She walked in and smiled at the couple in in front of her; as she turned to pray, I was surprised by the lurch at my heart which cried for her to greet me also. In the shadows, unnoticed, a backrow prodigal at some evening Adoration, I was bowled over by a look and a murmur not meant for me by how ravenous I am to be loved. To have someone turn and know me (me: not one of the masks I must wear to meet this world, but that lonely strange seat of perception and decision which is most deeply and thoroughly myself—I who am as I am and see as I see for no other reason than the creative purpose of God)—to have someone recognize me, and love.
Luminous. Who could have thought that water could wash the soul? That water could turn to wine? That leaping was locked up in useless limbs and men could enter into joy? That Jesus was lit within by the fire which Moses saw; that from the air could suddenly spring Elijah? That Christ could hide in bread and wine? —there, in all the Luminous Mysteries, the power of the Spirit draws forth from one thing something else, unlikely and impossibly glorious.
Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. (John 3:5)
Water is the cradle of light. It catches light, refracts it, brings it palpably near. In water, light submits to gravity; water dropped in day-time is a cascade of sun.
And the Spirit filled the water like light, the way Mary was filled with grace; the way she gave to Love a human form and gave her flesh to bring God here.
The dove hovered over the face of the deep, and called forth a new creation.
Not gold, not lightning, nothing precious or astonishing. Water. Pouring from our faucets, our fountains, our cups, collecting into puddles on the street: this becomes the finger of God, the meeting-place of time and eternity.
Come, Holy Spirit.
Do whatever he tells you. (John 2:5)
He could have said, "let there be wine." He could have replenished the jugs with a single thought, or made sure that they never ran dry. But He didn't. In this first of His miracles, this beginning of His ministry, this opening of the door to the kingdom where anything may be transformed, He asked for the attentiveness of human hearts and the service of human hands. He had a few servants fill—with water!—jars meant for washing, and then ladle it out again like wine.
What expression might they have feared on the steward's face? Confusion? Indignation? Rage?
You have kept the good wine until now.
Out of obedience, He made a miracle.
Come, Holy Spirit.
The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. (Mark 1:15)
The deaf hear, the dumb speak, lame men dance in the streets. Man is healed from within of the sin which has broken him, which has set him against himself from the moment of his conception. Shall these bones live? — That is the mystery of Christ proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven among us: that men could be possessed by goodness, that God could enter into the human heart and mind, intellect and will and body and blood, and set them on fire.
Indeed, what is strange is not so much that He should demand flesh and blood, bread and wine, but that He should accept them.
Many gods have demanded sacrifice, the fruits of the earth and the lives of men—and from remotest history men have thrown at their feet the meager best of all they had to give.
But none among the gods has ever stretched out a hand to receive; none has ever taken up the gift for His own, filling it with power and grace.
Come, Holy Spirit.
Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power. (Mark 9:1)
God is at work, not against the flesh, but through it. Peter's instinct is to set this holiness apart, to provide tabernacles for these three faces of glory—the Law and the Prophet and their King—so that men might worship, near but separate, the power and beauty of God.
But God does not wish the Law to be enclosed in the Ark, nor the Ark to be hidden: not even in the Holy of Holies.
He whose death split the Temple curtain from top to bottom wishes to tabernacle not only among men—but within them.
Come, Holy Spirit.
The Institution of the Eucharist
This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. (John 6:50)
G. K. Chesterton refused to say much about the Crucifixion, finding there a mystery too near and too real to be spoken of; there are things so holy and present that even true words can seem like a blasphemy. I feel the same way, sometimes, about the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. For it is not so much a thing (is it even a thing? Is any person, properly, a thing?) to be thought about as to be participated in. To use the third person about Him rather than the second is to say something that is not quite true.
But here, surely, we have most perfectly of all the working of God through the flesh to the salvation of the flesh. And at the epiclesis of every Mass, the Spirit descends to sanctify what He has given. There are no words sufficient to the hope that is present to us here.
Present, indeed: to us, here.
It's easy enough to believe in the holiness of Mary or the transformation of the Passover into the Eucharist. The buffer of the otherness of time and person makes those things conceivable. But the Spirit at work in me? Shall these bones live?
How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
O, the faith to believe I can be transformed—and the courage to desire it! Dead bones are safe. Perhaps there is something alluring about their false peace, their untroubled and unambitious rest. Dead bones needn't worry about being made fools of or falling off cliffs or being misunderstood or being martyred.
We can so easily settle for the appearance of life: bone to bone, sinew to sinew, bodies without breath.
Perhaps that is the sin against the Spirit, which shall not be forgiven.
He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. What prevents us? What chokes our prayer? Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
We, too, are to be sacraments. We are to be transformed as the water to wine; wine to blood; weakness to strength.
You and I—to Christ.
We are to love other people as He loves them: for who they are.
And that changes everything. Because love changes everything. For as the woman who hadn't known me knelt and my glance returned from her to the Host, I knew that love is stronger than death; I knew that He in the center of the altar is in the center of the universe, an energy outstripping the infinite.
You are loved, to the roots of your being. And God longs for you to love Him in return, to say His name as only you among all the souls of the world can say it, with the accent that only your human heart can give. God stretched out His hands for your sins and has come to sanctify the deepest reaches of your heart. God the Son has sent to you His Spirit—who cries 'Daddy' to the Father, and is heard.
'Satan calls you by your sins,' one of my friends said recently; 'God calls you by your name.'
Surely that is the transforming power of the Eucharist. That is the transforming power of the Spirit, the God Who is Love, the fire which Christ came to cast upon the earth: and how He longs for it to be kindled!
Come, Holy Spirit. Come.