This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost
– the great feast of the Holy Spirit. Last week
we looked at the Holy Spirit, and I wrote that I sometimes feel that we only talk about the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and at Confirmations.
But then what?
Do you know that everything that happens in the life of the Church happens because of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the life of the Church. The Eucharist takes place because of the action of the Holy Spirit. In fact, every Sacrament is made possible because of the action of the Holy Spirit.
When we go to Mass, are we paying attention to how the Holy Spirit is working? Let’s look a little closer at the Mass.
Right at the beginning, the first thing the priest does is invite us to make the Sign of the Cross: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
That’s the sign of the Trinity. Then immediately after we make the Sign of the Cross, the priest says: “May the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.”
Right at the beginning we are professing that we believe in the Trinity. And we profess what we believe: that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Right at the beginning we are asking that the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us.
The next moment is the Penitential Rite. After we ask for mercy, on Sundays and Solemnities we will pray or sing the Gloria
. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal
“The Gloria in excelsis is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb.” (GIRM #53)
The last line of the Gloria
says: “For You alone are the Holy One, you alone the Lord, you alone the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the Glory of God the Father.”
In the Gloria
we profess that Jesus is the Holy One, the Lord, the Most High, with the Holy Spirit in the Glory of the Father. Again, we do not speak of Jesus or God the Father without mentioning the Holy Spirit.
Right after the Gloria
we pray the Collect, the Opening Prayer. This prayer, no matter what it is (because it’s different every Sunday), always ends with the same formula. We pray “through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”
Jesus lives and reigns with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Again, the Trinity professed.
During the Liturgy of the Word there may or may not be mention of the Holy Spirit depending on the readings. Chances are that, unless it’s the Easter season, we are not going to hear the words “Holy Spirit” mentioned in the readings.
But, what is happening during the Liturgy of the Word? What happens while we’re listening to a reading? What happens afterwards? We listen and we reflect in silence. Again, the GIRM says that through this silence “under the action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared”
(GIRM 56). It is by the action of the Holy Spirit that the Word that we hear can take root in our hearts and can come alive in us.
Once again, during the Profession of Faith we profess that we believe in the Holy Spirit. Before we get to the part about the Holy Spirit, we say that we believe that “by the Holy Spirit” Jesus became man: “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man”
(Nicene Creed). The Apostles' Creed says that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit.”
Later on in the Nicene Creed, we pray:
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.”
This is what we believe: The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, but the Spirit is also the giver of life, and it is the Spirit who has spoken to us through the prophets. Most importantly (and this we forget), the Spirit deserves to be adored and glorified.
Once we enter into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the power of the Spirit really begins to work.
During the Eucharistic Prayer the priest, in the name of the entire community, addresses God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit (GIRM #78).
It’s interesting to listen to the Eucharistic Prayer and pay attention to when the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
The most obvious time is during the epiclesis
is the part of the Mass (and of all Sacraments) when the “Church implores the power of the Holy Spirit that the gifts offered by human hands (the bread and the wine) be consecrated"
(GIRM #79c). This is the moment when we ask for the Spirit to descend and make the Sacrament possible.
is a Greek word that means “to invoke upon”. In the Eucharistic Prayer, during the epiclesis
the priest asks God to send his “Holy Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord.”
The second Eucharistic Prayer is probably the one we are most familiar with:
“Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
All Eucharistic Prayers have a similar formula. At this time the priest will extend his hands, palms down, over the bread and wine as he says the prayer. He then makes the sign of the cross over the gifts.
If the priest is using Eucharistic Prayer #4, pay extra special attention to hear all the other times that the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
Then follows the Consecration. Even though the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, always remember that whatever is happening there on the altar, is happening because of the Holy Spirit.
There is another moment during the Eucharistic Prayer that is called the oblation. The second Eucharistic prayer says, “Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.”
It’s because of the Holy Spirit that we offer the Sacrifice but also learn to offer our very selves “and so day by day to be brought, through the mediation of Christ, into unity with God and with each other, so that God may at last be all in all”
(GIRM #79f). It’s because of the Holy Spirit that Communion is made possible.
Finally, the Eucharistic Prayer ends with the words of the Doxology, which we have all heard so many times:
“Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever.”
Once again, we adore God, the almighty Father, through Christ, with Christ and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
There are several prayers that the priest prays quietly and so we never hear them. One of them happens right after the Lamb of God
. The priest prays:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your Death gave life to the world, free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil; keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me be parted from you.”
Once again, he is asking that whatever happens, happen by the work of the Holy Spirit.
This is also true for Communion.
The Eucharist is about Jesus. He is the Eucharist. The bread and wine are transformed into His body, blood, soul, and divinity. It is His Divine Presence. But it would not be possible without the Holy Spirit. This is why it is most appropriate to pray to the Holy Spirit - pray for the Holy Spirit - during Communion. Pray that the Spirit makes you one with Christ and one with each other.
At the end of Mass, we receive the blessing: “May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
We are blessed by the Trinity – that includes the Holy Spirit.
Next time you are at Mass, pay attention to how many times the Holy Spirit is mentioned and pay attention to how the Spirit is at work. I would say that everything that happens at Mass happens by the work of the Holy Spirit. This includes what God is working in our hearts during Mass, what we pray to the Father and/or to the Son, what the Father and Son ask for us, and how we are all brought into Communion because of the action of the Mass.
To learn more about the Mass and what is happening during the Mass, read all of my Deacon-structing The Mass posts:
Part 1: Full, Conscious, and Active
Part 2: The Entrance
Part 3: The Penitential Rite, Gloria, and the Collect
Part 4: Liturgy of the Word
Part 5: The Readings
Part 6: Homily, Creed, and Universal Prayers
Part 7: The Liturgy of the Eucharist
Part 8: The Eucharistic Prayer
Part 9: Deeper into the Eucharistic Prayer
Part 10: The Communion Rite
Part 11: Communion
Part 12: Concluding Rites
Part 13: Go and Proclaim
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: [email protected]