Pentecost Prayer Vigil

Vatican window with dove

A Prayer Guide for St. Mark’s Pentecost Prayer Vigil

Prepared by Clifford Smith

VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS

“Unless I go the Advocate [the Spirit] will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you. He will lead you to the complete truth.” – John 16:7, 13

With these words Jesus points forward to the new life in the Spirit that will be revealed at Pentecost. It will be a life lived in “complete truth.” Closely related to the word “betrothal,” the “complete truth” means full intimacy with God, a betrothal in which the complete divine life is given to us.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

“Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves….

“Now all who heard and saw these things were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” . . . So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” — Acts 2:1-4, 37-40, 41-42.

THE SPIRIT ACTUALIZES OUR FAITH

We are waiting for the Spirit to come. Are we really? This morning during the Eucharist I spoke a little about preparing ourselves for Pentecost just as we prepare ourselves for Christmas and Easter. Still, for most of us, Pentecost is a nonevent. While on secular calendars Christmas and Easter are still marked, Pentecost is spectacularly absent.

But Pentecost is the coming of the Spirit of Jesus into the world. It is the celebration of God breaking through the boundaries of time and space and opening the whole world for the re-creating power of love. Pentecost is freedom, the power of the Spirit to blow where it wants.

Without Pentecost the Christ-event—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—remains imprisoned in history as something to remember, think about, and reflect on. The Spirit of Jesus comes to dwell within us, so that we can become living Christs here and now.

Pentecost lifts the whole mystery of salvation out of its particularities and makes it into something universal, embracing all peoples, all countries, all seasons, and all eras. Pentecost is also the moment of empowering. Each individual human being can claim the Spirit of Jesus as the guiding spirit of his or her life. In that Spirit we can speak and act freely and confidently with the knowledge that the same Spirit that inspired Jesus is inspiring us.

We certainly have to prepare ourselves carefully for this day of Pentecost so that we can not only receive fully the gifts of the Spirit but also let the Spirit bear fruit within us.

Henri Nouwen, adapted from: Jesus: A Gospel

 

It is the eve of Pentecost, the celebration of the coming of the promised Spirit. It is the vigil of the day that commemorates the beginning of the Church as bearer of the divine breath…. Pentecost is a moment of great prophetic significance. It marks the beginning of the Church and, therefore, is now the celebration of the Church’s birthday. Pentecost affirms that the Church is an enspirited continuance of the prophetic mission and power of Jesus the Christ.

The Church today continues to witness to the movement of the Spirit in the world, the Spirit which groans in us as it responds to the misery, the hatred, the hunger, and despair that burdens humankind. Centuries ago Paul wrote to the church in Rome about the groaning and indwelling of this Spirit. His words still ring true for us today:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as children, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what they see? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but God’s own Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And God who searches the hearts of all knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” — Romans 8: 22-27.

Pentecost celebrates the indwelling of God’s hope in us, incarnate in our world through our lives.

Wendy M. Wright, adapted from The Rising

 

Who could turn a band of frightened fisherman into powerful preachers?

The Holy Spirit!

Who could begin the day with 120 believers, including the twelve disciples

and Jesus’ Mother, and end the day with more than 3,000?

The Holy Spirit!

And who empowers believers today, adding to their number and

challenging them to be a part of the Church He is building?

The Holy Spirit!

VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS

FOR REFLECTION AND PRAYER

1. How have you experienced the Holy Spirit in your life as Advocate or Helper? as Comforter? as Consoler? as Guide? as empowering?

2. Does it make any difference in your life —

    • To consciously regard yourself as the Body of Christ, that is, a member of the “body of believers,” the community of faith, the Church?
    • To know that the Spirit of Christ seeks to indwell in your heart, so that God’s hope and love can incarnate in today’s world through your presence and actions, through your life?
    • To know that you carry the “indwelling Spirit,” to know that you are a manifestation of the continuing incarnation?

3. What specific miseries and burdens of humankind cause you to “groan in travail with the whole of creation?” Pray that the Spirit assist you in prayer regarding these heartfelt “miseries and burdens.” Remember: “God’s own Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

4. Offer your personalized and specific prayers for the well-being and fruitful action of today’s Church.

  1. 5. Where and how have you experienced the enlivening and empowering action of the Holy Spirit in the history and ministry of St. Mark’s?

Does it make any difference to know that the same Spirit that inspired and empowered the apostles on the day of Pentecost is today inspiring us at St. Mark’s and all of the Church?

A Prayer for Pentecost

Spirit of God

who bursts into rooms

of fear, laughing life …

your birth-cry

still echoes in

this womb of earth

as we anticipate

the dance of fire.

 

Sigh in our souls

today, O God.

Throw open the doors.

Slip into our hearts

and sweep grace

into those secret places

known only to you.

 

We stand on tip-toe

straining, longing to see,

to feel the flame …

praying it will consume

and transform us

into gifts for one another.

 

Greet us with wisdom

that we may be channels

of peace.

Encourage us with

understanding

that we may affirm

one another.

Support us with counsel

that we may choose

the good.

