Should the Baptized say, “Come Holy Spirit”?

May 16, 2013

One of the song that I and my wife chose during our wedding day was “Veni Creator Spiritus” (Come Creator Spirit), believed to be written by Rabanus Maurus in the 9th century. And some of our friends asked why would one choose a song about the coming of the Holy Spirit for their wedding day. My response at that time was, “why not? we need the Holy Spirit in our marriage life”. I have to admit that it was an interesting question.  However, I have heard an even more interesting question, “why would you ask the coming of the Holy Spirit if you have been baptized, and the Holy Spirit is already IN you? We already have the Holy Spirit!” Well that makes a lot of sense. Why then? It is a question that I believe requires an answer as we approach the feast of Pentecost.

The funny thing that I realized is that, not only some people ask for the Holy Spirit to come. I would say even the Church continues to ask for the Holy Spirit to come. The song Veni Creator Spiritus was written in the 9th century and since then it has been one of the most loved traditional song sang in churches. People sing it during Easter vigil baptism ceremony. People sing it during ordination for priesthoods and bishops. People sing it during Pentecost. And people even sing it when they choose a Pope! In a word, the Church has been asking the Holy Spirit to come! Does that mean that the Church does not have the Holy Spirit all this while? Have you ever asked that question?

And I would say that the Church not only sing “Come Holy Spirit”. I believe the Church continues to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. And believe it or not, it is every time the Eucharist is being celebrated, that she prays for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the second Eucharistic prayer we hear the epiclesis (Greek word for invocation or calling down from on high):

Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray

by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall,

so that they may become for us

the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And what are the gifts that the priest is praying for? They are surely the bread and wine. But what does the bread and wine symbolizes? It is our life offerings! The Eucharistic prayer follows the offering and it is these life offerings that are brought into the altar, so that just as the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, we too may become one body in Christ. Do we not receive Christ’s Spirit then when we receive His body?

Humbly we pray,

that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ

we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.

So it seems to me that the Church never stops asking the Holy Spirit to come. And I strongly believe that the Church is filled with the Spirit. But then why she ever needs to ask for the Holy Spirit to come? Do we need to ask for the Holy Spirit to come then? Maybe we have been asking the wrong question. Maybe we should ask what does it mean when the Holy Spirit is coming?

Who Proceeds from the Father and the Son

St. Thomas Aquinas once argued in his Summa Theologica that

Gift, taken personally in God, is the proper name of the Holy Ghost

Gift is the proper name of the Holy Spirit? Maybe that helps us to understand the preaching of St. Peter on the Day of Pentecost when he says

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Now what is interesting is that Peter used a singular for the word “gift” rather than the plural “gifts”. Peter was not talking about the seven messianic gifts or even any charismatic gifts. He was talking about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Gift.

The Catechism of the Catholic church paragraph 733 onwards has a heading titled “the Holy Spirit – God’s Gift”. It says that:

“God is Love” and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (CCC 733)

The very reason why Gift is a proper name for the Holy Spirit is because Gift implies Love. Thomas Aquinas said that a gift is properly an unreturnable giving, quoting Aristotle. We do not expect any return when we give gifts (though some of us do these days). Now since giving gift does not expect any return, the only reason for this gratuitous donation is love. And so Thomas Aquinas said that love has the nature of first gift.

But we have not really answered our question on what it means by the coming of the Holy Spirit, haven’t we? Yes, we have not, but it gives us a glimpse about why the word “coming” is easily associated with the Holy Spirit. The reason is that the Holy Spirit is the Gift. The Holy Spirit is the Gift of the Father and the Son. It is through the Holy Spirit that God has loved us first.

The word Gift also shows us the dynamics of God. As the Gift from the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit comes forth from the Father and the Son to us. The Holy Spirit is the eternal Gift of God himself to us. Since the Holy Spirit is eternally the Gift, He eternally comes forth from the Father and the Son.

