Topic: The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Liturgy
Audience: Confirmation Class for Young Adults
Sections: Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1099-1112
As one of the lessons for a Confirmation class for adults I will teach how the Holy Spirit recalls the mystery of Christ, makes present the mystery of Christ, and how we operate in communion with the Holy Spirit. I would like to give a definition for each of the terms found in this section and emphasize how vital the Holy Spirit is in the life of the Church as a sacrament. I will rely on CCC #1099-1109 for most of the lesson.
“Christ’s work in the liturgy is sacramental: because his mystery of salvation is made present there by the power of his Holy Spirit; because his Body, which is the Church, is like a sacrament (sign and instrument) in which the Holy Spirit dispenses the mystery of salvation; and because through her liturgical actions the pilgrim Church already participates, as by a foretaste, in the heavenly liturgy” (CCC #1111).
Looking at this section of the Catechism we can see the beauty of the sacramental nature of the liturgy. What makes that thrive? What gives it life? The Holy Spirit is what moves and breathes in the life of the Church and its liturgy. “As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power” (CCC #1127). What a beautiful image to have, that we see in the life of the liturgy. The Holy Spirit is meant to transform and purify as fire does.
The reflection gives us insight into the role of the Holy Spirit. There are three points to focus on in terms of the liturgy. How the Spirit recalls the mystery of Christ, how the mystery of Christ is made present, and how people operate in communion with the Spirit.
1. The Holy Spirit recalls the mystery of Christ
We re-member the Paschal Mystery through the Eucharist and the sacraments. This means that we make it a member again and celebrate the mystery as a memorial. It is not a repetition but a living memory that we all participate in (CCC #1099). This re-membering is done through the Word of God as the Spirit recalls the meaning of salvation through Sacred Scripture. The parts and meaning of the liturgy and sacraments are derived from Scripture (CCC #1100). The message and spiritual understanding of the Scripture comes to them through the disposition of their hearts. It puts the faithful and ministers into living relationship with Christ (CCC #1101). Our hearts nourish faith and elicit a response through consent and commitment. The Holy Spirit gives the grace of faith, strengthens it and makes it grow in community (CCC #1102).
Anamnesis is the first term to refer to and explain in the liturgical celebration. In Greek it means memorial sacrifice or reminiscence. It refers to the saving interventions in history as it “recalls” to the assembly all that Christ has done for us. The remembrance is of the marvelous works of God. The Holy Spirit awakens a memory of the Church and inspires thanksgiving and praise (CCC #1103).
Dr. Scott Hahn comments on this re-membering, this memorial that does not repeat but lives in glory through the liturgy and our participation which the Holy Spirit gives us grace to celebrate
Christ through the Holy Spirit makes himself available as the Lamb of God to be consumed continuously. That’s the whole point of the Resurrection, incidentally. The Holy Spirit raises up that body and glorifies it so supernaturally that body and blood which is glorified may be internationally distributed through the elders and priests of the Church so that all of God’s children can be bound back to the Father in the New Covenant sacrifice of Christ. He didn’t die again. He’s not bleeding and he’s not suffering. He’s reigning in glory and giving us his own flesh and blood (etwn.com).
2. Holy Spirit makes present the mystery of Christ
The sacrifice is not only remembered but also made present in history and time in the present. The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated and not repeated. Each celebration has an outpouring of the Holy Spirit (CCC #1104).
The next term is epiclesis which means invocation upon in Greek. The intercession of the priest begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit so that offerings may become the body and blood of Christ. The faithful may become a living offering by receiving them (CCC #1105). How incredible to become a part of the offering of Christ. It shows the vital role that the priest plays and how the Holy Spirit plays an active role. The epiclesis with the anamnesis is the focus of the Eucharist (CCC #1106).
At this point in the liturgy of the Eucharist we wait in hope and anticipate the fullness of communion with the Holy Trinity.
Sent by the Father, who hears the epiclesis of the church, the Spirit gives life to those who accept him and is, the “guarantee” of their inheritance (CCC #1107).
This means that the Trinity is made manifest in the sacrament of the Eucharist through the sacrifice of Christ, the call of the priest, and the work of the Holy Spirit sent by the Father. These are core components of our faith and the role of the Holy Spirit in them.
3. Communion of the Holy Spirit
Along with the image of the purifying fire is the Holy Spirit as sap to the vine. “The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father’s vine which bears fruit on its branches” (CCC #1108). The Holy Spirit plays an intimate role in the Church and in the liturgy. It is the Spirit that is forming and guiding us into worshipping our faith through Confirmation. We’ve seen how it moves and transforms in the Eucharist.
The epiclesis is a prayer for the full effect of the communion with the mystery of Christ. The Church asks the Father to send the Holy Sprit to make the lives of the faithful a living sacrifice to God by transformation. The bread is transformed into the Eucharist and the Church is transformed through the image of Christ, concern for unity, and taking part in the mission through witness and charity (CCC #1109).
The Holy Spirit plays a vital role in the life of the liturgy and the Church because it recalls and presents a mystery, the mystery of Christ. In recalling and presenting it forms a communion. During the time of preparation for Confirmation, we are learning how to be aware of the Spirit working in our lives. By shaping our own awareness we must come to see how it works in the important focus of our faith, the Paschal Mystery. Keep this in mind, the movements of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy as you attend Mass. Let it speak to how you are a part of the offering that the priest presents in the epiclesis. How beautiful the liturgy is as a sacrament!