05 June 2017

Whit Monday • Monday of the Holy Spirit

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, 
Who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise
by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit:
Through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net.
O Lover of Man, glory to Thee!

There was a time when the Monday following was both a secular and a religious holiday throughout Europe.  In England this day was (and is ) called Whit Monday. In the Orthodox nations this day is designated as "Monday of the Holy Spirit".

For the Eastern Orthodox the Monday of the Holy Spirit seems utterly unique in the liturgical calendar, but it has one notable parallel in the liturgical life of the Eastern Orthodox Churches with the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos Maria on the 26th of December.  

The celebration of the Blessed God-bearer Mary the day after Nativity expresses an attention to Saint Mary who is the very person without whom the Nativity would not have taken place. In a similar fashion the Monday of the Holy Spirit is dedicated to the very Person without whom the miraculous events of Pentecost would never have taken place that is the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.

If we look to the ancient Syriac Fathers of the Church, we see a relationship between the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit stated very explicitly.  Mary gives birth to Jesus.   The Holy Spirit gives birth to the Church.

By way of example, Saint Ephrem the Syrian (called the Harp of the Spirit and who is a Doctor of the Church for Roman Catholics) uses the feminine Syriac word ruha for 'Spirit' which is the same as ruah in Hebrew. St Ephrem also uses feminine pronouns and verbal forms when speaking of the Holy Spirit whereas in a much later era, long after the falling-asleep of Saint Ephrem, the Syriac Church began to speak of the Holy Spirit with masculine pronouns whilst continuing to use the feminine word ruha for Spirit.

[For further reading concerning this early Christian understanding of the feminine and maternal imagery for the Holy Spirit, please see pp. 171-179 of Letter and Spirit: The Hermeneutic of Continuity Christ, Kingdom, and Creation edited by Scott Hahn.]

On this Whit Monday I encourage us all to take time and sit with the Holy Ghost.  Let us nvite the Holy Spirit to brood over us, to hover over us even as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of Creation and still hovers over the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Church.


LIGHT of the intellect, enlighten me;
Divine Fire of hearts, inflame me;
Fullness of souls, fill me;
Lord of grace and life, vivify me;
In this vale of suffering, guide me;
In my weakness, strengthen me;
From stumbles and falls, deliver me;
With Thy Divine Gifts, overwhelm me;
With Thy Presence, console me;
By Thy Divine operations, sanctify me;
Into my Jesus, transform me;
And unto Thy glory, bear me,
That, having been faithful upon earth,
I may be eternally happy in Heaven,
in the perfect reverberation of Thy love.

+ Be exalted in Thy strength, O Lord.
We will sing and praise Thy power.