Te Deum and pentecostal gift

Also the Holy Ghost: the Comforter.

The Te Deum's daily reference to the Holy Spirit has a particular relationship to Pentecost.  Describing the Holy Ghost as "the Comforter" grounds our praise in the pentecostal experience.  As we are aware during this Whitsun week, the collect of Whitsunday petitions that we may "evermore rejoice in his holy comfort", echoing the Gospel of the feast:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever ... But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

What is more, this is also anticipated in collect of the Sunday after Ascension Day - "send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us" - and in the Gospel:

When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.

As Sparrow notes this rendering of the dominical promise is embedded in the collects and readings of these weeks: the exhortation to pray for "the Comforter promised in the Gospel ... the Church performs in the Collect".

It is also significant that the Homily for Whitsunday has a similar emphasis:

This was the mighty work of the holy Ghost, who because he giveth patience and joyfulness of heart in temptation and affliction, hath therefore worthily obtained this name in holy Scripture, to be called a comforter ...

In the mean season, let us (as we are most bound) give hearty thanks to God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, for sending down his comforter, into the world ...

Our Saviour Christ departing out of the world unto his Father, promised his Disciples to send down another comforter, that should continue with them for ever, and direct them into all truth. Which thing to be faithfully and truly performed, the Scriptures do sufficiently bear witness. Neither must we think that this comforter was either promised, or else given, only to the Apostles, but also to the universal Church of Christ, dispersed through the whole world.

The saying or singing of the Te Deum, then, with its particular reference to the Holy Spirit as "the Comforter", offers praise day by day at Mattins for the pentecostal gift.  What is celebrated at Whitsunday and throughout Whitsun week is set before us daily in the Te Deum at Morning Prayer.  The Holy Ghost, the Comforter, has been bestowed upon us: "We praise thee, O God".

What is more, this phrase from the Te Deum also recollects how we have been assured of this gift.  It evokes the prayer offered by the bishop over the candidates for Confirmation immediately before they receive the laying on of hands also invokes the Holy Spirit as "the Comforter":

Almighty and everliving God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by Water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins: Strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace ...

As Jeremy Taylor stated in his apologia for the rite of Confirmation, Perfective Unction, the laying on of episcopal hands ministers to us assurance of our participation in the pentecostal gift of the Comforter:

In baptism we are made the sons of God, but we receive the witness and testimony of it in confirmation. This is ... the Holy Ghost 'the Comforter,' this is he whom Christ promised and did send in Pentecost, and was afterward ministered and conveyed by prayer and imposition of hands.

The Te Deum's praise for the Holy Ghost "the Comforter" recollects the assurance given to us - "after the example of thy holy Apostles ... by this sign" - of our personal participation in the pentecostal gift:

let thy Holy Spirit ever be with them; and so lead them in the knowledge and obedience of thy Word, that in the end they may obtain everlasting life.

This phrase in the Te Deum, therefore, is profoundly rich, offering praise day by day throughout the year both for the pentecostal gift to the Church catholic and for our participation in this gift of the Comforter, the One whose indwelling "sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God". 


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