Monday, May 17, 2010

On the Holy Spirit

Veni Sancte Spiritus - Come Holy Spirit!   Pentecost is the Church's great celebration of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost is from a Greek word meaning "50th."  It has been 50 days since Easter.  Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish celebration 50 days after Passover. Devout Jews still celebrate "Shavout," the Hebrew word for this holyday. Pentecost is often referred to as the "birthday" of the Church.  The disciples began to preach the Good News once the Spirit came upon them. The opening chapters of the Acts of the Apostles recount the Pentecost experience.

St. Basil the Great (A.D. 330 - 379) wrote an astounding work on the Holy Spirit.  In fact, his words are used in the Office of Readings for Tuesday of the 7th Week of Easter.  That's this week, between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday; the week when the Church prepares for Pentecost. The Office of Readings is part of the Liturgy of the Hours which is always available on our website under "liturgy."

In On the Holy Spirit Chapter 9:22-23, (see: St. Basil writes:

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future,
understanding of the mysteries of the faith,
insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture,
and other special gifts.

Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven,
we are admitted to the company of the angels,
we enter into eternal happiness,
and abide in God.

Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God;
indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations --
we become God.

As I prepare to preach on Pentecost (a first for me!), I've been thinking of St. Basil's words a lot.  I may well use some of his words in the homily.  I am attracted to the Eastern theological notion of theosis. Deacons may be particularly attuned to this notion because of the words we say quietly when we put water into the wine at the altar: "by the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity." I am rereading St. Ambrose's similarly titled text on the Holy Spirit tonight.

I am also reviewing Pope John Paul II's Encyclical on the Holy Spirit called "The Lord and Giver of Life." Here is a link if you want to delve into it with me.

Feel free to share your Spirit-filled ideas with me by emailing anytime.

a random catechetical moment !!! --  sometimes the word "Ghost" is used instead of "Spirit."  Perhaps this is most evident in the famous hymn "Come Holy Ghost." The word "ghost" is from the German word "Geist." Generally speaking, the word "Spirit" is preferrred today to avoid the negative connotations attached to "ghost."  The word "spirit" is of Latin origin.  In Greek, the word is "pneuma."

The "Read More" link below will take you to the original Latin words of the famous hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit/Ghost).  The Latin words are particularly beautiful. There is an English translation in the missalette, and we will be handing out another translation to be used as our Sequence this weekend.  The Sequence is a hymn that precedes the Gospel on super-important solemnities like Pentecost.

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emítte caélitus
lucis tuae rádium.

Veni, pater páuperum,
veni, dator múnerum,
veni, lumen córdium.

Consolator óptime,
dulcis hospes animae.
dulce refrigerium.

In labóre réquies,
in aestu tempéries,
in fletu solácium.

O lux beatíssima,
reple cordis íntima
tuórum fidélium.

Sine tuo númine,
nihil est in hómine,
nihil est innoxium.

Lava quod est sórdidum,
riga quod est áridum,
sana quod est sáucium.

Flecte quod est rígidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Da tuis fidélibus,
in te confidéntibus,
sacrum septenárium.

Da virtútis méritum
da salútis éxitum,
da perénne gáudium. Amen. Alleluia

- Attributed to Pope Leo III (among others!)