is acting through the Church, through her Sacraments, in this time when we can’t physically see him.
“In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to a new age. He acts through the sacraments, in what the common Tradition of the East and West calls the ‘sacramental economy’; this is the communication (or ‘dispensation’) of the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s sacramental liturgy.” (CCC 1076).
Read this carefully. Christ acts through the Church. It is through the Church’s liturgy that we receiving the “fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery” (the saving work he did for us on the Cross). The sacraments, signs and symbols of heavenly realities, were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church.
As we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost, and remember our own reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand how he is working through the Church and making Christ present to us at each and every Mass.