Veni Sancte Spiritus
Dear Friends in Christ,
Throughout the Church year, we celebrate our great feasts with music. We all know and love the wonderful and beautiful Christmas carols that we sing from heart and memory. What is Easter without the majesty of the great hymns proclaiming the resurrection and the joyful strains of alleluia? The great feast of Pentecost which we celebrate today is also marked by its own music. Today we will sing the sequence of the Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) immediately before the gospel which echoes the sequences of Easter Sunday (Praise the Paschal Victim – Victimae Paschali) and the Feast of Corpus Christi (Praise Zion –Lauda Zion). But the pre-eminent hymn of this feast day is the Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Creator Spirit). This chant is sung at the great moments in the life of the Church. We hear it at the ordination of priests and bishops, at the celebration of the sacrament of Confirmation, at the election of a pope and of course, on Pentecost. The versus are attributed to Rabanus Maurus Magnentius (784-856), who was archbishop of Mainz and a successor to St. Boniface, the apostle of the Germans.
The verses of this great hymn are rich in imagery, poetry and theology. The opening verse sets the tone:
|Veni creator Spiritus||Come creator Spirit|
|Mentes tuorum visita||Visit the minds (hearts) of those who are yours|
|Imple superna gratia||Fill with supernatural grace|
|Quae tu creasti pectora||those hearts which you have made|
It is the verbs that always strike me, “come”, “visit”, “fill”. We call on the Spirit of God with a plea. We acknowledge our need and dependence of the Spirit and our origin in God. In saying this we also admit to our imperfection and limitation. This plea is not just our prayer at Pentecost, but our daily prayer. In the prayer of consecration at the ordination of a priest, the bishop prays in calling for the gift of the Holy Spirit, “we are weak, and our need is greater.” So too are each of us each day. The disciples on the road to Emmaus pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, stay with us!”
Too often, we live our lives as though we don’t absolutely need God. We carry on as though we are not absolutely dependent upon God, as though we are our masters and creators. The Veni Creator reminds us of the truth of our utter dependence and need of the Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit is indeed the gift that “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” It is a gift to the Church as a whole and to each individual believer. This gift of the Creator Spirit is not a nicety. It is not a gift of the Father and the Son being polite as though the Holy Spirit was a trinket or souvenir. The gift of the Creator Spirit is a gift of urgency and necessity for us to live with and for Christ. We need the Creator Spirit because we are always in need of being recreated in God’s grace. The great enemy of the spiritual life and the life of grace isn’t always disbelief as it is pride and complacency.
|Accende lumen sensibus||Inflame the light of our senses|
|Infunde amorem cordibus||Pour (infuse) love into our hearts|
|Infirma nostri corporis||Strengthen our weak (sick) bodies|
|Vitute firmans perpeti||with continuous courage|
Again, the verbs tell the story. Inflame, pour, strengthen! We need so desperately light, love and courage in order to make our way each day; for too often we fall into darkness, hatred and weakness in our attitudes, actions and wills. Because we are in continual and daily need to be created anew in our senses, hearts and bodies and so we cry out pleading, Come, Creator Spirit, come!
In pace Christi,