Friday, May 09, 2008

Pentecost: The Spirit and the Eucharist

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo 1696 - 1770
Saint Paschal Baylon's vision of the Eucharist 1767
Oil on canvas
Height: 63.6 cm; Width: 38.7 cm
Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London

Saint Paschal Baylon (or Pascal Baylon) (24 May 1540–17 May 1592) was a Spanish friar. His feast day is 17th May.

He was born in Aragon, on 24 May 1540, on the Feast of Pentecost. He was called after the Spanish phrase for the Feast of Pentecost.

He spent his youth as a shepherd

He joined the Reformed Franciscan Order (Alcantarine Reform) as a lay brother. He chose to live in poor monasteries

A mystic and contemplative, he had frequent ecstatic visions.

Pope Leo XIII proclaimed Saint Paschal Baylon, the "seraph of the Eucharist", Patron of eucharistic congresses and all contemporary and future eucharistic associations.

Pope Benedict XVI explained the link between the Spirit and the Eucharist thus:

"12. The Paraclete, Christ's first gift to those who believe, already at work in Creation (cf. Gen 1:2), is fully present throughout the life of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ is conceived by the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35); at the beginning of his public mission, on the banks of the Jordan, he sees the Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove (cf. Mt 3:16 and parallels); he acts, speaks and rejoices in the Spirit (cf. Lk 10:21), and he can offer himself in the Spirit (cf. Heb 9:14).

In the so-called "farewell discourse" reported by John, Jesus clearly relates the gift of his life in the paschal mystery to the gift of the Spirit to his own (cf. Jn 16:7).

Once risen, bearing in his flesh the signs of the passion, he can pour out the Spirit upon them (cf. Jn 20:22), making them sharers in his own mission (cf. Jn 20:21).

The Spirit would then teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. Jn 14:26), since it falls to him, as the Spirit of truth (cf. Jn 15:26), to guide the disciples into all truth (cf. Jn 16:13).

In the account in Acts, the Spirit descends on the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary on the day of Pentecost (cf. 2:1-4) and stirs them to undertake the mission of proclaiming the Good News to all peoples.

Thus it is through the working of the Spirit that Christ himself continues to be present and active in his Church, starting with her vital centre which is the Eucharist.

13. Against this backdrop we can understand the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic celebration, particularly with regard to transubstantiation.

An awareness of this is clearly evident in the Fathers of the Church. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Catecheses, states that we "call upon God in his mercy to send his Holy Spirit upon the offerings before us, to transform the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ. Whatever the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and completely transformed" .

Saint John Chrysostom too notes that the priest invokes the Holy Spirit when he celebrates the sacrifice: like Elijah, the minister calls down the Holy Spirit so that "as grace comes down upon the victim, the souls of all are thereby inflamed" .

The spiritual life of the faithful can benefit greatly from a better appreciation of the richness of the anaphora: along with the words spoken by Christ at the Last Supper, it contains the epiclesis, the petition to the Father to send down the gift of the Spirit so that the bread and the wine will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that "the community as a whole will become ever more the body of Christ" .

The Spirit invoked by the celebrant upon the gifts of bread and wine placed on the altar is the same Spirit who gathers the faithful "into one body" and makes of them a spiritual offering pleasing to the Father"

Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, 22nd February 2007, Paragraphs 12 and 13