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A Beacon Of Light . . . Communion With The Holy Spirit

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By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON JR.

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + Throughout history there have been countless works of art, that in turn, have become masterpieces. Maybe you fell in love with a painting from Rembrandt or Picasso. Perhaps you have seen the sculptures of Bernini or admired the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. Whatever the masterpiece was, it was very impressive.
    Today as we continue our journey through the Catechism, our gaze will focus on the workings of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy. Like the artisans Rembrandt, Picasso, and Michelangelo, the Holy Spirit is the teacher of “God’s Masterpieces.”
    As teacher, the Holy Spirit imparts the faith to the people of God enabling them the ability to experience “God’s Masterpieces” in a more tangible way. How is this done?
    This is chiefly accomplished through our participation in the liturgical actions of the Church. Participation in the liturgy involves an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Gathering in the presence of the Holy Spirit evokes within us a response. This response leads us to a genuine cooperation with and a more full participation in the liturgy.
    The Holy Spirit, however, continues the work of teacher by placing a link before us that enables a seamless transition from the Covenant of Old, to its fulfillment in Christ. This can be seen in the Church’s liturgy as she maintains the beloved practices of the Jewish tradition. These include: the importance of reading from the Old Testament, praying the Psalms, but above all, “recalling the saving events and significant realities which have found their fulfillment in the mystery of Christ (promise and covenant, Exodus and Passover, kingdom and temple, exile and return)” (CCC, n. 1092).
    This is why each year at the Vigil of Easter, as well as during Lent, we reread and recount the events of salvation history, so that we might experience them in new and fruitful ways.
    The liturgy is a living action of the Holy Trinity and each time we participate. It is an occasion that presents us with the ability to learn something new. It doesn’t stop here, though! Every liturgical action is a “communion with the Holy Spirit.” This is most actively achieved when we celebrate the Eucharist, but it is also true of the other sacraments. This “communion of the Holy Spirit” gathers all the faithful into a union of Christ and the Church.

A Living Memorial

This “divine encounter” should never be taken lightly. For if we participate in something so divine, should not we prepare ourselves for it?
This preparation is not unlike what a pianist does prior to a concert. Time is needed to prepare for the concert, just as we need time to prepare ourselves for the “divine concert” of the liturgy. We can do this is by studying the reading prior to going to Mass. There are several publications that can help us with this. They include: Magnificat, The Word Among Us, the USCCB website, and many others. By doing this preparation, the readings at Mass will be familiar to us, thus, enabling us to listen more attentively.
This also includes, however, a proper disposition “of the heart.” This disposition is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, in union with the sacred ministers, where faith is awakened, conversion of heart is found, and we adhere to the Father’s will. This disposition is required, and is a precondition, for receiving the grace and new life that the liturgy offers (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1098).
Furthermore, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the liturgical life of the Church that recalls the mystery of Christ. The Holy Spirit cooperates in the work of manifesting Christ and the work of salvation. The Holy Spirit, then, is for us a living memorial of the work of our salvation.
This “living memorial” is seen more fully within the context of the liturgy. How? Simply speaking, the Holy Spirit makes the liturgy alive for us today, in the same way as it was at the Last Supper. The Eucharistic Liturgy has several moments where we participate in this “living memorial.”
In other areas of the Mass, we acknowledge our “communion with the Spirit” in our frequent responses. This is seen in the dialogue that exists between priest and people.

Invitation To Communion

There are four instances within the celebration of the Eucharist where we are invited into “communion with the Holy Spirit.” The Mass begins with a greeting in which the minister invokes the Trinity: “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.” The greeting opens our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit who assists in our participation the liturgy. We respond by saying: “And with your Spirit.”
The second encounter with the Spirit happens during the Liturgy of the Word. The Liturgy of the Word is made “alive” through the Holy Spirit whenever the word of God is proclaimed. The Holy Spirit gives meaning to the events of salvation as it is heard by the faithful.
The Catechism further explains this: “In the celebration of the liturgy, Sacred Scripture is extremely important. From it come the lessons that are read and explained in the homily and the psalms that are sung. It is from the Scriptures that the prayers, collects, and hymns draw their inspiration and their force, and that actions and signs derive their meaning” (CCC, n. 1100).
Through the saving, and living Word the Gospel is proclaimed: “A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to [whichever of the four Evangelists it is taken from],” and we respond again by saying, And With Your Spirit.” Again we recognize and proclaim the presence of the Holy Spirit, as the priest proclaims the “living” word of God.
The third encounter with the Spirit happens at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, primarily in the Preface. The Preface begins with a dialogue between priest and people, and it is designed to raise our hearts and minds as we enter into the most sacred part of the Mass: “The Priest: The Lord be with you. People: And also with you. Priest: Lift up your hearts. People: We lift them up to the Lord. Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” (Roman Missal).
The fourth moment of “communion” with the Spirit happens during the Dismissal. Having participated in the Sacrament of our Salvation, the assembly is dismissed, but this dismissal calls us to live the liturgy in our daily lives. Then having proclaimed our belief in the Eucharistic Sacrifice we just celebrated, the priest blesses us in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to now live our faith more fully in the world.
The Mass concludes by calling the faithful to live in “communion with the Holy Spirit,” by being visible disciples of the Lord in the world.
So as we can see, the presence of the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Church’s liturgical celebrations. The Catechism expresses this beautifully:
“In every liturgical action the Holy Spirit is sent in order to bring us into communion with Christ and so to form his Body. The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father’s vine which bears fruit on its branches. The most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy. The Spirit who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church. For this reason the Church is the great sacrament of divine communion which gathers God’s scattered children together. Communion with the Holy Trinity and fraternal communion are inseparably the fruit of the Spirit in the liturgy” (CCC, n. 1108).
Today we have completed our study of the importance of the Blessed Trinity in the liturgical life of the Church. Next week, we will begin discussing the importance of the Paschal mystery in the Church’s sacraments. By this we mean that every sacrament works in cooperation with the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ. The whole liturgical life of the Church is united to Christ!
Until next week . . . May the Lord Bless You All!

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