Easter is Confirmation season. I love the adventure of visiting so many parishes to confirm eager youth who have been formed and made ready to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Most are in 8th grade and on the threshold of their high school years.
The danger is to view the Sacrament of Confirmation as simply a “rite of passage” as adolescence begins. Such a view emphasizes that the young person is now making her own choice (which is true) as an adult in the Church and that more will be expected in service to others (which is also true.) However, these insights can cause the deeper truth of sacrament to be ignored and not cultivated: the gift of the Holy Spirit and our ability to evoke the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and through the power of the Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth.
In January, I joined other U.S. bishops for a retreat at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago led by the Papal Retreat Director, Father Raniero Cantalamessa. I was so impressed by his homilies that I ordered a book that he wrote and referenced during this retreat. It is entitled “Come, Creator Spirit: Meditations on the Veni Creator.” Published in 2003, his meditations were originally retreat conferences for St. John Paul and the curial officials who make a retreat each year in December.
As soon as I hear Veni Creator Spiritus, my mind immediately goes to the ordination ceremonies of days past. The beautiful Gregorian chant formed the background for the sacred action of the bishop as he laid his hands on those being ordained to the priesthood. It was solemn and inviting but because it was in Latin, I paid little attention to what it was saying.
Father Cantalamessa began each of his conferences in January with a stanza of the hymn and gave a reflection upon it. The hymn itself traces to the 9th century and was likely authored by Rhabanus Maurus, Abbot of Fulda and later Archbishop of Mainz. He died in 856 so the hymn has been with us for more than 12 centuries. The accompanying music has varied over time, but the text itself has been preserved. Here is the English translation of the first verse:
“Come, Creator Spirit,
Visit the minds of those who are yours;
Fill with heavenly grace
The hearts that you have made.”
What does it mean to pray, “Come, Creator Spirit?” In the Creed, we profess belief in the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Blessed Trinity, but this hymn has us pray to the Holy Spirit and evoke His presence.
Father Cantalamessa offers a great insight in explaining this question. We are not deists, who believe essentially that God created us and then left us alone. No, the Creator Spirit is present now, sustaining our every breath, and we can evoke Him.
Already aware of the gift of the Holy Spirit given in Baptism and Confirmation, we humbly invite the Creator Spirit to allow us to experience His power. A prayer evoking the Holy Spirit might say: “Creator Spirit, before I was conceived in my mother’s womb, before I was given the great gift of freedom, when I was Isaiah’s clay in the potter’s hand, You formed me. Now I give myself to You completely.”
The eminent example comes in the Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 2 in which the Virgin Mary, after expressing fear at her calling, makes a premier evocation: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”
So, too, Jesus taught us to do the same as we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven… Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Pray for those youth being confirmed that they will have the grace to evoke the Holy Spirit to change their hearts and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth. “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” Psalm 104:30.