This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, often referred to as the birthday of the Church, marking the day on which the Apostles and others left the security of the Upper Room to boldly proclaim the message of the resurrection of Christ. They were able to make this transition through the gifting of the Holy Spirit to them by the Father and Son. Such generosity ! Allowing those who witnessed this event to hear the message of the Apostles in their own language. It must have been a truly awesome event.
Often the concept of Church is about an institution, buildings and almost two thousand years of history, both good and less so. The same is true about monarchy. Yet in reality both are about people and individuals. This week we have been able to acknowledge a unique moment in history: the Platinum Jubilee of our Queen. Over recent days many voices have offered considered reflections, revealing facts, trite comment and flippant remarks about a commitment to duty and service which has exceeded the life-span (thus far) of many in this country and across the Commonwealth. A striking opinion was made by a lady who was happy to have the Bank Holiday break, but less so with its attachment to the person at the centre of the jubilee celebration. She commented that it must have been a boring seventy years for the Queen marked by cutting ribbons and shaking hands with strangers. I listened with interest, and wondered if the interviewee would have the same view about those who have celebrated numerous decades of married life, worked in production from leaving school, or simply done the same thing day after day as a matter of routine within family-life without giving it a second thought. I did wonder what the lady did, and how she managed to avoid facing the routine of everyday – she was clearly of a category of humanity I have yet to meet. The ordinary and routine are a part of all of our lives, but we can transform them into extraordinary and different by placing our own mark on them.
The same is true of Church and monarchy. As institutions they can appear cold, distant and far removed, yet at their heart are individuals, real people. The Platinum Jubilee gives us the opportunity of acknowledging the incredible contribution of a fellow human being to our country, Commonwealth and wider global family, as well as being someone who has recently known the loss of a life-partner of over seventy years, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Truly a vocational life is so many ways, and very much seen and understood as such by Queen Elizabeth who understood her sacred anointing on the day of her coronation as being akin to that of ordination, just as she had already given a life-long pledge of fidelity to her husband on the day of her marriage.
Pentecost is perhaps more about acknowledging the face of our local church communities than of the establishment of an institution. It is a day on which you can be distracted by your neighbour in the pew with you, or in front of you, quietly thanking God for their presence and the witness that they offer to you and others, through their quiet presence and fidelity. This year Pentecost is marked by a call from our Bishops to take our rightful place with others in our local church buildings. Less about a boost to post-pandemic reduced numbers at Mass, and more about an invitation for us to take our rightful place at the banquet of Word and Sacrifice: the place where we belong, and where the sameness of routine and the ordinary nature of life are valued for what they are – the opportunity to become the memorable and extraordinary. A gentle reminder that thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us the people of our own place and space are able to hear the Good News in their own language.
With prayerful remembrance, kindest thought and affection.
As ever, Fr. Nicholas