Blog # 392 Come, Holy Spirit
Before Vatican II and still in some areas of our Catholic experiences, priests Sisters and Brothers were identified as those who were especially holy or close to God and Jesus in the Church. No banquet graduation or wedding reception among Catholics was begun without the prayer of the priest if he were in the room. And in many instances we would wait it for him to come. He knew the Bible. He answered all religious questions without hesitation and with authority.
This was the expectation of the 'faithful', the word commonly used to identify lay members of the Church. The priest was trained for this through a minimum of four years of post graduate work in theology and in the experience of a specially focused daily regimen of prayer, meditation and discipline. There were leaders,. There were followers. It was what you would naturally expect, and the Church, was at peace.
Then a new era of history began. Change was everywhere. Text books that seemed up to date before World War II were now the story of what used to be. This was true of medicine, physics, chemistry, social sciences, and theology, all the way up and down the line.
It is important to learn where we have come from in all of these fields in order to know more fully where we are at the present time. But there is a difference between being a teacher of the history of medicine and being a current practicing neurosurgeon. So there is a difference between knowing the Beatitudes in your memory and being consciously blessed by living them out in our life today. And between knowing that Pentecost occurred for Peter, James, and John and letting it occur for us personally in our present moment of history. What was for them, yes. But also what it is for us today.
We like to think of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. As members of the Church we
have different functions in a way similar to the different functions of hands, feet, and head in the life of a living body. But we are one Body, the Church. We are not related to one another as shoes on the feet of a walker, going along the same path but not sharing a common life. . We belong to one another. We grow, we diminish, we are healthy or sick together. We can injure or help one another. We are called to this in the love of Jesus we share in the new life we receive in Baptism. But because it is love, it must be done in freedom. In other words the question "do you understand?" calls for a second question "do you desire?" "Come Holy Spirit" is our prayer.
Here is a quotation from St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop of Jerusalem between the years 348 and 386. It could have been written here in Ohio in 2014. He is commenting on John's Gospel 4: 13 and 14. "Whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty; no, the water I give shall become a fountain within him, leaping up to provide eternal life."
Jesus was speaking to the woman he met at the well and asked of her a drink.. Then Cyril continues: But why did Jesus call the grace of the Spirit 'water'? Because all things are dependent upon water,...although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one on a palm tree, another on a vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same it adapts itself to the
needs of every creature that receives it.
In the same way the Holy Spirit apportions grace to each person as He wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit...The Spirit strengthens one person's self control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit Himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals His presence in a particular way for the common good.
The Spirit comes gently...He is not felt as a burden...The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives Him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.
As light strikes the eyes of a person who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of a person counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of."