Beautiful hymn also serves as a prayer to the Giver of Life, who makes all things new
By Bishop Richard F. Stika
The Easter season that culminates with Pentecost Sunday, which this year falls on May 20, is a season also for the celebration of the sacrament of confirmation.
As with the Church’s most important celebrations, including the ordination of clergy and even during the procession of the College of Cardinals into the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope, one particular hymn continues to bless our hearing and our hearts: Veni Creator Spiritus, “Come Creator Spirit.” During this confirmation season, I never tire of hearing this ancient hymn, written 1,200 years ago, nor repeating the words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” as I anoint the confirmands with holy chrism.
Confirmation is the sacrament that completes the sacramental grace of baptism, giving us the strength of the Holy Spirit, binding us more strongly to the Church, and giving us to share more fully in the mission of Christ. As we continue our Easter celebration, it would be good to reflect upon this most revered hymn of the Church that invokes in a special way the help of the third person of the Most Holy Trinity, who we profess in the creed each Sunday as the “Giver of Life” who makes all things new.
Television shows that feature difficult home-renovation projects are very popular today. Part of the reason for their popularity, I believe, is that they appeal to our creative spirit in taking something that is old, neglected and broken, then making it new and beautiful. And as is so often the case with these “extreme makeover” projects, the end product is even better than the original when it was new. Isn’t this what God wants to do with us?
The Veni Creator Spiritus is not only a beautiful hymn of prayer, but a compendium of biblical and Church teaching concerning the Holy Spirit. In Latin, the hymn begins by invoking the Holy Spirit, not in His proper canonical name, but by the title of Creator Spirit.
While the work of God is a work of all three persons of the Trinity, we recall in Creation’s beginning, as well as on the “first day” of the Church’s beginning at Pentecost, how a “mighty wind” marks the “initiation” of creation and also of our re-creation (cf. Gn 1:2; Acts 2:2). As God, in creating man, “blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gn 2:7), so
Jesus, in appearing to the apostles after His resurrection, “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22).
It is this creative and renewing action of the Holy Spirit that we invoke in this hymn. It expresses the heart’s longing to be re-created and made even better than before the Fall and the disfigurement of sin. We need look no further than the saints for proof that the Holy Spirit has been given to the Church.
But because of weakness and sin, our own heart can feel at times like a dark and chaotic abyss such as described in the Genesis creation account. Our world today too seems so chaotic and filled with a deep darkness. For this reason, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who has been a preacher to the papal household since 1980, reminds us that daily we are in need of the creative power of the Holy Spirit if we are to overcome the chaos of sin and darkness. “Night,” he tells us, “is like a temporary falling-back into chaos,” and with our awakening each morning, we re-emerge from this “primordial chaos.” To shake off this heaviness, “it is important to start each new day with the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may transform our nighttime chaos into the light of faith and hope and love.”
In Father Cantalamessa’s book titled Come, Creator Spirit, which I highly recommend, he reminds us that the Holy Spirit is our advocate (Jn 14:26), our helper, and our guide. It is He who changes our chaos into the order and peace of our sanctification, who fills and changes us. If you invoke the Holy Spirit to come into your life and to fill you with His gifts, be prepared for your life to change. And with the Holy Spirit, be prepared to help change the lives of others.
If the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, our Helper, He also helps us to be paracletes to others. He is our consoler in times of hardship and sadness, and He helps us to be consolers to others. Above all, it is the Holy Spirit who prepares us for Christ and forms Christ in us, so that we in turn can give Christ to others.
If this is what the Holy Spirit does, then we should be asking ourselves, “What is my relationship to the Holy Spirit?”
May the prayer Veni Creator Spiritus be for you a daily source of reflection and inspiration in helping to satisfy the longing of your heart in being created anew each and every day in God’s love and mercy. And may you in turn help others to experience the fire of His love!
VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our hearts take up Thy rest;
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid,
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O Comforter, to Thee we cry, O heavenly
gift of God most high, O fount of life,
and Fire of love, and sweet anointing
O Finger of the hand divine, the sevenfold
gifts of grace are thine; true promise of
the Father, Thou! Who does the tongue
with power endow.
Kindle our senses from above, and make
our hearts overflow with love; Thine own
unfailing might supply, the weakness of
our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread, and
grant us Thy true peace instead; so shall
we not, with Thee for guide, turn from the
path of life aside.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow, the
Father and the Son to know; and You,
through endless times confessed, of both
the eternal Spirit blest.
Now to the Father and the Son, Who
rose from death, be glory given, with You,
O Holy Comforter, henceforth by all in
earth and heaven. Amen.