THE ACTIVITY OF COMMITTEES AND COMMISSIONS
JOURNEY THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR
Holy Spirit - Mary - Hope - Confirmation
The aim of this journey is to help deepen ones awareness of the content of the mysteries of the redemption celebrated in the course of the liturgical year (cf. SC, 102). Through a reading of the texts of the Missal, the Lectionary and the Liturgy of the Hours the themes for this year underlined by Pope John Paul II in Tertio Millennio Adveniente are highlighted. The Holy Father invites us to rediscover the presence and action of the Spirit, who acts sacramentally in the Church, especially in the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is the Spirit who builds the Kingdom of God within the course of history and prepares its full manifestation in Jesus Christ. Within this prospective we are invited to rediscover the virute of hope and to contemplate and imitate the Virgin Mary, who was docile to the voice of the Spirit (cf. TMA, 45-48). As the liturgy is the privileged place where the work of salvation is actualized (cf. SC, 6), it is the most excellent place to experience the passing of the Spirit. It is the task of all the faithful this year to rediscover in the celebration of the holy mysteries, the movement of the Holy Spirit, through whose pouring out the work of redemption is made manifest and fullfilled (cf. LG, 59; AG,4).
The liturgy of Advent nourishes the faithful in their waiting in trust for the Parousia. They are illuminated by the Messianic texts of the Old Testament and live in the hope of Christmas, which renews the memory of the divine promises already achieved, even if not definitively. Advent with its character of waiting for the coming of the Lord, which is both that past coming and the future one is an ideal time for the faithful to rediscover in their lives the plan of God and to prepare themselves for: «that new springtime of Christian life which will be revealed by the Great Jubilee, if Christians are docile to the action of the Spirit» (TMA 18).
Advent is the season of the Holy Spirit, who was the real «Precursor» of the first coming of Christ. The Spirit of God has spoken through the Prophets: «You were patient with them for many years; you admonished them by your spirit through your prophets» (Neh 9,30; cf. Zc 7,12). He is the inspirer of the Messianic oracles (cf. Is 11: 1-9, 42,1-7). Through the power of the Spirit the Word was made incarnate in the womb of the Virgin (cf. Lk 1,35). Elizabeth «filled with the Holy Spirit» recognized and proclaimed Mary «mother of the Lord» (Lk 1,41-43).
It is in the Spirit that the Church awaits the return of the Lord: «The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come"» (Rev 22,17). The Spirit rouses in the heart of the Bride both yearning and longing for the Spirit. That is why the community prays for the gift of the Spirit so that they may go forth to meet Christ: «God our Father [...] give us also your Spirit, so that we may be radiant with his light at the coming of Christ your Son»(1). Advent is filled with the consolation, the power and the richness of Pentecost. St. Bernard recalls: «His first coming was in the flesh and in weakness, this intermediary coming [which we celebrate in the liturgy] is in the spirit and in power, the last coming will be in glory and majesty»(2). In this context, Advent invites the Church to remember, that in her mission of announcing the Messiah to all peoples, it is the Holy Spirit who is the principal agent of evangelization (cf. TMA, 45).
Advent is a season of hope. In the Spirit of Christ, the definitive communion with God the Father is already present in history, even if in a mysterious and invisible way. Hope for the believer is not merely waiting for something to happen; it is a commitment, here and now, to build the Kingdom of God. Hope, «on the one hand encourages the Christian not to lose sight of the final goal, which gives meaning and value to life, and on the other, offers solid and profound reasons for a daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to Gods plan» (TMA 46). Our reason for hope is intimately tied to our waiting, which is characteristic of the liturgy of the Third Sunday: «Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near» (Phil 4,4-5)(3). It is Christ himself who is the subject of Christian hope, the mystery hidden in time and now revealed: «Christ among you, your hope of glory» (Col 1, 27).
