A chill wind was blowing as we struggled to put up the gazebo. So many struts and connecting pieces. So many joints to come apart in the wind. Foresightedly, George and Rosemary had had a trial run the day before, constructing the gazebo in the garden, and had worked out the best way to do it.
The rest of the equipment went up easily - the PA amplifier – thank you, Gerry - needed fresh batteries but then worked well, and we were ready to start at 10 minutes before 10 o'clock
We had gathered there at the bottom of the Cathedral steps, celebrating a birthday: the birthday of the Church some 2 millennia ago; the birthday of the Vigil Group who convened some three years ago, spending evenings between Easter and Pentecost in prayer for renewal of that Church; the birthday of a wee baby being brought for Baptism , a newest member of the Church family; the birthday of over a hundred maturing Christians, as young people from all over Edinburgh gathered with Archbishop Leo to be confirmed in the Spirit and in the faith. We gathered together somehow like the Apostles gathered the listening people from all over the world that first Christian Pentecost. And as then, there were people from all over the world as our tourist-rich capital saw people with rucksacks, and with cases finding their places of shelter as they crossed and re-crossed the Piazza in which we were standing, looking at their maps for somewhere to be. It seemed that all of the world was there: they came in their Four x Fours, and carrying their begging caps; the lame with their zimmer frames, and wee girls in ballet dresses; the poor and those who deemed themselves rich; people in saris, people in kilts, people in rags; some high on drugs, some on alcohol; those of completely opposite opinions, some to whom none of this mattered. All approached. All were welcome : the people of God, our family.
`We prayed, claiming the place and the day for the Spirit to release her gifts, and we began. From Scotland, England, Ireland, Colombia, Italy, Nigeria, India, Poland they came, our readers. And on the day, friends came to join us from the outer reaches of Mid Lothian, East Lothian and West Lothian, and even from as far away as Glasgow and Paisley, and indeed, London! We continued the world-wide theme as we read: Rosemary opened with the announcement of the letter, George read the first introductory paragraph in English, followed by Mark who read the same paragraph in German and in Italian, then Thérèse read it in French and in Spanish. We read three or four paragraphs at a time each, occasionally during the earlier part of the day in French, German and Spanish, linking to that first Christian Pentecost, speaking words that proclaimed the 'wonderful works of God'. It was thrilling to hear and speak in public Pope Francis's inspired and inspiring words spelling out the joy which comes from an encounter with Jesus.
People milled about outside the cathedral at the top of the steps, some listening briefly, others for some time , some pretending not to listen. Some more of us came to read, Rosa and friend Linda, Roselinta, Scolastica, Noel and Anne. Colin brought Barbara to read, ‘on their way to London’, but so committed were they to this proclamation, they stopped off at the Cathedral first! Between us we proclaimed The Joy of the Gospel until after 11, when Anthea arrived after an emergency parish council meeting, saying 'I'll read till you stop me'!
After the main 11.30 Mass, an immense crowd of folk poured out of the Cathedral and passed on, again some standing to listen for a while. The Archbishop came out and walked across to us, chatted for a time and read a paragraph before having to go to another appointment. Mgr. Burke also came across later.
Angels joined us unawares: Francis from Malaysia- ‘although he had lived here for 35 years’, and filled with the joy of God, and quoting Psalm 118: in the Lord’s will, I rejoice. ’ He asked us for a bible to show us, and shamed us because we had none with us! So delighted with finding us was he, that he brought us some bananas from the fruit stall! ‘This is the day that the Lord has made’, he said, expecting our response: ‘We will be glad and rejoice in it’.
Another angel came to spread her joy, and yet another Frances, a Carer from down the road, who came to listen, having encountered God in a new way and been baptised 4 years ago. ‘It’s all about joy’, she said. ‘Even in the hard times, it is about joy.’ She was joyful at the fact that she had ‘the best job in the world,’ where she was able to meet God every day, and bring joy into people’s life.
A little family came, mum, dad and son, protesting they were not Catholics, but being heartened by the knowledge that the person currently reading was not Catholic either, but Norma, a friend from the Ecumenical group in the South of Edinburgh. The mum wanted to know about the church though, she was listening to the proclamation. She knew ‘who the Queen of Heaven was’ – her son was at a catholic school. She was satisfied that the ‘Queen of Heaven’ and she had much in common: mums with a husband and a wee boy to take care of.
More people came to read during the afternoon, continuing the remembrance of the first Pentecost of the Early Church, in the different languages ; Dorota read in Polish, Alessandro in Italian, Peter in French, Raoul and Sandra, with María in Spanish, and in English: Monica, Mary, Trish, Margaret, Ahilya, Kitty, the other Rosemary, Michael, Veronica, Pat, Anne, Neil all proclaiming by their words and presence their joy of the Gospel. Father Mike joined us also and read several paragraphs.
Seekers and pilgrims were we all, as we stood there. We were thrilled again to hear and proclaim this by now well known and well beloved letter from our Holy Father Francis. As the day went on, we stilled down, and listened carefully as we found even more riches in the words we heard, until by the time George was reading the last paragraphs, we listened in silence, aware of the Spirit speaking to the Church in Edinburgh.
There was quite a crowd of us as we finished the reading, earlier than we thought. We stood in silence then, aware of a sacred time, a holy moment, a space which had been richly blessed. We read together the prayer at the end of the Exhortation, and ended with a round of applause…for the Spirit among us….for the fact we had completed the Reading...for the Joy of the Gospel….for the goodness of being together…..for the freedom to proclaim our faith…for the friends who had joined us…for so very much that day.
‘Glory be to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory be to God from generation to generation in Christ Jesus and in the Church, forever and ever. Amen’