I think that answers partly of why the Church continuously ask for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The reason is that the very nature of the Holy Spirit is Love. This love actualizes in the Gift of God himself. God gives himself to us. I believe that the best gift a person can give is not chocolate, flower, or even money. The best gift a person can give to others is himself.  This is what God does through the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, the Gift, God gives himself. This giving of God himself does not happen only once in awhile. This gift of God himself, through the Holy Spirit, is eternal. In fact, we can say that the very life of God is this giving up of himself to the other. By the way, that is what love is all about. The very life of the Holy Trinity is to love and to receive love (CCC 735).

The Holy Spirit always comes forth from and go to somewhere else. Love always flows out. Love is not static, it is dynamic. Love always flows out to someone else. And so the Holy Spirit always proceeds from the Father and the Son, because the Holy Spirit is Love.

And so now we can answer a little bit of what it means when we pray “Come Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is God’s Gift, God’s outpouring of love. It is in this context of love that we ask the Holy Spirit to come. It is also in this context of love that Jesus speaks about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us.

If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23)

In fact the Church Fathers see the “we” in this verse as referring to the Holy Spirit.

So what does it mean by the coming of the Holy Spirit? It is the outpouring of the love of God himself to us. It is the coming of God to dwell in us. But this indwelling is not something static but rather dynamics. Some people used to explain to me that we already have the Holy Spirit just like a milo which is already in a cup of water.  I don’t really think that the Holy Spirit is like a milo in a cup. I think the Holy Spirit is like a waterfall! The question is not about whether we have the Holy Spirit. The question is whether the Holy Spirit has us!

One of the most beautiful image that Jesus used when talking about the Holy Spirit is “living water” (John 4:10).  The word living water also reminds us that the Holy Spirit is not like any static water. The Holy Spirit is like a fountain, it flows out. The Holy Spirit comes forth from a source and flows out.  That is the reason why we said in our creed, the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

Let us now talk about the effect of the Coming of the Holy Spirit. It is only then, we can answer convincingly, yes, we need to pray “Come Holy Spirit”.

One of the earliest traces of the Holy Spirit in the Bible is in the book of Genesis. There we read,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1)

If you have been following our argument of why we pray “Come Holy Spirit”, you will notice that the Spirit of God in this verse is associated with “moving over”. The Holy Spirit always comes forth from and go to somewhere else. But what is interesting is that in the beginning, there were darkness and disorder, but after creation, there is order and beauty and light. When the Holy Spirit comes, he creates. And not only just he creates any thing, but he creates something beautiful, something good, something orderly.  This is what happens when the Holy Spirit comes. In fact, one of a traditional prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit says,

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Your Love. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the Earth.

The coming of the Holy Spirit is closely link to creation. Not just the creation of the first heaven and earth that we are living now, but also of the new heaven and the new earth that we are waiting for.  When the Holy Spirit comes, he renews and changes us, and not only us, but the whole of creation.

The idea of creation also links to the giving of new life. In Genesis chapter 2, we read,

then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Gen 2:7)

By the way, the Hebrew word for Spirit is the same as “breath”. The Holy Spirit gives us life. That is what the creed also reminds us, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He not only gives us this physical life, but also our new life in Christ Jesus. It is in baptism that we receive our new life in Christ Jesus, and we receive that new life through the Holy Spirit. The water of baptism symbolizes the living water who is the Holy Spirit.

This idea of a new life is also seen the vision of the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel saw a valley full of dry bones, and God ask him to prophesy to the dry bones.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” (Ez 37:9)

Of course the dry bones in this context was Israel who felt abandoned, dried up, and lost hope.  But I believe the Word of God applies even for us today. God is able to give us hope and new life. He is able to heal us from our brokenness and sins. It is when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives that we receive this newness of life and hope in Christ Jesus.  When the Holy Spirit comes, he restores us to life!

There are many other things that we can see from the Scripture on the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But let me just conclude this article with one more reflection from the words “Come, Holy Spirit”.

