Sacramentum Caritatis 12: The Holy Spirit in History

Once or twice in the past week or two I’ve witnessed a few theology discussions suggesting that Catholics are rather weak and inattentive to the role of the Holy Spirit. Sure, the words of the Eucharistic Prayer consistently invoke the Spirit. In one of the recent tributes to the late pope emeritus, I even noticed one commentator suggesting Joseph Ratzinger objected to the inclusion of the Holy Spirit in EPs II, III, and IV. That’s probably a specious and needless commentary.

Pope Benedict devoted two paragraphs in this document specifically to The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist. So let’s see what he had to say about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. First up, the Holy spirit has guided liturgical form through the centuries, and our understanding of our faith:

12. With his word and with the elements of bread and wine, the Lord himself has given us the essentials of this new worship. The Church, his Bride, is called to celebrate the eucharistic banquet daily in his memory. She thus makes the redeeming sacrifice of her Bridegroom a part of human history and makes it sacramentally present in every culture. This great mystery is celebrated in the liturgical forms which the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, develops in time and space. (Cf. Propositio 3) We need a renewed awareness of the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the evolution of the liturgical form and the deepening understanding of the sacred mysteries.

Some of B16’s fanfolk might complain about the absence of the Holy Spirit since 1962-70, but clearly, their hero would seem to disagree. Here, he cites one of the modern anaphoras:

The Paraclete, Christ’s first gift to those who believe, (Cf. Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV) …

Also, the Biblical tradition:

… already at work in Creation (cf. Genesis 1:2), is fully present throughout the life of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ is conceived by the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35); at the beginning of his public mission, on the banks of the Jordan, he sees the Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove (cf. Matthew 3:16 and parallels); he acts, speaks and rejoices in the Spirit (cf. Luke 10:21), and he can offer himself in the Spirit (cf. Hebrews 9:14). In the so-called “farewell discourse” reported by John, Jesus clearly relates the gift of his life in the paschal mystery to the gift of the Spirit to his own (cf. John 16:7). Once risen, bearing in his flesh the signs of the passion, he can pour out the Spirit upon them (cf. John 20:22), making them sharers in his own mission (cf. John 20:21). The Spirit would then teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. John 14:26), since it falls to him, as the Spirit of truth (cf. John 15:26), to guide the disciples into all truth (cf. John 16:13). In the account in Acts, the Spirit descends on the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary on the day of Pentecost (cf. 2:1-4) and stirs them to undertake the mission of proclaiming the Good News to all peoples.

The Bible is rather silent on the direct involvement of the Spirit in the first century experience of the Breaking of the Bread. But the guidance of the Spirit for the disciples of the apostolic age was undeniable. Does the Spirit seem less present, less engaged as time has gone by? Perhaps those who seek the Spirit find the fruitfulness promised–the insights, the presence, and such.

Thus it is through the working of the Spirit that Christ himself continues to be present and active in his Church, starting with her vital center which is the Eucharist.

In the next paragraph we will see this more strongly presented.

This document is copyright © 2007 Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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