The Hiddenness of the Holy Spirit

In its liturgical context the Latin maxim lex orandi, lex credendi asserts that the way we worship reflects what we believe. In this post-Pentecost period it seems timely to pose the question: What does our liturgical practice say about our belief in the Holy Spirit?

The role of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy can be somewhat ambiguous and less precisely stated compared with the explicit roles of the Father and the Son. Yet the Holy Spirit is that person of the Blessed Trinity by whom the Church is enabled to worship the Father through the Son, as only in the power of the Spirit are spiritual realities actualised. 

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs: “The mission of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy of the Church is to prepare the assembly to encounter Christ; to recall and manifest Christ to the faith of the assembly; to make the saving work of Christ present and active by his transforming power; and to make the gift of communion bear fruit in the Church.” (CCC 1112) Yet despite all this activity the Holy Spirit has been referred to as “the forgotten” member of the Godhead.

Certainly in many parish churches the 800 year old custom of ringing bells at the epiclesis in particular, has all but disappeared, yet the General Instruction of the Roman Missal continues to assert the practice. (GIRM 150) Though not essential, a properly catechised community might in some small way come to better appreciate the presence, if not the action, of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy through even this modest audible reminder that something profound, even mysterious, is happening.

As our participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit, are we alive to the His action in the liturgy and do we truly adore and glorify Him with the Father and the Son as we profess?

Whatever you conclude, renewed by the Spirit this Pentecost let us seek Him out in our liturgies. Let us commit to acknowledging His presence and action among us with great joy. And perhaps, at the Epiklesis where the priest begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit to make the lives of the faithful a living sacrifice to God, would it be so old fashioned to ring a bell if just to let Him know, that we know, that He is with us?

By Michael McKenna, immediate past Director of the Office of Liturgy

Tags: Liturgy