Many people, out of their good intentions, think that they do not need to call for the Holy Spirit to come as they already have the Holy Spirit in their lives. But the very words of this prayer “Come Holy Spirit” reminds us that we are always in need of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is first and foremost a Gift. We do not deserve it and maybe we can never contain him fully in a way a cup of water can contain milo.  The Holy Spirit is this living fountain that continues to be poured out for you and for me, and this brings us to the other point of this reflection.  When the Holy Spirit is poured out to us, and dwells in us, he does not dwell in a way like any static or still water. When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, he continues to spring up and flow out.  The Holy Spirit is God’s Love, and Love always flows out from the lover to the beloved. And so it is appropriate that Jesus say

He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, `Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:38)

We, who believes in Jesus and baptized, have received the Holy Spirit. It is about us that Jesus says, “out of his hearts shall flow rivers of living water”.  The Holy Spirit does not dwell in us idle and dead.  The Holy Spirit moves us to be a new fountain where other people can taste and drink, and where other people can receive God’s life as well.

It is no wonder, then, that on the day of Pentecost, the church began her evangelization mission.  We simply cannot contain the Holy Spirit! As the Holy Spirit is being poured into the Church, the Church is moved to go out and share the good news.  That is what should happen in our lives as well.  When we say that the we have the Holy Spirit, one of the authentic signs of this indwelling in us is that we become a spring of living water for other people.  

Now if you remember your science lessons in schools about the cycle of water, I am sure you will see the similarities between water and the Holy Spirit.  In this cycle, we see that rains fall from heaven to earth and gives life to earth, and the earth will bear fruits.  But the story does not stop here, the water continues to flow and at the end go up again to heaven.  This cycle between heaven and earth is what sustain life on earth. Similarly, we can see the Holy Spirit who comes forth from the Father is being poured to us and gives us life.  But it should not stop there.  We should bear fruits and our love should flow back to God.  This cycle of love between heaven and earth is also what sustain our lives. This is the ecosystem of our spiritual lives.

Let me conclude with a beautiful image of living water from the book of Ezekiel chapter 47.  Ezekiel saw a river flowing from the temple and an angle of the Lord ask him to measure the depths of the river.  As Ezekiel followed the river outside the temple, the water got deeper and deeper, until the water was too deep.  The spring had become a big river. And this is what the angel said to Ezekiel,

And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. (verse 9)

And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (verse 12)

I think this is a beautiful image of the Holy Spirit.  The river comes forth from the temple and flows out and gives life to every living creature.  I cannot resist the temptation to compare this image with our Eucharistic gathering every Sunday.  It is there from the altar that we receive the body and blood of Christ. And whenever we receive his body, we too receive his Spirit. And if only we hear carefully the call to go out after every Eucharistic celebration and can see the church from above, we will see people flowing out of the Church to go to their houses, families, friends, and work places.  We see a living water flowing out from the temple of God.  And this living water grows into a big river that gives life to every creature.  When we say, “Come Holy Spirit”, it is just a humble prayer asking the Holy Spirit to flow over us and gives us life, so that at the end we too may give life to others.  The question we should ask to ourselves is whether our lives give life others.  Can other people drink from us and be refreshed? Or have our lives bring bitterness and sickness to those who drink from us? So, when someone ask whether the baptized should say, “Come Holy Spirit” I would say, “Why not?”

Come Creator Spirit

Come, O Creator Spirit, come,

and make within out heart thy home;

to us thy grace celestial give,

who of thy breathing move and live.


O Comforter, that name is thine,

of God most high the gift divine;

the well of life, the fire of love,

our souls’ anointing from above.


Thou dost appear in sevenfold dower

the sign of God’s almighty power;

the Father’s promise, making rich

with saving truth our earthly speech.


Our senses with thy light inflame,

our hearts to heavenly love reclaim;

our bodies’ poor infirmity

with strength perpetual fortify.


