Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
25 May 2012
Of all ages and from many different parishes, the group will be confirmed, strengthening their bond with the Lord, during the 10.30 am Solemn Sung Mass at the Cathedral in a ceremony to confer them with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Also attending the Mass will be more than 50 members of Australia's Order of Malta including Fra' Matthew Festing, the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta which marks the first time a Grand Master of the Order has visited Australia.
The Grand Master will be accompanied by Jean-Pierre Mazery, Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Marquese Gian Luca Chiari, Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Obedience, and Receiver of the Common Treasure who have flown in from Rome. Also there will be Anthony Macken AO, national President of the Australian Association of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhods and of Malta.
Australia's Order of Malta members attend Mass at the Cathedral each year in May and are particularly delighted that this year the Mass coincides with Pentecost, the third great feast of the Christian Year.
Occurring on the Seventh Sunday after Easter, Pentecost is the third great festival of the Christian year. The first is Christmas which marks the birth of Christ. The second is Easter and the Resurrection. And the third which arrives 50 days later is Pentecost where Christians worldwide celebrate God's gift of the Holy Spirit and commemorate the birth of the Christian Church.
A time of hope, Pentecost is also a time for the faithful to renew their sense of purpose and mission, and to celebrate their calling as God's people.
Confirmation is strongly linked with Pentecost and at this time Catholics receive the Holy Spirit, just as the Apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit more than 2000 years ago.
Originally commemorated as a Harvest Festival by the Old Testament, Pentecost was calculated as the 50th day after Passover. The transformation to an important Christian festival occurred when 50 days after Christ's Resurrection and 10 days after His Ascension to Heaven, His disciples gathered together in Jerusalem for what they believed would be the usual Harvest Festival celebrated by the Jewish calendar. But while they were indoors praying to the Lord, there was a sudden almighty rush of wind which filled the house. They knelt, and seconds later, great tongues of fire descended and rested on each of their heads.
Filled with the strength and might of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter, founder of the Catholic Church, seized the moment on that first Pentecost Sunday, and rushing outside addressed the masses, telling them of Jesus' death and about His Resurrection. Such was the power of what St Peter said - and the grace imbued on him by the Holy Spirit - that 3000 converts rushed forward to be baptized and become Christians.
While Pentecost for many remains less well known and less openly celebrated than the Christian festivals of Christmas or Easter, this is due not to the fact Pentecost is less important, but because of the secular commercialisation of Christmas and Easter. But Pentecost is nevertheless as important to Christians as Easter and Christmas and is an equally uplifting and joyous occasion, bringing with it an overwhelming sense of renewal along with the mission to evangelise and spread the Word.
Pentecost has given rise to several different customs. In Italy the Festival is celebrated by scattering scarlet rose petals, representing the tongues of fire which enveloped the Apostles. As well as Pentecost, in Italy the Festival is known as Pascha Rossa and refers to the scarlet vestments worn by clerics during the Festival. In France it was customary to blow trumpets during the Divine service at Pentecost to recall the sound of the mighty wind that overwhelmed thed Apostles. While in England, where Pentecost is popularly known as Whitsunday, Whitsun ales are produced as part of the celebrations.