Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Linchpin

Photo Credit: Bill Barber via Compfight (cc)
Paraclete, Advocate, Comforter, Sustainer, Fire, Dove, Wind, Breath—all different words used to describe the Holy Spirit. I would like to propose another: the Linchpin.

There’s no coincidence that in the Creed we profess our faith in the Church right after we profess our faith in the Holy Spirit.

The Church is the body of Christ. Christ continues to act and minister through the Church.  When the Pope, the vicar of Christ speaks on matters of faith and morals, Christ is speaking through him.  How?

When we profess our faith in the Holy Spirit in the Creed, just after we profess our faith in Christ and before we profess our faith in the Church we are actually professing another important reality.  The Spirit is the linchpin—the piece that keeps the two distinct parts united as a single whole.

Another analogy for the mission of the Holy Spirit I heard in a homily on the Vine and Branches discourse in John’s Gospel: “I am the donut; you are the sprinkles. But sprinkles need something to make them stick to the donut. We’ll call that the icing of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is literally the divine “glue” that keeps us grafted to the vine of Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear that wherever the Son is so is the Spirit and vice versa:
When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him… this joint mission will be manifested in the children adopted by the Father in the Body of his Son: the mission of the Spirit of adoption is to unite them to Christ and make them live in him. (CCC 689, 690)

The Sacraments are one example of this truth. In every Sacrament the priest acts in persona Christi or in the “person of Christ.” How? By the work of the Holy Spirit. Every sacrament includes an epiclesis, a calling on the Holy Spirit (e.g. “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your spirit upon them like the dewfall.” Eucharistic Prayer II).

We need to let the Spirit work.  If we don’t trust the work of the Spirit in the Church then it all falls apart.  Either the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit or it is not.  If we deny the Spirit working in Church we deny our connection to Christ.

What are some other ways you understand and know the Holy Spirit?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Happy (Belated) Birthday to the Church!

Photo credit Marina del Castell via Compfight (cc)
We just celebrated Pentecost. It is sometimes referred to as the “birthday of the Church.” In all my years of studying and teaching the Catholic faith, I just never quite understood why. Didn't Jesus establish the Church? Did the Church not already exist?

I don’t remember when or how, but it finally hit me. Yes, the Church existed prior to Pentecost, just as a child exists in his mother’s womb. However, only when a child leaves the safety of his mother’s womb, enters the world, and takes his first breath do we say he is born.  Just so the Church, while it existed, was not yet born. When God sent the Spirit, the Church took her first breath. In Greek, "spirit" and "breath" are both denoted with the word pneuma (it is also where we get the words "pneumonia" and pneumatic). When the Church received the life-giving breath of the Spirit the infant Church left the safety of the upper room, entered the world, and began preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. At this point the Church was born.

We are called and invited to breathe deeply the life that comes to us from the Spirit. Like the infant Church we are called to leave the safety of our comfort zone and proclaim the Good News. The first steps of the Church took her out to a hostile crowd that upon hearing the Good News was begging to know more. Where will your first steps take you?