Our mortal foes afar repel,

grant us henceforth in peace to dwell;

and so to us, with thee for guide,

no ill shall come, no harm betide.


May we by thee the Father learn,

and know the Son, and thee discern,

who art of both; and thus adore

in perfect faith for evermore.


On Christian Love

January 16, 2013

We all know about love, and so why would one rather discuss about Christian love? What is a Christian love? That’s the question that I would like to reflect on this article. I remember a story that was told by Thomas Smith. He told a story of a man who was going to propose a woman during a pilgrimage to Holy Land. Everyone knew about the plan except the girl, of course. When they arrived at Cana, everyone was so excited and waited for the man to propose the girl. It was just the right place as Jesus did his first sign in a wedding. But the man did not. So the people were surprised and questioned whether the man will ever propose the girl during that pilgrimage. It turned out he did. But not at Cana, it was at Golgotha. He put the ring in a hole where the cross was thought to be erected, and ask the girl to put her hand inside it to find the ring, and the this is what he said, “As Jesus laid down his life for us, I too want to lay down my life for you. Will you marry me?” What is love? And maybe to be more precise what is love in our Christian understanding? How we as Christians should love?


The Gospel of John speaks a lot about Jesus commandment to love. For this reflection, I would like to start from John 15:12-17.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

In fact, two chapters before, during the last supper, Jesus has mentioned this commandment.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
This is the new commandment that Jesus gave us, that is to love one another. But what is so new about this commandment? Isn’t that this commandment to love one’s neighbour has been there, even in the Old Testament (Lev 19:18)?
I believe that the newness of this commandment is in the second part, that is we are to love “as I have loved you”. In the Old Testament we are expected to love our neighnour as we love our selves, but in the New Testament, we are called to love as God loves. That is divine!
We may then ask, how does God love us? Coming back to our scripture passage, Jesus said it clearly,
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus set the example. He laid down his life for us. He himself said that he is the Good Shepherd, and a Good Shepherd lay down his life for his sheep. And he really did that. He laid down his life on the Cross for you and for me. And not only that, he even continue to lay down his life on the altar in every Eucharistic feast. It is as if God is not content just to say “I love you”, he came down and died for us. And as if it is not enough for him to die for us, he gave us his flesh and blood, and poured out his spirit for us in the bread and wine that we receive every Sunday. In short, God gives all. His love is total, and unreserved. He loves us fully up to the point of giving himself as food for us.
Not only his love is total, but his love is also unconditional. St. Paul said that Jesus laid down his life for us, he died for us, while we were sinners. God did not wait for us to love him, believe in him, and only then he will love us. He did not wait for us to know him or to repent. No. He loved us first. He gave himself totally for us, regardless of our response. His love is without condition. God’s love is unconditional.
It is just right at this moment that we should stop and reflect. We as christians, how do we love? Do we love totally? Do we love unconditionally? It is so easy to love others for the sake of being loved. It is so easy to be calculative in our love. And yet it is our call, and our vocation, to love as God loves.
How will that be possible? How can we love as God loves? Don’t you think that the request is just impossible? And yet, the Good News is that we believe that Jesus will help us to do what he commands us to do. In a few verses before the passage that we are reflecting, Jesus gave the answer on how we will be able to love as he loves us.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
The key is in abiding in Jesus. Unless we abide in Jesus and Jesus in us, it is just impossible. But if we do, then Jesus said we will bear fruit. The same fruit that the vine will produce. The same love that God loves.
I remember a story of Mother Teresa and her Missionary of Charity sisters. They always have a Eucharistic celebration in the morning before they go out to the streets and serve the poor. There was one day when the priest who was supposed to celebrate the Eucharist came late. When the priest arrived, he expected to see no one as he assumed that the sisters would have gone to the streets. But he was wrong. All the sisters were waiting for him to come. So he asked Mother Teresa why she didn’t go to the streets that day. And Mother Teresa simply say, “how can we love the poor without Jesus in our hearts?”.
The key is in abiding in Jesus, and I think that is why Jesus move on to talk about his disciples as his friends in the next few verses. A friend knows. A friend has relationship with the other.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
There was an Old Testament character that God calls as his friend. One of them is Moses. Moses used to enter the tent of meeting to speak to God. And this is what is written about him.
Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
There is intimacy between Moses and God. And that intimacy is shown clearly in the lives of Jesus. During his life on earth, Jesus shows his intimacy with the Father. And this is his source of life.
And so Jesus gave us the key to to love as He loves, and that is in our relationship with him. The more we abide in Him and He in us, the more we will be more like him. Just as the wood in the fire will be transformed, so are we as we abide in Jesus. We will be more like Jesus.
And Jesus told us that as we abide in Him, and He in us, we will bear fruit. In fact, in our passage, Jesus also mentioned about this fruit.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide;
What is this fruit? Why did Jesus use the image of fruit in loving one another? I believe there are some characteristics of a fruit that should be the characteristics of our love to others.
One thing that we can see is that a fruit is tangible. We can even know the tree from its fruit. It is so tangible that animals passing can grab and eat it. And that fruit gives life. So it must be the same with our love. Our love must be tangible! It is not enough for us just to say “I love you”, our love must be shown in action. And it must give life to others. In fact this is what St. John said in his letters (1 John 3:16-18).
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.
Let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth. Our love must be tangible, and it must gives life to others. I find it interesting that John gave an example of real love by giving to the poor and the needy. How many of us gives to the poor and the needy?
But there is another aspect of a fruit. A fruit is an image of an offering. In our Eucharistic liturgy, we found this beautiful prayer said by the priest.
Blessed are you, Lord God of all
creation, for through your
goodness we have received the
bread we offer you: fruit of the
earth and work of human
hands, it will become for us the
bread of life.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all
creation,for through your
goodness we have received
the wine we offer you: fruit of
the vine and work of human
hands it will become our
spiritual drink.

