The Dominican Priory in Oxford – Blackfriars – is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, which means that we keep today – the feast of Pentecost – as our titular feast. It’s no coincidence, of course, that it was decided, when the friars returned to Oxford in the 1920s, to dedicate this community of the Order of Preachers to the Holy Spirit. As we read in the account of the first Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, when the apostles received the Holy Spirit, the connection with preaching was clear. The gift of the Spirit is symbolised by the appearance of tongues descending on each of them – tongues, of course, being the organ of speech – and tongues of fire, at that: now fire, of course, is the kind of thing that spreads, and sets light to other things around it, so these tongues of fire represent the Holy Spirit giving the apostles the power not just to speak but to speak effectively about God’s saving plan.
And that, of course, is exactly what they do: this previously confused and timid bunch suddenly get it. They head out on to the streets of Jerusalem, and tell the crowds gathered for the Jewish feast the good news about Jesus – about his incarnation, death and resurrection as the fulfilment of God’s plan for the salvation of his people, salvation which is available to anyone who will repent and be baptised, and so receive for themselves the gift of the Spirit.
But it’s not only us Dominicans who need to be reminded of the Spirit-filled preaching of the Apostles at the first Pentecost: for the Holy Spirit is given to every Christian at their Baptism, when, fulfilling Jesus’s promise that we read in St John’s Gospel, Father, Son and Spirit come to dwell in the hearts of those who love him (cf. Jn 14: 23). And the invitation – the great adventure – of the Christian life is to allow ourselves to become ever more attuned to God, who has given himself to us in his Spirit, so that not only the words, but the lives of each one of us, can convey to those around us the saving truth of God’s love.