Monday, December 10, 2007

Ure igne Sancti Spiritus

As I was received into the Church on Pentecost Sunday – was baptized, confirmed, and given first Holy Communion – I have since tried to cultivate a particular devotion to the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, God the Holy Ghost, that "eternal mysterious secret Being to Whom, as God, the priests offered up Mass once a year, robed in the scarlet of the tongues of fire" (Joyce).

Significant things have happened to me at Pentecost in the years since: return to practice of the Faith; deliverance unscathed from a bad car accident.

Some years back, to help in meditation (which I find very difficult), I collected together all the orations in honour of the Holy Ghost from the Missale Romanum: they are very beautiful, roll off the tongue, and are packed with theology.  St Alphonsus once said that any one of the occasional collects in the Missal was worth fifty Rosaries, and he for one certainly didn't devalue that most excellent of prayers.

One of these collects, given in the Preparation for Mass at the end of the Breviary and beginning of the Missal, and also included in the Litanies of the Saints, is also found in these occasional prayers, or votive prayers, as the collect for continence; which while listed as such, is also a more general prayer to be made pleasing to God in heart and body, to serve Him well, to have a pure and undivided heart, unstained by impurities:

Ure igne Sancti Spiritus renes nostros et cor nostrum, Domine: ut tibi casto corpore serviamus, et mundo corde placeamus.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  R/.  Amen.

(Burn our reins and our heart, O Lord, with the fire of the Holy Ghost, that we may serve thee with a chaste body and please thee with a clean heart.  Thro' Christ our Lord.  Amen.)

St Philip Neri, that third Apostle of Rome, and possessed by the Holy Ghost, to Whom he had a great devotion and from the coming of Whom as a globe of fire had received a miraculous enlargement of his heart, and better still a heart afire with love of God and neighbour, lived a holy and pure life, and was able to inspire in so many a love of God and of purity, restraining and delivering his disciples from the opposite vice.  For this reason, Newman in his litany names him Flos puritatis, Flower of purity.  In this dark age, it is a virtue to especially struggle for, as Philip did, and to pray for: "Who didst observe chastity in thy youth, pray for us".  For no human effort is of avail without the coming of the Holy Ghost in his purifying fire, to bestow grace and ignite true love.

One great benefit of taking the plunge and opting to change from the modern Divine Office to the 1962 Breviary has been the joy of praying the Psalter each week, and in Jerome's beautiful text, where so many phrases have acquired a wealth of allusion in their history of Christian use and interpretation: so on Wednesdays at Prime, when Psalm 25(26) crops up, I recognize as an old friend the verse underlying this collect: Proba me, Domine, et tenta me: ure renes meos et cor meum (v. 2) - "Prove me, O Lord, and try me: burn my reins and my heart".  One can also see the relevance of Ps 50:12 – Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis ("Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within...").

It is God who judges justly, scrutinizes and probes the loins and heart, to give each man what his conduct and actions deserve (cf. Apoc. ii, 23; Jer. xi, 20; xvii, 10; xx, 12; Ps vii, 10). So then, heed Heb. xii, 28 – ...habemus gratiam: per quamserviamus placentes Deo, cum metu et reverentia ("...we have grace; whereby let us serve, pleasing God, with fear and reverence").

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful: and enkindle in them the fire of thy love.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus – Come, Holy Spirit.

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