A Man Open to the Holy Spirit

(Homily for Pentecost Sunday 2004)

Before reading today's Gospel, we listened to the Sequence. Originally titled, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, (Come, Holy Spirit) scholars consider it one of the great masterpieces of Latin poetry.

I’d like to tell you a bit about its author; his life illustrates what can happen when someone is open to the Holy Spirit. He was an Englishman named Stephen Langton. Recognized for his learning and holiness, Pope Innocent appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury. However, the English king did not accept him and he was exiled to France for six years. While in France, he composed the wonderful hymn to the Holy Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit…Father of the poor!…You, the best of comforters, You, the soul’s most welcome guest.”

If Langton had only written this one hymn, he would deserve remembrance. However, he did something more. Up until the thirteenth century, no one had divided the Bible into chapters and verses. To enable more exact reference to the Scripture, Archbishop Langton undertook that project. Anytime someone mentions a Bible verse such as “John 3:16” or “First Corinthians 12:4” they are taking advantage of Langton’s great labor of love.

But there is more. When Stephen Langton returned from exile, he recognized that the King was ruling in an arbitrary and unjust manner. He gathered the English barons at a place called Runnymede in June of 1215 to discuss the situation. As the Cardinal Archbishop, he helped them write a document which detailed basic rights regarding taxation, due process and certain legal protections for the Church. They called their document the Great Charter, although we are more familiar with its Latin name - the Magna Carta. As every schoolchild knows, the Magna Carta was the embryo from which English democracy developed. In America – and many other countries – we owe Archbishop Stephen Langton a huge debt.

A beautiful hymn to the Holy Spirit, an important tool for studying the Bible and a document which launched the modern democratic experiment: Stephen Langton shows what a person can accomplish when imbued with Christian tradition – and open to work of the Holy Spirit.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill!

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia


Spanish Version

From the Archives:

Pentecost 2011: It Was the Holy Ghost
2010: The Power of the Holy Spirit
2009: The Soul's Most Welcome Guest
2008: Double Gift
2007: With You Always
2006: He Testifies to the Truth
2005: The Greatest Unused Power
2004: A Man Open to the Holy Spirit
2003: To Drink of One Spirit
2002: Healing of Memories
2001: Hateful Comparisons & Precious Gifts
2000: The Spirit & The Flesh
1999: Each in His Native Language
1998: Empty Rites?

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Major themes are replaced by comparatively minor considerations, which emphasize small groups, deviants and cultural oddities. Most studies are required to fit somewhere within the new sacred trinity of race, class and gender - the new "cultural Marxism." Research that does not conform to these criteria is increasingly eliminated from the universities, where hiring practices in the humanities and social science have become blatantly discriminatory. (from "Controversies over History in Contemporary Spain")

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