The Catholic Faith
Four important Feast Days are celebrated in the Catholic Church this month of June: Ascension of the Lord, Pentecost Sunday, The Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi. How much do we know about them?
Ascension of Our Lord
The Ascension of Jesus, found in the first chapter of Acts, describes the ascent of Christ from the Earth to the Heavenly realm. According to Acts, the ascension of Jesus takes place 40 days after the resurrection in the presence of his disciples. Christ ascends after advising them to stay in Jerusalem until the arrival of the Holy Spirit. As he ascends, a cloud obscures him from their view, and two men in white arrive to tell them that he will return "in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." In Christian doctrine, the ascension is correlated with the exaltation of Jesus, meaning that through his ascension, Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty."
Pentecost Sunday is a commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church. John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus confirmed this prophecy with the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 14:26. He showed Himself to these men after His death on the cross and His resurrection, giving convincing proofs that He was alive. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3-8). After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the men returned to Jerusalem and joined together in prayer in an upper room. On the Day of Pentecost, just as promised, the sound of a violent wind filled the house and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were given the power of communication, which Peter used to begin the ministry for which Jesus had prepared him. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples did not stay in the room basking in God’s glory but burst out to tell the world. This was the beginning of the church as we know it.
The Most Holy Trinity
From their childhood, Catholics learn to make the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At Mass, the priest’s prayers frequently mention the Father, the Son, and the Spirit as well. The reason for this is that Catholics believe that God is not merely Unity (as all monotheists believe), but also Trinity.
What we mean when we say that God is a Trinity is that there is one divine nature, one divine substance. A “substance” or “nature” is what something is. God, as a Trinity, exists in three Persons. A person is “who” someone is. In our experience, each human person possesses one human nature. A husband and wife, no matter how closely united, are still two separate beings. In God, however, three Persons possess the same divine nature. If you were to ask each Person in the Trinity, “Who are you?” each person would answer something different: “I am the Father;” “I am the Son;” “I am the Holy Spirit.” If you were to ask each Person, “Who are you?” you would get the same answer from each Person: “I am God.” Not, “I am a God,” as a human would say, “I am a human.” Rather, each divine Person, while not identical to the other divine Persons, is one in being with the other two divine Persons and is fully God. The word we use to describe this in the Nicene Creed is consubstantial. While we say in the Nicene Creed that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, it is also true that the Spirit is consubstantial with the Father and the Son.
The Feast of Corpus Christi
Latin for "Body of Christ", it is a Catholic liturgical solemnity celebrating the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the elements of the Eucharist. Two months earlier, the Eucharist is observed on Holy Thursday in a sober atmosphere leading to Good Friday. The liturgy on that day also commemorates Christ's washing of the disciples' feet, the institution of the priesthood and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The feast of Corpus Christi was established to create a feast focused solely on the Holy Eucharist emphasizing the joy of the Eucharist being the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
At the end of Holy Mass, there is often a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, generally displayed in a monstrance. The procession is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A notable Eucharistic procession is that presided over by the Pope each year in Rome, where it begins at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and passes to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where it concludes with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.