Note: There can be some confusion over the Pentecost 'Vigil Mass' (Lectionary Volume I p 596). If you normally have a Saturday night Mass (First Mass of Sunday) then for the Saturday night before Pentecost you should use the Readings for 'Mass during the Day' (Lectionary Volume I p 601‑602). The 'Vigil Mass' is an optional Mass of Saturday Night (not of the Sunday). It's theme is `waiting in prayer' ' and it can be celebrated using all four Old Testament readings, in the same way as the Easter Vigil (in which case there should be a Psalm and a Collect after each reading, taken from the weekdays before Pentecost.) If you have no Saturday night Mass, you may consider having the Pentecost Vigil as a preparation for this feast, which ranks second only to Easter. If you do have a regular Saturday night Mass, lit would be difficult to celebrate the Pentecost Vigil.
We arrive at the fiftieth day ‑ the completion of the Easter Season, and the completion of the Paschal Mystery: the Lord has died, is risen, has ascended to heaven and now gives birth to his Church, by sending the Spirit upon the apostles. This feast of the gift of the Spirit is so significant for us, because it marks the handing on of Jesus' ministry to the Church ‑ in the Church we are guaranteed the presence of the Lord, in his sacraments, in his ministers, in the Blessed Sacrament and in his Celebrated Word. It also marks the fulfilment of our thoughts about baptism throughout this season: the gift of the Spirit which we receive in Confirmation is the `seal' of our baptism, guaranteeing and confirming all that baptism achieves.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 2:1‑11.
The meaning of this reading is obvious: it is the story of this day. There is a great sense of mystery in the first paragraph, seen in the words 'what sounded like' and 1 something that seemed like` ‑ almost as if Luke cannot quite find the words to describe the experience. You must ensure that amazement and astonishment is present in your voice throughout the second paragraph. Don't worry about the list of strange names ‑ but make sure you practice them out loud beforehand: it would be a shame if the reading were spoiled because your tongue 'tripped up' over “Phrygia and Pamphylia”!
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-7.12-13.
What does the Spirit do? The Spirit permeates everyone who is a member of the Church, ensuring that we are all part of the one body of Christ. Take this reading slowly: there is a great list in the second paragraph, contrasting ‘variety’ with the ‘same God’. Emphasise the words ‘for a good purpose’. In the final paragraph the important words to get across are ‘one Spirit’. be careful with the first sentence of the last paragraph: the image of the body is an important one, because it explains how so many of us can be united in Jesus.
Alternative Second Reading: Romans 8:8-17.
The hardest thing about this reading is the constant repetition of the words “spiritual” and “unspiritual” – though in fact it is the point of the reading. You have to understand that Saint Paul is trying to underline the role of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit that has made a home in us, and therefore makes us “spiritual people”. As with many readings from the letter of Saint Paul, the reader needs to spend quite a while preparing this, otherwise it will come across to listeners as incomprehensible. The secret is to take your time, and weigh every word: make sure you understand Saint Paul’s points, and work out where to pause and where to breathe, and once again, take your time!
Day of Special Prayer
Pentecost Sunday is a Day of Special Prayer for the Church. This is rather a broad invitation to prayer and can generate some debate about what exactly we are praying for! Is it the Church throughout the world, or the Church in our Diocese or Parish? Do we pray for the Pope or our parishioners? Do we pray for the UCM and CWL and SVP, or for our young people?
The answer, of course, is all these things at once! The Church is not “either/or”, but “both/and”! The mystery of Pentecost is the presence of the Holy Spirit in all of the Church, in all its members, in all times and places. Celebrating this feast must celebrate that presence, and so our prayer “for the Church” must be as universal as possible.
Perhaps a Bidding Prayer or Intercession might be inspired by the Lord’s own prayer for the Church in John 17:
“Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”