Since the feast of the Ascension the whole Church has been with Mary and the first disciples, united in prayer preparing for the coming the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor "who will guide you in all truth."
We join with the Church in this Great Novena by singing the Veni Creator Spiritus every night at Vespers. Throughout the week the readings at Office of Readings have been rich in instruction and meditation, nourishing us with much to ponder about and helping us to increase our desire to be renewed by the many gifts which the Holy Spirit wants to give us if we are open to Him. These gifts are not just for ourselves but are to bear fruit in holiness.
On Monday, St. Cyril of Alexandria spoke of the Holy Spirit in the image of living water nourishing our souls, "Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit." St. Basil affirms this when on Tuesday we read, "The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth."
The Spirit is the source of all holiness and truth and also the source of all unity. "That all may be one as we are one" The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from Vatican II, highlights the mission of the Holy Spirit in the Church tells us that, "He leads the Church into all truth and gives it unity in communion and in service." Was this not one of the reasons for our Holy Father's Apostolic Visit to the United States? "Where Peter is there is the Church." United around him, no matter if we were at an event in person with the Holy Father or united with him in prayer, through the work of the Holy Spirit the Church in the United States was encouraged and became stronger.
Recently, the Sunday Visitor published an article on the decline of the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation by young Catholics. A survey showed that of the Seven Sacraments only 3% of Catholics find the reception of this sacrament meaningful. Yet, St. Cyril of Alexandria tells us that, "...the Spirit changes those whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives?" Why does this not seem to be the case among so many of us? First, it is a gift and God in his respect for our free will doesn't force something on us that we don't want to receive. So on Friday, St. Hilary warned us that, "It is everywhere available, but it is given to each man in proportion to his readiness to receive it."
No matter what our vocation in the Church, by our Baptism the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us and is anxious to give us his sevenfold gifts of grace. As we celebrate this day which is the "birthday of the Church" let us beg for ourselves and for each other an abundance of these gifts so that their fruits will witness to all of the love of Christ and build up the Church in unity and love.