The Holy Spirit & The Divine Liturgy

Ilustrator: Paul G. Yesavage   At the beginning of the Divine Liturgy we ask the Holy Spirit to be present with us: "Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of Blessings, Bestower of Life, come, and dwell within us; cleanse us of all that defiles us, and, O Good One, save our souls."
   Several times in the Liturgy the good and life-giving Holy Spirit is invoked along with the Father and Son.
   After the Great Entrance the priest prays "Make us worthy to find favor with You so that our sacrifice may be acceptable to You and so that the good Spirit of Your grace may rest upon us, upon these gifts present before us, and upon all Your People."
   The priest also requests, together with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" will be with all of us.
   Immediately after the consecration, the priest prays: "We ask, we pray and we entreat You: Send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here present. And make this Bread the precious Body of Your Christ. And that which is in this chalice the precious Blood of Your Christ. Changing them by Your Holy Spirit."
   Where will the Spirit be sent? "Upon these Gifts here present." The transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ is not some work of priestly magic. The text of the Liturgy declares: "Changing them by Your Holy Spirit."
   This change, which is the response God offers to our prayer, is not an end in itself. It is accomplished so that the Body and Blood of Christ "may be for the communicants sobriety of soul, fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven, confidence before You and not for judgment or condemnation." All is accomplished by the Spirit and in the Spirit.
   We need to note that the priest requests: "Send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here present." He does not ask that the Spirit come first upon the Gifts, but that He come in the first instance upon us. This is the moment of Pentecost in the Eucharistic liturgy.
   We need the Spirit to descend into our hearts even before He descends upon the material elements of bread and wine that have been offered and consecrated.
   Let us realize the significance of this inner Pentecost. Let us in this moment truly experience the presence and power of the Spirit given to us. The power of the Holy Spirit that changes our offerings into the Body and Blood of Christ, will change us also into Christ.

Ilustrator: Paul G. YesavageBy the Breath of the Spirit

   The holy gifts of bread and wine are brought to the holy altar during the Great Entrance of the Divine liturgy. The celebrant along with the laity prays that we may be of one mind and one heart. We are called to love one another as we confess our faith.
   As the faithful prayerfully and reverently begin to recite the Nicene Creed, the priest takes the largest of the veils that has covered the holy gifts and begins to wave it slowly. This gesture acquired a profound spiritual meaning. The waving of the veil above the bread and wine came to be seen as an image of the presence of the Holy Spirit, as the divine breath or "wind" that filled the house at Pentecost (Acts 2: 2).
   Proclaiming the words of the Confession of Faith can be done only in an authentic way if the Holy Spirit "breathes" upon us, inspiring us and filling us with love. The mere recitation of words is meaningless. We may read the doctrinal formulas, but without the Spirit the act will be sterile, a dead ritual.
   May the Holy Spirit come, then, to quicken and give life to the words we proclaim. The Confession of Faith begins with the words: "I believe." What does it mean to believe? To believe is trusting in a love and a power beyond ourselves. Belief requires an authentic act of faith, accomplished under the influence of divine grace. Belief is concerned with revealed truths which are inaccessible to reason alone. We can express belief only in an attitude of trust and obedience that is a response to love.

Wisdom Speaks

   St. John Chrysostom in his sermon on Pentecost holds up before us some of the accomplishments of the Holy Spirit as follows:    "For there was a tax collector, and he was transformed into an evangelist. There was found a persecutor, and he was changed into an apostle. There was a robber, and he was led into paradise. There was found a prostitute, and she was made the equal of virgins. There was found wise men, and they were taught the Gospels. Evil fled away, and gentleness took its place. Slavery was put away and freedom came in its stead. And all debts were forgiven, and the grace of God was conferred. Therefore heaven became earth; and from repeating this again and again I shall not cease."

Master Where Do You Live?

