St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Whit-Sunday 2019 : Fr Tony Hogg

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 Imagine the scene; the packed crowd of pilgrims up for the feast; the Palestinian sun which 
struck like a sword; the waves of heat quivering from walls and battlements. And then the 
relief of ‘the rushing mighty wind’ clearing the atmosphere, lifting the sultry pall, bringing 
lightness and invigoration. Before it the rays of heat dissolve, not disappearing altogether, 
but seen again ( as some afterwards told the story) as tongue-like jets of flame above the 
heads of each disciple. The apostles are all strangely moved; they are filled with a new 
exhilaration; they utter strange sounds, which are quickly interpreted as words in foreign 
languages. Some bystanders began to laugh and say, ‘They are just drunk’. It is our lovely 
friend Peter who comes up with the quip; ‘No, we are not, it is only 9 in the morning.’ 
Perhaps come back later is he suggesting and check us out? A consequence of Peter’s 
comment is that 
episcopal rings are made from the purple amethyst which means, ‘we are not drunk’!
However many in the crowd are genuinely moved to sympathy and see in this excitement a 
vivid manifestation of the powerful Spirit of God.
There can be no doubt that in the apostolic church, and even longer after the apostle’s 
time, this phenomenon, which was so prominent on that first Whit-Sunday, and which 
seems so strange to us was regarded as one of the commonest signs of possession by  the 
Spirit. Indeed it was deemed sufficient of itself to guarantee conversion to Christianity and 
immediate baptism. 
Being bound by the Spirit revealed an overwhelming sense of change in the life of the 
individual- something essential to the Christian religion. It was a change from inertia to 
activity, from death to life. People were said to be ‘in Christ’ or ‘filled with the holy Spirit’. 
Later , in the prayer of humble access we are reminded of that; ‘may we evermore dwell in 
him and he in us.’
Living out our Christian lives today, in an often hostile society, it is good for us faithful on this 
great Sunday to remind ourselves of our own initiation into the Body of Christ, the Church, 
through water and the Holy Spirit, and later by the laying on of hands through 
confirmation by a bishop, wearing the continuing symbol of the flames of fire on the heads 
of the apostles, the mitre. Indeed through that succession, we trace our roots back to that 
day in Jerusalem, when Jesus kept his promise that he would not leave the disciples 
comfortless. For them, for us today, we too, perhaps not always as aware as we should be, 
are empowered by and through the Holy Spirit.
I believe that the incisiveness of this message will come home to us if we return for a 
moment to the symbols of wind and fire.
In many languages wind, breath, spirit are all denoted by the same word. All alike imply a 
certain vitality, invigoration, alertness. A breath of fresh night air as one emerges from a 
concert in City Hall! How deeply one takes it into one’s lungs and what refreshment it 
brings. So God breathed into man’s nostrils at creation and also brought life to ‘dem bones, 
dem bones, dem dry bones.’ In Ezekiel’s vision. We know how Our Lady would conceive 
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fire similarly, has always been a symbol of zeal. How it runs through dry grass; how eager 
are its flames to reach the next object; how terrible and how magnificent it can be!
What Whit-Sunday or Pentecost Sunday asks us is to do is to do some stock taking; is the 
wind of faith disturbing us, or we are becalmed in our prayer, in our bible reading, in our 
giving? Has the fire been reduced to ashes; have we turned off the central heating of faith?
Well, if we are honest, some of the above may happen, so my dear people gathered here in 
the power house of prayer, we call St Michael and All Angels, let this Sunday of Our 
Lord’s promise to us all to give us the Comforter to bring to jaded spirits ‘new love, new life, 
new vigour, and new resolution that we may nevermore faint nor droop nor tire in our 
duty.’ May we all in the week ahead be so Spirit blessed and be also aware of being Spirit 
filled in all we do or say.


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