"This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice in it!"
Each year at the Easter Vigil we read a lesson from the very beginning of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. It tells us that when God created the material universe, He placed the two great lights in the sky to divide the day and the night; to mark off the days and the months and the seasons and the years; the Sun to rule the day and the Moon to rule the night. It goes on to tell us that, after He made the universe in six days, He saw that all of the things of His creation were very good; and then on the seventh day He rested from His work. Time, we realize, is one of God’s creations, every bit as much as the things measured in height, breadth, and length.
And time, as God’s creation, is not one of those things remote from us, like the Sun and the Moon and the stars. Time literally permeates each of our lives. It regulates and marks off our days and our years, like so may mile stones along a road that we must travel. It marks both the occasions of our joy and of our sorrow. Equally, it marks off the progress of our relationship with God.
Our observance of one day in seven is a divine precept, binding under pain of death in the Old Testament, binding under pain of serious sin for us of the New Testament. Very early on, God’s people learned to sanctify the seasons with Him, as well as the week. The annual feast of Passover was a remembrance of deliverance from slavery in Egypt, of course—but it was also a celebration of God’s universal providence. It began with the first full moon of the first month of the year—corresponding more or less to our month of March. In time for the Passover, the firstlings of the flock would be born, and the first barley would be harvested. The lunar calendar sometimes demanded the addition of a thirteenth month to keep it in harmony with the Sun—and the decision to add it was made precisely by observing the flock and the harvest—where the lambs old enough? had the barley yet matured? if not, the extra month would be inserted then and there, and Passover observed when God’s creations were ready.
From the time of the very first harvest, God instructed His people to wait seven more weeks—a “week of weeks” if you will—and then on the fiftieth day to celebrate a second harvest feast, which later came to be known by the Greek name of “Pentecost.”
As we have seen, the number seven figures prominently into this sanctification of God’s time. Every seventh year was a “sabbatical year” in which the land was allowed to lie fallow, and contracts of indenture expired. And the year following “seven times seven” years was known as a jubilee year—a year in which all servants were freed, debts were forgiven, and land and property returned to its original owner, even though it had been sold or loaned. Ultimately, God’s people are all brothers and advantages of one over the other, gained through commerce, were set equal once again every fifty years.
With all of this passage of time, God alone remains unchanging. His truth and His morality go on unchanged no matter how many time seven or fifty centuries go by.
Seven days ago we celebrated the day of the Lord just as we do today—as, God willing, we and those who come after us will celebrate it next week and every seven days thereafter.
Fifty days ago, as spring was breaking out in our land, we celebrated the “passover” of the New Testament—the liberation, not from slavery in Egypt, but the liberation from the slavery of sin and death—the sacrifice of the Altar and the Cross, which gave way to our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead.
Forty days after that Resurrection our Lord ascended into Heaven, to be seen no more in human form on the Earth. But before the Ascension, He promised that His Father would send another Advocate, one who would take Jesus’ place in pleading our case against the claims of the devil. Not surprisingly, that new Advocate came upon Mary and the Apostles and a few others who prayed with them in the Upper Room of the Last Supper—and, not surprisingly, it was the fiftieth day—the day of Pentecost, the very same day we celebrate today; indeed, right about this time of day, the third hour of the morning.
Just as the “passover of the New Testament” delivered us from more than just earthly slavery, his Pentecost of the New Testament is more than a harvest feast. It is not the maturing of the lambs and the barley that we celebrate today, but rather the maturing go the human soul through the reception of the Holy Ghost, so that each of us can be soldiers of Christ. It is not the filling of the granaries with wheat that we celebrate, but the filling of our souls with sanctifying grace. It is not the fruit of the vine which today gladdens the hearts of men, but rather the filling of our hearts with the uncreated grace that is God the Holy Ghost.
Yet time marches on. Nothing is more fleeting than the day—inexorably, the sun will go down and then come up on the fifty-first day. But here too, God has given His people something more enduring than the quickly fading memories of a brief celebration
Keep holy the Lord’s Day. You are here at Mass this morning, and that is a good start, but do your best to keep the rest of the day holy as well. Avoid unnecessary labor and commerce—Sunday is not “shopping day”—avoid the occasions of sin that idleness sometimes provide—and be sure to close the day in prayer.
Keep all of God’s time holy: prayer at regular intervals, the Mass, and the Rosary; good works and good example. Sunday may be the Lord’s day, but Monday and Tuesday are His creations as well.
The Advocate was sent to each of us, every bit as much as He was sent to the Apostles. If today is the fiftieth day, the jubilee of our lives cannot be far off. Above all, keep the grace of the Holy Ghost in your hearts. What has been given to us in time will be our treasure in eternity.