   Rabbi (which means Teacher), where do You stay" (Jn1: 38)?
   The question John and Andrew asked of Jesus is one we often direst to God each day. "Rabbi, where do You stay? Where can we find You?" God Himself answered this question in the mystery of the Incarnation. He became man in Jesus Christ. "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love" (Jn1:14).
   When Mary bent over the crib in Bethlehem, God was there! For 33 years of human history it was possible to point to Jesus and say: "There is God!"
   Where does God live for us? Where can we find You now? Pointing to the consecrated bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist, He says to us: "Come and see." (Jn 1: 39) "This is my Body ..." (Lk 22: 19). This cup is the new covenant in my Blood..." (Lk 22: 20). He who feeds on My flesh and drinks My Blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn 6: 54).
   "Rabbi, where do You stay?" Come and see, He says, as He invites us to look into ourselves, into our own souls. It is there that He has chosen to dwell. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith," says St. Paul (Eph 3:17). The word used is "dwell" not "pay a visit." He wants to settle down there, live there the year round.
   Christ Who had "nowhere to lay down His head" seeks to make His home in us. This is why He has chosen to come to us so simply and yet so mysteriously under the forms of bread and wine. "Abide in Me and I in You."
   "Rabbi, where do You stay?" "In you! " He says. You have been outfitted to contain God. You are God's temple. He waits to take up residence in us. He has claimed us as His children. He will not rest until He invades our heart, and makes it His throne.

What exactly do we believe?

   We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. We glorify His purposes for the created world, for every element of the universe and for the future restoration in Christ of the world which the fall of humanity has plunged into the captivity of evil. We do not attribute to God who is pure light and love any of the evils of this world. God struggles with us against evil, the rebellion of a power that has become a power of darkness.
   We believe in Jesus Christ, the unique and eternal Son of the Father, who is of the same nature as the Father. Through Christ we are made adopted children of the Father. By our baptism we are called to be icons of Christ in our world. Christ, in all of His divinity, assumed our human nature from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. We become participants in the Redemption achieved by the Suffering and Death on the Cross, and in the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. We look forward to His glorious Second Coming and His eternal reign in the Kingdom of love.
   We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father. The Holy Spirit is the gift of the Father through the Son. We seek wisdom for our living in the revelation inspired by the Holy Spirit. We reverence the power and work of the Holy Spirit forming all of us into Christ.
   We believe in the Church with its foundation on Christ and the Holy Apostles. We are united to all its members, living and dead. We look forward in hope to our own resurrection and life in the Kingdom of God.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, Paraclete, think through me, love through me. forgive through me, work through me, reach out through me, encourage through me, so that Your thoughts become my thoughts, Your love becomes my love, Your forgiveness becomes my forgiveness, Your power becomes my power. Amen.

Grandma's Lap

   Grandma reminds us that it is easy to allow life to overtake us often. She tells this story about a diamond assessor to help us remain focused on what is "truly right and just."
   A diamond assessor has a difficult job. Surrounded by dozens of trays of finished diamonds, he has to determine their value and place them in a tray marked with a certain price.
   One day an assessor was asked: "How is it that you can look all day at hundreds of diamonds without becoming confused? How do you maintain your sense of values?
   The assessor smiled, happy that his task was taken so seriously. "It's very simple, my friend," he replied. Holding out his hand, he pointed to a fabulous diamond ring on his finger. "This diamond is perfect," he said. "It doesn't have a single flaw. Every half hour or so, I put it under my eyeglasses. This perfect diamond restores my sense of values and keeps me keenly aware of the perfection required of these gems."
   Grandma says that what that flawless diamond is for the assessor, the Lord Jesus is to us. By looking constantly at Him and measuring all things in the light of His perfection and His commandments, we keep a sense of what is truly important and what is not. Christ is the perfect Son in Whom the Father is well pleased. The Holy Spirit will guide us as He guided Jesus to determine what is right and what is wrong, what is worth giving our lives to and what is not, what deserves our allegiance and what does not.

Who Am I?

   We need to recapture the meaning of what it means to be made in the image of God. We need to actualize the image of God in us.
   We need to say to ourselves: "I am not a consumer I am not an idiot. I am not a receptacle for drugs. I am not a glorified animal. I am not a container for alcohol. I am not a playboy or playgirl. I am a living icon of God created in His own image. I am a Temple of the Holy Spirit. I am made to house God.
   If I am a living icon of God, so is everyone else. Mother Teresa said very aptly: "If everyone could see the image of God in His neighbor, do you thing we should still need tanks and generals?" The tragedy is that we don't see God either in ourselves or others.

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