Sustain us with fortitude

That we may pursue

What is just.

Open our minds with

knowledge

That we may realize

you are God.

Bless us with devotion

that we may always

cling to you.

 

Anoint us with reverence

that we may bow

before the holy within

and around us.

 

Amen.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

Come, Holy Spirit —

Breathe

your healing.

Drive us

from our narrow ways

Touch us

in our faint of heart.

Gift us

with divine inspiration.

Love us

to life and

burn

within us …

until our dying embers

are held

in the heart of God.

There

you will breathe

new life, once again.

Amen!

VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS

A Guide for Prayer and Contemplation on Holy Saturday

Pascha icon

Prepared by Cliff Smith

 

HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE,

WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED.

HE DESCENDED INTO HELL.

Apostles’ Creed

 

CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD,

TRAMPLING DOWN DEATH BY DEATH,

AND UPON THOSE IN THE TOMBS BESTOWING LIFE.

Troparion of Pascha

Eastern Orthodox Liturgy

 

We typically overlook the significance of Holy Saturday, the day which the Eastern Church highlights as the Blessed Sabbath, the “Great and Holy Sabbath.” In the Orthodox tradition this is not only the day that Christ reposed in the earth, but the day that Christ “descended into hell” (or “to the dead”), “trampling down death by death.”

Great Saturday is the “middle day” which meaningfully connects the sorrow of Good Friday with the joy of Easter resurrection. For Holy Saturday is precisely the day of transformation, the day when victory grows from inside the defeat, the day when Christ’s divine Light and Love descended into the depths of the earth, shattering death, sin and evil, and all the powers of darkness.

The Orthodox Church emphasizes the image and idea that the descent into hell is the last and culminating step in the act of the Incarnation of God. It is the act of the One who is the source and giver of life invading the realm of death. It expressed the utter completeness and fullness of the redemption which Christ offers to all the human race and all of creation. It powerfully proclaims: There is no place God is not! All things and all places are filled with God, with His life and His light.

Each feast in the Orthodox world has its particular icon. The Easter (or Pascha) icon is named “The Descent Into Hell.” (For the Eastern Church, an icon is not simply a religious picture. It is a depiction that, when related to contemplatively, becomes a medium of revelation, a grace-inspired encounter with the Divine. Think of the icon as a window fostering a communion between the divine archetype imaged in the icon and you, the praying contemplator).

In “The Descent Into Hell” icon, Christ is shown bringing first Adam and Eve and then all the righteous of former times out of the place of death. Hell is shown as a gaping black hole into which Christ descends as conqueror. The gates of death are shattered and shown lying across one another in the shape of a cross. This icon leads us to image and to “feel” that by the powerful action of descending into hell, Christ makes death itself the final step to “life without end.”

Wendy M. Wright, in The Rising, writes that the descent to the dead as set forth in the Orthodox tradition “speaks symbolically to the length and breadth of divine compassion, to the extent of the redemptive promise and to the utter intimacy of a God whose love penetrates to the furthest reaches of creation’s fallen depths.” “Christ is Risen!” from the dead and has opened for us the way to resurrection. 

Meditate prayerfully upon these antiphons from the Mattins Service on Holy and Great Saturday of the Orthodox Church. What images do they prompt in you? What insights or understandings? What inspirations? What new or renewed dedications? What “new life” begins to stir? Pray them and then let God speak to you.

  • Who can describe this strange and terrible thing? The Lord of Creation today accepts the Passion and dies for our sake?
  • O strange wonder, new to man! He who granted me the breath of life is carried lifeless in Joseph’s hands to burial.
  • O Life, how canst Thou die? How canst Thou dwell in a tomb? Yet Thou dost destroy death’s kingdom and raise the dead from hell.
  • By dying, O my God, Thou puttest death to death through Thy divine power.
  • When Thou wast laid in a tomb, O Christ the Creator, the foundations of hell were shaken and the graves of mortal men were opened.
  • The flesh of God is hidden now beneath the earth, like a candle underneath a bushel, and it drives away the darkness in hell.
  • Buried in the earth like a grain of wheat, Thou hast yielded a rich harvest, rising to life the mortal sons of Adam.
  • Dead in outward appearance, yet alive as God, O Jesus, Thou leadest up the fallen from earth to heaven.
  • Christ the Life, by tasting death, has delivered mortal men from death, and now gives life to all.
  • Willingly, O Saviour, Thou hast gone down beneath the earth, and Thou hast restored the dead to life, leading them back to the glory of the Father.
  • How great the joy, how full the gladness, that Thou hast brought to those in hell, shining as lightning in its gloomy depths.
  • O my Jesus, Fountain of Life, Thou hast brought me back to life when I was dead through bitter sin.
  • The earth, O Lord, is full of Thy mercy: teach me thy statutes and thy way of goodness.
  • Help me, and I shall be saved, and my study shall be ever in thy statutes.
  • Let Thy mercy come also upon me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to Thy word.
  • How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.
  • Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
  • My soul is continually in Thy hands.
  • O life-giving Vine, Thou wast lifted up from the earth, yet hast thou poured out the wine of salvation. I praise Thy Passion, and Thy Cross, and Thy Descent to the dead.
  • The whole creation was altered by Thy Passion: for all things suffered with Thee, knowing O Word, that thou holdest all in unity.