In the Eucharistic prayer, the priest pray on the fruit of the earth, and the fruit of the vine, which are the bread and wine that lay on the altar. And so our little acts of love can be a pleasing offering to God. And so it just right that as we celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday, every time the offering of bread and wine is brought to the altar, we should remember our fruit, we should offer up our little acts of love day to day. That is our prayer, that is our offering.
I know someone whom I see living this Christian love. That is my mom. Last year, my dad was diagnosed with a cancer and he had his surgery. But since then, he still has pain in his stomach, and so even in the middle of the night he would wake up and needs to eat something to relieve the comfort. And through out this period when my dad was sick, my mom has always been loving my dad faithfully. She is serving the food, taking the medication, etc. Even in the middle of the night, she would wake up for every couple of hours to serve something for my dad. And there was time when she got sick, maybe because she was too tired. And yet, she never complained and continue to serve my dad, even in the middle of the night. In her, I see how love can be tangible and gives life. I have never heard her say “I love you” to my dad. But I believe she has loved him in deed and in truth.
So what is Christian love? Jesus himself told us, that he calls us to love one another as he himself has loved us. And he showed us the way to love, by laying down his life for us. And we too are called to lay down our life for others, to love totally and unconditionally. We are called to bear fruit, a fruit that abides. We are called to love in deed and in truth, and allow that fruit of love to give life to others. And he told us the key to be divine, and that is to abide in him, to be his friends, to love him everyday. It is only then, we can love as he loves.

