THE HOLY SPIRIT: Come, Visit, Fill! by Raniero Cantalamessa

Meditations on the Veni Creator

Come, Visit, Fill! by Raniero Cantalamessa

From: Come, Creator Spirit

What do we individually need to make it possible for each one of us to experience Pentecost in this way?  First we need to ask the Father, consistently and persistently, to send us the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, and actually to expect the Father to answer!  We need expectant faith, a faith full of expectancy!  Saint Bonaventure asks, to whom does the Holy Spirit come?  And he answers, with his usual preciseness, “He comes to the ones who love him, who invite him, who eagerly await him.”  It is not possible to count the immense number of people who, in the twentieth century, have felt the thrill of the Spirit in their soul when, joined together with others, they plead for the Spirit’s coming in the words of the Pentecostal chorus: “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.  Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.  Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.”

There are places where it is customary to invite whomever happens to come to the house at mealtimes to sit down and share what is on the table.  But it is also taken for granted that the person you invite will excuse himself and say, “No, thank you.  I am expected at home.”  One would be more than a little surprised and perhaps secretly irritated if, instead, the person were to answer, “Why, thank you very much.  It will be a pleasure to share with you!”  We tend often to make our invitations to the Holy Spirit in somewhat the same sort of vein.  We issue these invitations because it is the convention, our custom, but we don’t really mean what we say.  However, we ought to express these three invitations, to come, to visit, and to fill, as genuine invitations, in the certain knowledge that the One we invite will take them seriously, listen, and act upon them.

We need, then, to be “of one mind” and “persevering” in our prayer.  As were the apostles with Mary in the Upper Room, gathering together, whenever possible, with other people who have already known what it is to experience a new Pentecost and who are able to help us to be ready and to overcome any fear we may feel.

And next, we need to be ready for things to change in our own lives.  It is just not possible to invite the Holy Spirit to come, to visit, and to fill us on condition that the Spirit leave us, thank you, just as we were before.  “Whatever the Spirit touches, the Spirit changes,” as the Fathers often said.  Whenever you cry, “Come, visit, fill,” by the same token you give the Spirit freedom to take charge and control your life: you give the Spirit the keys to the inward heart-house where you dwell.  Commit your life to the Father, and the Father will commit his Spirit to you!  That is the only way!

It is simply not possible to cry, “Come, visit, fill,” and have the little secret voice of the flesh add quietly, “But watch it now: nothing strange, no excesses!”  The apostles thought nothing of it that they were taken for drunkards.  There should be no reason to be surprised if, now and then, when Jericho’s “walls come tumbling down,” they make a little noise and throw up a little dust.  I mean if the coming of the Spirit provokes in some persons laughter or tears or some other “uncomfortable” reaction of the body.  It is clearly not the Spirit that is directly responsible for provoking reactions of this sort; it is the flesh that, at times, is simply not ready for the impact of the Spirit and reacts like cold water to the touch of red-hot iron.  Nevertheless, it is not the sort of thing that need give rise to any concern or feeling of shame.  In the Mass for the feast of Pentecost, as we have it in the original Latin text, the church prays to the Father saying: “Renew, O God, in our day, in the community of believers, the prodigies you brought about when the Gospel was first preached.”

How, now, can we carry on saying these words, if, as soon as the Holy Spirit begins to take us at our word and to do what we ask, we become all fearful and say, “Not like that, not like that!” and if we too say, of those who openly show the effects of the Spirit’s coming, “They have been drinking too much new wine”?

Let me end with the inspired words spoken by a bishop of an Eastern rite at a solemn ecumenical assembly:

Without the Holy Spirit
God is far away,
Christ stays in the past,
the gospel is a dead letter,
the church is simply an organization,
authority a matter of domination,
mission a matter of propaganda,
liturgy no more than an evocation,
Christian living a slave morality.

But with the Holy Spirit:
the cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth-pangs of the Kingdom,
the risen Christ is there,
the gospel is the power of life,
the church shows forth the life of the Trinity,
authority is a liberating service,
Mission is a Pentecost,
the liturgy is both memorial and anticipation,
human action is deified.


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