From The Lenten Triodion of the Orthodox Church

SUGGESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND PRAYER

  • In today’s world, where do the “powers of darkness” and evil seem to reign supreme? Imagine Christ’s light and redeeming love penetrating and transforming these “realms of the dead” in life. What would life be like then? Pray that it may be so.
  • Pray that the leaders and peoples of all Nations may repent, give up hatred and killing, and seek love and abiding peace.
  • Who do you regard as the “Enemy” in the world or in your own life? Pray to God for your enemies.
  • What are the “wrongful ways” within yourself? At this time in your life, what do you want to “give death to,” so that “new life in Christ” can be realized?
  • Pray for the forgiveness of anything for which you seek pardon and absolution. Allow Christ’s merciful and forgiving love to “descend” to the depths of your being.
  • Bring to mind and offer thankful prayer for the remembered lives of those loved and significant persons in your life who have died.
  • Pray for the restoration of all creation, and for that fullness of time when

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more.

Mourning and crying and pain will be no more.

Revelation 21:4

 

RESURRECTION MORNING

Will resurrection morning come? Grave cloths

and spices veil that mutilated flesh

Love made into a man for us. Conspiring darkness

of this stony sepulchre curves a sheltering vault

about the corpse of God.

 

Night-silent are all birds

and winds make no sound, waiting. Rocks

are massive sentinels honey-combed with tombs.

The guards lean on their spears, mistrustful in the mute

uncanny vigilance of this garden for the dead.

 

Out of the night I cry unto thee, O Lord,

and in the hollow sound shell of my everlasting tomb

I raise my death-stopped voice and sing

the canticle of the grave, the song of annihilation.

 

Will resurrection morning come?

Who could have thought such kingly limbs could lie so still!

O long this vigil to the dawn!

World that Word spoke strains for the lilt of his stricken tongue,

yearns, shocked, for the press of his unstirring foot.

No night songster lifts its beak. No moon gleams.

Darkness over the face of the earth…. The brooding night

envelopes those that slew and those that mourn the slain.

Magdalen lies down in the tent of her hair, and weeps.

 

Out of the night I cry unto thee, O lord!

In the black, bitter salt shrubs of the desert,

in the cruel eclipse, in the hollow pit of emptiness, 

I will wait for thee, Lord, as thou commandest me.

 

Will resurrection morning come?

Who stirs in the womb-heavy dimness?

(The root in the deep dungeons of the soil,

the sap in the trunk’s secret tunnels, the seed

swelling to life in the grave of  last year’s mold.)

 

Death where is your sting?

Light levels the dark

like a warrior’s shaft. The soldiers swoon with fear

as the indomitable Word speaks the universe once more.

In the sleeping land

a gray dawn lips the rim of the world and turns to gold.

Sorrow lasts but a night, and joy has come with the sun.

 

Out of the night I cry unto thee, O Lord.

The terror of the grave surrounds me with dread —

but thou art my help in time of trouble, my rock:

my soul waits patiently for thy perpetual light.

Barbara Dent

From: My Only Friend Is Darkness

 

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,

Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;

Love lives again, that with the dead has been:

Love is come again, Like wheat that springeth green.

 

In the grave they laid him, Love whom men had slain,

Thinking that he would never wake again,

Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen;

Love is come again, Like wheat that springeth green.

 

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,

He that for three days in the grave has lain;

Quick from the dead, my risen Lord is seen.

Love is come again, Like wheat that springeth green.

 

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,

Thy touch can call us back to life again,

Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been.

Love is come again, Like wheat that springeth green.

French carol

Text: John M. C. Crum

Advent Prayer Vigil

St. Mark's sanctuary

Be still! Hark! Pay close attention! Listen!

Quiet us, Lord, that we might be able to hear over the noise of our busy lives, beyond the frenzy and the clutter of our Christmas preparations. Help us to pause and become still, even for a moment, that we might hear the herald of angel voices: “Glory.” “Peace on Earth.” “Mercy.” “Reconciliation.” “Joy.” “Christ is Born.”

Join us for our Advent Prayer Vigil, an opportunity to enter our beautiful sanctuary and sit in silence; to quiet the self; to be still and know that God is God; to prayerfully meditate on Advent, the coming of the Christ, and to know him as Emmanuel, “God with us,” with the power to transform our hearts, our lives, even this broken world in which we live.

Meditative music and an Advent Prayer Guide will be provided.

Advent Prayer Vigil

Take a break from the hustle and bustle and join us in our sanctuary for the Advent Prayer Vigil.

St. Mark's sanctuaryThe Prayer Vigil offers time to sit in silence, quiet the self and to be still and know that God is God. It is time to prayerfully meditate on Advent – the coming of Christ – and to know him as Emmanuel, “God with us,” who has the power to transform our hearts, lives and even this broken world in which we live.
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