Christian answer to Atheist Scientism

December 6, 2010

Father Cantalamessa Advent Homily:

Advent: a new dad’s reflection

November 22, 2010

–this is the manuscript for the article sent to St. Mary’s newspaper: Tomorrow, there might be some differences in the text due to Editor’s editing. A better English article can be read from Tomorrow :p (I seldom check my grammar) —

There can be many “advent” in someone’s life. Advent simply means “coming”, and waiting for someone to come is part of our day to day experience. As a newly wed, Maya and I had the chance to experience the advent of our first born, Francis, into our lives.  As Catholics are entering the Advent Season, we would like to share a bit of our experience in waiting for the coming of our baby Francis, and how that taught us to wait for the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

When my wife told me that she was expecting, we were so excited, I was so happy to hear the news. I still remember what I did, I hugged my wife, kissed her, and then we prayed giving thanks to God for His gift. Francis was really a gift! My wife’s friend who was a medical doctor told her how the conception and formation of baby is like a miracle.  We didn’t do any miracle, God did, we simply participate in that miraculous work.

God did a miracle two thousand years ago when he became human.  I used to wonder why God chose to come to us in a human form, even to come as a baby. He could choose to come in other forms like fire, earthquake, or some apparition where people will have no doubt at all but to obey him. But he didn’t.  I then realized that he wants to be a gift. By being a baby, he wants to be our possession, our treasure, and our joy. In short he wants our love.  What a risky decision! By making himself as a vulnerable gift, we can choose to reject him. He knew this, and yet he chose to come to us as a baby, to be a gift for you and for me.

Advent, then, is a time to accept that gift. It is a time of gratitude, a time of giving thanks. Advent prepares us to welcome The Gift the way he deserves. Advent prepares our heart to have room big enough for God and it taught us to treasure God once again.

I remember one day I told one of my friend about the good news that my wife was already expecting. When he heard that, he uttered a prophecy (or maybe a warning), “Your life shall be changed forever.” What he meant was that my life will be centred around my baby. I was laughing when I heard that, but I knew it was true. These days, after my baby was born, Francis has taken an important part in our lives. We made a lot of sacrifices for him, and we joyfully do so. Our life indeed has been changed, and for the good.

Isn’t that what is supposed to happen with our Advent season also? The coming of Jesus should be a life changing experience for us. Jesus should be the centre of our lives. We should no longer live for ourselves but for Jesus. Otherwise, it is meaningless to call him Lord.  And this should be a chance for us to pour out our love to Jesus, to make sacrifices for him, and we should make those sacrifices joyfully!

Let me conclude this sharing with one final story.  When my baby was finally born, I hold him tight and carried him. I looked at him, and my heart was filled with love. I then kissed him to express my love. One of the best thing that a child can do is to arouse love in the parent’s heart. That is what Jesus did on the Christmas day in Mary’s and Joseph’s hearts. He invites people to love him. And that is what he continues to do until today. He arouses love in our heart for him and for the Father. He taught us what it means to be a child of God. Advent helped me to realize what it means to be a child God. I learn that we can arouse love in our Father’s heart and make him smile. And we can do that by simply being what we are called to be, a gift to others. We can be a gift to our children and our wife by spending time with them. St. John said we can love God by loving one another. Indeed, we can even be a gift to our heavenly Father, by being a gift to the people around us.


Order of the Eucharistic Celebration, a participation in the life of Jesus

October 22, 2010

Once in a lifetime, you might be wondering why we celebrate the Eucharist the way it is. I never asked the question why we do what we always do in the Eucharist. But one day I started to question, why? And one of the “why” question that came to my mind is why the Eucharistic celebration has that order: we begin with the liturgy of the Word, and then liturgy of the Eucharist.

At first it does not seem to be intuitive for me, in many prayers, such as the liturgy of the hours (the official prayer of the church), we begin with Thanksgiving and praise (through the psalm), and then we have the Word of God. In many prayer groups, we sang praise and thanksgiving also, and then we have the preaching of the Word. But why in the Eucharistic Celebration, all those seems to be reversed? We begin with the Word, and then the Eucharist (the greek word for Thanksgiving).

I remember one day I read a book, which now I can’t remember the title. And it explains the “why” of  my question. It turns out to be simple, and the more I reflect on it, the more I understood how true it is.

