Eight weeks after Easter every year the Church commemorates its own birth – the Day of Pentecost, as witnessed so powerfully in Acts, Chapter 2.

Ten days prior to the Holy Spirit’s arrival, the Lord Jesus told the disciples to “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), and in obedience to His command, the disciples waited with Our Lady in prayerful expectation of the gift of the Holy Spirit to come.

Scripture doesn’t record anything about what happened during those ten days except that the disciples had “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14). We can imagine they were days of fervent prayer for the coming of the promised Spirit.

Preparing for the Holy Spirit

In imitation of that first spiritual “retreat” of the Apostles, the Church has always spent the days between the Ascension and Pentecost praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

“Come, Holy Spirit!” is the Church’s cry of the heart.

The Latin hymn, Veni Sancte Spiritus, is one of the treasures of the Church that has been set to music since it was composed in the Middle Ages (its composer is not known with certainty). It has since been incorporated into the Church’s Mass of Pentecost as a sequence for the faithful to sing or recite, inviting the Holy Spirit to infuse the Church once again with His gifts.

The traditional ten verses, one for each day of the period between Ascension and Pentecost, can be found here with several English translations. The lyrics below are a creative adaptation of the Taizé community.

The Taizé Phenomenon

Founded by the Swiss Brother, Roger Schütz, in 1940, Taizé calls itself a Christian monastic fraternity whose purpose is to serve young people and promote ecumenism. They would be roughly equivalent to a monastic religious order in the Catholic Church, but they are not explicitly attached to any denomination or church, which in their vision allows them to pray with all who belong to Christ.

The religious community, situated in the region of Burgundy in eastern France, consists of about a hundred professed members who bring people into constant prayer and worship and sponsor events for youth throughout the world.

It is not our purpose to offer any lengthy discussion of the Taizé community, but whoever wishes more information can read the remarkable story of a creative attempt of sincere Christians to evangelize souls and unite the Christian Church according to the will of Christ.

Taizé’s lovely rendition of the Veni Sancte Spiritus will draw you into an amazing spirit of contemplation and peace.

The performance  (duration,  5:09)

Lyrics (as sung by Taizé)

Veni Sancte Spiritus (repeating chant).

Come, Holy Spirit, from heaven shine forth with your glorious light.
     Veni Sancte Spiritus.

Come, Father of the poor, come, generous Spirit, come, light of our hearts.
     Veni Sancte Spiritus.

Come from the four winds, O Spirit, come breath of God; disperse the shadows over us, renew and strengthen your people.
     Veni Sancte Spiritus.

Most kindly warming light! Enter the inmost depths of our hearts, for we are faithful to you. Without your presence we have nothing worthy, nothing pure.
     Veni Sancte Spiritus.

You are only comforter, Peace of the soul. In the heat you shade us; in our labor you refresh us, and in trouble you are our strength.
     Veni Sancte Spiritus.

On all who put their trust in you and receive you in faith, shower all your gifts. Grant that they may grow in you and persevere to the end. Give them lasting joy!
     Veni Sancte Spiritus.

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Soul Work

We sometimes forget that the Holy Spirit is the invisible presence of God, with us at every moment of our existence and in every circumstance of our lives. One beautiful prayer calls the Spirit of God the “soul of my soul”, a striking term to remind us that our lives are in every way encompassed by the Love of God poured out for us on the Day of Pentecost.

On Pentecost Sunday this year, why not print out a copy of the lyrics of the Veni Sancte Spiritus and pray for the Spirit of Christ to fill you with His seven-fold gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Piety, Fear of the Lord, and Fortitude?

Even if not printed, it is easy to remember the repetitive phrase, Veni Sancte Spiritus, which anyone can repeat time and again to invite the Spirit of Christ into your heart in a new way this Pentecost.

And don’t forget the words of Jesus: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13).