“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming” (John 16:13). These words of Jesus during the Last Supper refer to the work of the Holy Spirit in His coming. It is this coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that initiates the life of the Church and ushers in this final age where we live vigilance, looking toward Jesus’ glorious second coming.
The manifesting of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is the birth of the Church. While Jesus Himself refers to building His Church (especially in Matthew 16:18), it is in the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection when their mission to the world begins. Acts 2:1-4 tell us of the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles in the form of tongues of fire, gifting them with the ability to speak in the various languages of the people. From this moment of receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles go out, beginning in Jerusalem to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead as the Messiah, offering the gift of salvation.
In the context of Jesus’ redeeming work of offering Himself in death, His rising from the dead, and His ascending into heaven, this moment of Pentecost brings to fulfillment the work that Jesus sought to accomplish during His sojourn on earth – minding that the totality of His saving works is yet to be accomplished in the fullness of the eternal life of heaven after His glorious second coming. For in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit the fullness of the Trinity is revealed offering to the whole world the gift of salvation. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are able to receive the gift of faith in Christ and to receive the fullness of His life. Accordingly, through the Pentecost event the fullness of the life of the Church is also established, through which we are able to receive baptism in Christ along with all of the sacraments that bring us into communion with Christ and all believers. Likewise, just as the Pentecost event is the beginning of the proclamation of the fullness of the Gospel by the apostles, so too this Pentecost event begins the final age – as all that is necessary for our salvation has now been revealed and is rightly available to all of humanity until the end of time that all might be led to Jesus Christ and be saved from sin and death.
Thus, to speak of Jesus’ redeeming work completely, we rightly include manifesting of the Holy Spirit’s work on Pentecost as the completion of Paschal Mystery; that is, the completion of the saving works that Jesus Himself came into the world to accomplish. Though we will give more specific treatment to the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity in our next installment, it is right to see the Holy Spirit as directly part of the work of redemption – for the work of redemption continues in the life of the Church initiated on Pentecost and which will remain until Jesus comes in glory.
For further reading: In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 731-741 speak specifically of Pentecost and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. It is of important note here that in the next installment, the Holy Spirit Himself will be more thoroughly discussed.