The reason is that in the Eucharistic Celebration, the order of the liturgy follows that of the life of Jesus himself. In fact, our participation in the Eucharistic celebration becomes a participation in the life of Jesus! Isn’t amazing?

Just as Jesus began his public ministry by preaching, so it is in our liturgy as we enter the Eucharistic celebration: we have the liturgy of the Word! Just as Jesus preach 2000 years ago, he still preaches now. Just as the Word of God is being proclaimed, so it is today in the liturgy of the Word. It is the same Jesus that speaks and preaches. That is why we stand up when the Gospel is going to be proclaimed, and we cried “Alleluia!!”, praise the Lord! God is going to speak again in our midst. And we all fell into silence as the Word is spoken and being broken for us to eat.

And just as Jesus finish his public ministry by going to Jerusalem for His passion, death and resurrection, so too we enter the liturgy of the Eucharist. In this liturgy of the Eucharist, we enter the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We experience the sacrifice of Jesus as it was happen then. The same person, the same body is being sacrificed out of love for you and for me.

And should we wonder now that the Eucharistic celebration ends with the word, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”, just as 2000 years ago Jesus told his disciples before he ascended into heaven, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15). The same command is given to us all by Jesus himself, “Go into the world”.

There is one interesting point that we often overlook, and that is the main person in this whole celebration is Jesus. Jesus is the one who preaches, and ministers to us, Jesus is the one who sacrifices himself for us. Jesus is the one that make the offering of Love.

Many people complained that our Eucharistic celebration is not really engaging. If only we understand what is happening, we would not choose otherwise. Our celebration is the time when Jesus ministers to us just as he was 2000 years ago. We don’t need to be envy with those people who were living at the time of Jesus, because Jesus still lives today! Jesus still ministers today! What we need to do then, is to open our selves to receive what Jesus wants to do in our lives.

It’s about being like Mary instead of Martha. Our Eucharistic celebration is like Mary who listens to the Word of Jesus and allow ourselves to be nourished. It is also like Mother Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and open herself for the grace and salvation from the pierced heart of Jesus. It is like peter who allowed Jesus to wash his feet so that he may have fellowship with Jesus. Our Eucharistic celebration is not about what we want it, but it is about allowing God to do what He wants to do. This is humility. And we can participate, by allowing God to speak to us, to cherish his word, and live it.We can also participate by uniting ourselves with Jesus and his sacrifice, by accepting His love on the Cross, and His healing power to save us.

This is our celebration, it’s not about what we do, but about what God is doing. The centre of that celebration is Jesus who offers himself to the Father, and somehow we are caught in that love exchange between Jesus and the Father. This exchange of love is God’s divine life, and by participating in this Eucharist and uniting ourselves with Jesus, we have participated in that divine life.

Sign of the Cross, a call to communion

October 21, 2010

Catholics make the sign of the Cross as we begin the Eucharistic celebration. But what does that signify? We make the sign of the Cross “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. First of all, of course it reminds us of our own baptism, since we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We have discussed about water and baptism in the previous posts, and so now we would like to take a look from another angle, and that is we are baptized “in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

To be baptized means to immerse oneself, and the Hebrew understanding of “name” simply signifies the person. So when we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, it means that we “immerse” ourselves in the “person” of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Now what is interesting here is that we are being immersed not into a single person, but into a communion of persons.

Christianity is a call to communion. Some people thought that what matters most is that our soul is saved and that’s it. Hence for these people they thought going to church is not essential, what matters is doing good only. What a crippled understanding of Christianity! Christianity is a call for communion. Because in Christianity we are united with God and with our fellow men.

The basis of this is shown in God himself. Though he is one, yet he is a communion of three persons. God is a communion of love, an exchange of love between the Father and the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. And love cannot exist for its own, because love must be given to the Other. And hence, we as Christians are called into that life that exchanges love. This is the life of God, the life of the Father who loves the Son so much, and of the Son who loves the Father so much. We as Christians are called into this kind of life. Love prompts us to reach God as much as it prompts us to reach our neighbor.  That is why we go to Church and celebrate the Eucharist. We are called into a communion. And isn’t surprising that we receive Holy Communion during that celebration?