Advent, and in a special way the days from 17 to 23 December, is the Marian time par excellence: the Church recalls the Daughter of Zion, the Virgin who waits to welcome the Word of God. On the Fourth Sunday, the Roman liturgy celebrates Mary, «she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled» (Lk 1,45). The collect of the Mass recalls the Annunciation, the mystery of vocation, mission and consecration through the power of the Spirit. It is in the Virgin that the Spirit descends in power just as he descended on the prophets of the old Covenant consecrated for the salvation of the people. Modeling themselves on Mary «a woman of hope who like Abraham, accepted Gods will "hoping against hope" (cf. Rom 4,18)» (TMA 45), the faithful are invited to prepare themselves to meet the Lord who comes(4). During the first part of Advent, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception urges the Church to contemplate the wonder of Gods love(5) carried out in Mary, «free from every stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature» (LG 56). The Virgin Mother of Christ appears before humanity as «the unchangeable and inviolable sign of Gods election," and "a sign of sure hope»(6).
Christmas and the Epiphany of the Lord
In the three year preparatory phase for 2000, «centered on Christ, the Son of God made man» (TMA 39), we are invited this year to rediscover the action of the Spirit in this mystery. We are guided in our meditation by the first chapters of the Gospel of Saint Luke, which is proclaimed in the Christmas liturgy. In this liturgy the Church contemplates and celebrates «Mary, who conceived the Incarnate Word by the power of the Holy Spirit» (TMA 48)(7).
Christmas is a season of the Holy Spirit. Saint Luke recounts the human origins of Jesus in the light of his resurrection. His intention can be seen in the expressions and the themes contained in Lk 1, 35: «Holy Spirit», «power», «cover you with its shadow» (the cloud of Exodus), the title «Son of God». The underlying message is that the divine sonship of Jesus is founded on his conception through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is aware that Christmas is celebrated in the light of the reality of Easter. The Vigil Mass presents Christmas as «the beginning of our redemption»(8). The passage from Is 62, 1-5 proclaimed during the same celebration takes up this ecclesiological theme of the nuptial union between God and the Church which has its first great manifestation in the mystery of the Incarnation: the eternal Son of God appears in time, indissolubly linked to human nature, in the person of Jesus Christ. The author of this nuptial union is the Holy Spirit.
The Second Sunday after Christmas underlines the theme of Divine Wisdom who pitches «your tent in Jacob» (Ecc 24,8) and that of our predestination as children of God through Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1,3-6). It is the Spirit who guides us in our discovery of the mysteries of the Wisdom of God and who conforms us to the image of the Son (cf. Eph 1,17)(9).
On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we contemplate once again how through the action of the Spirit at the Jordan, just as at Nazareth, the Son of Mary is announced, constituted and manifested as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior. Consecrated by the power of the Spirit, Jesus from his Baptism shows himself willing to assume the humiliations and sufferings implicit in his choice of solidarity with sinful humanity. This is underlined by the response of the Responsorial psalm (from Ps 103): «Bless the Lord, my soul! Lord God, how great you are».
The theme of hope permeates the whole Christmas period. The birth of the Lord is the joyful proclamation of «a great joy» which opens the human heart to the hope of salvation (cf. Lk 2: 10-11). This can be seen in the second preface of Christmas: «Christ is your Son before all ages, yet now he is born in time. He has come to lift up all things to himself, to restore unity to creation, and to lead mankind from exile into your heavenly kingdom». Because Christs birth is truly good news for the whole world(10), the invitation of the Pope to appreciate and understand «the signs of hope present in the last part of this century, even though they often remain hidden from our eyes» (TMA 46) should be welcomed and transmitted to others.
In the liturgical texts of the Christmas season (prayers, hymns and antiphons) the Church invokes and gives thanks for the Mother of the Lord. In a special way, the solemnity of 1 January contemplates the mystery of the divine maternity of Mary, a marvel of the Holy Spirit: «Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she became the virgin mother of your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is ever the light of the world» (Cf. preface).
1) RM, 17 December, Prayer after Communion.
2) Office of Readings, First Week of Advent, Wed., 2nd Reading.
3) Entrance Antiphon.
4) Cf. Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus 4.
5)Cf. Responsorial Psalm.
6) Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Mater 11.
7) Cf. Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus 5.
8) Prayer over the gifts.
9) Cf. the reading from St Basil, Office of Readings, 2 January, 2nd reading.
10) Cf. the opening of the reading from St Leo the Great, Office of Readings, Christmas Day, 2nd reading.