WE SHALL BE CREATED...
Dear St. Louis Parishioners,
Even before creation was set into motion, “the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.” This is the first reference we read to the Holy Spirit, all the way back in the first sentence of the Scriptures (Genesis 1:1-2)! The Holy Spirit was present and active at the moment of creation and has been continually present and actively creating us, as long as we remain open to the transformative power of God’s grace. Thus, we pray, “Send forth Your Spirit, and we shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.” Although we would not begin to understand the identity of the Holy Spirit more clearly until the revelation of the Holy Trinity in the New Testament, nonetheless the Holy Spirit has been present and active throughout salvation history. In the Old Testament, we see Him especially coming to the aide of prophets and judges. Furthermore, our window (front cover) featuring an image of the Spirit descending in the form of a dove might hold another subtle reference to the Old Testament. The descending Spirit ignites seven flames, not twelve (which would likely indicate the Apostles at Pentecost). These seven flames may first call to mind the seven lampstands of Revelation (1:12), which symbolized the seven churches who were beckoned to turn their ears to “hear what the Spirit says to them”. Thus, they stand as a symbol that each individual local church is to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit and thus must allow itself to be led by Him. However, those seven lampstands of Revelation pointed back to the seven branches of the menorah, the golden lampstand in the sanctuary of the Temple, which stood as a reminder that this was where the presence of God dwelt. It is because of the Holy Spirit that Christ, our Light, dwells among us. And the primary way that we know His presence and activity among us in the Church today is in the (seven) Sacraments, which is the other key reference clearly being made here by the seven flames ignited by the Holy Spirit. We have just finished a great “season” in the parish of celebrating with our children and young people, as they receive sacraments of initiation (Confirmation and First Holy Communion). Also, we have had a number of baptisms throughout the Easter Season (including one this Sunday). These Sacraments are not simply rites of passages or rituals that we perform. They are the action of the Holy Spirit, which we actively receive through the outward signs which Christ instituted. The first time you hear the bells, during the Eucharistic Prayer, you will notice the priest’s hands extended over the gifts of bread and wine. This is the outward gesture signifying that the priest is calling down the Holy Spirit. Those bells are meant to call our attention to the fact the Holy Spirit is descending upon the altar. It is the Holy Spirit who is capable of turning bread and wine into Jesus Christ, through the instrumentality of the priest speaking the words of Christ. Those bells should remind us that the Spirit is present and active in the Church and, like the seven churches in Revelation, we too ought to open the ears of our hearts to hear what the Spirit says. We must strive for a greater openness to the Spirit, which begins (not ends) with living a sacramental life, through weekly Mass, periodic reconciliation, and daily renewing the promises of our Baptism and Confirmation (which call us to live a life of radical openness to the Spirit). For married people, it means daily renewing your commitment to your marriage, recalling that x number of years ago, you gave this day to your spouse and family, and asking the Lord’s help to give it to them again today. For me, as a priest, it means daily renewing the promises of my ordination, recalling that (almost) 6 years ago, I gave this day to Christ and His Church, and asking the Lord’s help to give this gift again today. It means choosing not to live for ourselves, but to give ourselves over to the Spirit, so that we too may be set aflame.
GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANTS: One final work of the Holy Spirit that might be recalled by the seven flames is the Sacrament of Holy Orders, bestowed upon the original seven deacons (Acts 6). As a new transitional deacon (Danny McShane) is ordained for our diocese this weekend in Peoria, we should thank God for the gift of the diaconate, and pray for all of our deacons. Most especially, we should remember our very own Deacon John Murphy who celebrates 30 years of ordination this Monday (May 21)! Deacon John is a great gift to our parish. Personally, I cannot express what a gift it is to have the assistance and accompaniment of an experienced deacon, who is very generous with his time, always willing to share his many talents and makes my life a whole lot easier! =) Thank you, Deacon for your years of service. Here’s to many more!
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!