This is what we do as we begin the Eucharistic celebration: we are reminded that we are baptized, immersed, into a communion of love. And this is what our calling in life is, to love as much as God has loved us. The model of this love is God himself who has shown us a human face, and speaks a human language. Jesus is our model to live this love. And his ultimate love is shown on the Cross. That is how much he loves the Father, and… you.

In todays world where self-indulgent is exalted, Jesus shows a different kind of love. It is not a love that seeks personal pleasure, it is not a love that is self-centred or self-seeking, it is not a love that is conditional. The world’s idea of love has been turned upside down when Jesus hang on that Cross. Jesus shows us a love that is unconditional, a love that continues to give in the midst of sufferings and insults, a love that heals and outpoured, a love that is fully given without reserve.

This is the love that we are called to be. As we begin the Eucharistic celebration and make the sign of the Cross, let us remember that we are called into a life that gives Love.  We are called to participate in that exchange of Love between the Father and the Son.  This is what fullness of life is.  We too can have this fullness of life if we “imitate” Jesus. Through the sign of the Cross, we are reminded that we are not made for ourselves, but for the Other. We are made to love and to give, and it is only in that communion of love, we will find our true happiness.

“20 In that day you shall know that I am in my Father: and you in me, and I in you. 21 He that has my commandments and keeps them; he it is that loves me. And he that loves me shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.” John 14

How to possess a rich Spirit amid real Poverty

August 7, 2010

Taken from chapter 16 of Introduction to Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

BUT if you are really poor, my daughter, for God’s Sake be so in spirit; make a virtue of necessity, and turn that precious stone poverty194to its true value. The brilliancy thereof is not perceived in this world, but nevertheless it is very great.

Patience then! you are in good company. Our Dear Lord, Our Lady, the Apostles, numberless Saints, both men and women, were poor, and although they might have been rich, disdained to be so. How many great ones of this world have gone through many difficulties to seek holy poverty amid hospitals and cloisters! What pains they took to find it, let S. Alexis, S. Paula, S. Paulinus, S. Angela, and many another witness; whereas to you, my child, it has come unasked—you have met poverty without seeking it—do you then embrace it as the beloved friend of Jesus Christ, Who was born, lived and died in poverty, and cherished it all His Life.

There are two great privileges connected with your poverty, through which you may acquire great merit. First, it is not your own choice, but God’s Will alone, which has made you poor. Now, whatever we accept simply because it is God’s Will is acceptable in His Sight, so long as we accept it heartily and out of love:—the less of self the more of God,—and a singlehearted acceptance of God’s Will purifies any suffering very greatly.

The second privilege is, that this poverty is 195so very poor. There is a be-praised, caressed poverty, so petted and cared for, that it can hardly be called poor like the despised, contemned, neglected poverty which also exists. Now, most secular poverty is of this last kind, for those who are involuntarily poor, and cannot help themselves, are not much thought of, and for that very reason their poverty is poorer than that of religious, although religious poverty has a very special and excellent grace, through the intention and the vow by which it is accepted.

Do not complain then of your poverty, my daughter,—we only complain of that which is unwelcome, and if poverty is unwelcome to you, you are no longer poor in spirit. Do not fret under such assistance as is needful; therein lies one great grace of poverty. It were overambitious to aim at being poor without suffering any inconvenience, in other words, to have the credit of poverty and the convenience of riches.

Do not be ashamed of being poor, or of asking alms. Receive what is given you with humility, and accept a refusal meekly. Frequently call to mind Our Lady’s journey into Egypt with her Holy Child, and of all the poverty, contempt and suffering they endured. If you follow their example you will indeed be rich amid your poverty.