Pentecost - Year A
Several times a year the Church adds extra texts to the Mass. These are placed between the Alleluia and the Gospel and are called "Tropes" or "Sequences". In the Middle Ages they developed as commentaries or reflections on the theme of the feast day. Because they had to be memorized, they were set to music. Eventually they included poems and material that had no official approval. Because of this, he Council of Trent reduced their number to four in the 16th century. (A fifth--the Stabat Mater--was later added.)
The Sequence for Pentecost is one of those texts. It is known as the "Golden Sequence" because of its sweetness and short length. It developed between the 11th and 13th centuries, possibly written by monks from Switzerland. Its Latin name is "Veni Sancte Spiritus". There are several musical settings of the original poem.
HE BREATHED ON THEM
When Jesus appeared to the apostles on Easter Sunday, he breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. In Hebrew the word for "breath" and "spirit" are the same, so there is an obvious connection. We might form an image of Jesus breathing on the group of them from a distance, but there is a more revealing analogy.
CPR or Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a process by which an unconscious person may be helped to breathe. Part of CPR involves mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The person administering it clamps the victim's nostrils, making an airtight seal over his mouth and breathes into it about twelve times per minute. It has been called "the Kiss of Life". Jesus breathed a kiss of life into the souls of his followers. We still receive that kiss from God, the Holy Spirit.
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