Advent is a time to reflect on God’s profound entry into human history in the incarnation of the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. At the first Christmas Christ revealed God to us in a unique and specific way and promised to remain with us to the end of time (Matthew 28:20). One way Christ remains in our midst is, of course, the Eucharist, His Body and Blood. He also promised to send us the Holy Spirit, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is available to help and guide us. But how and where do we access the Spirit of God? The Church teaches us that we encounter the Holy Spirit in the Tradition of the Church and Sacred Scripture, and the celebration of the Sacraments (CCC 688).
The ritual celebration of every sacrament has a formal invocation of the Holy Spirit. At Baptism the minister calls the Holy Spirit down upon the water of Baptism. In the prayer of absolution in Confession the priest says, “…and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins…” Most importantly, at Mass before the prayer of consecration, the priest prays a prayer called the epiclesis, calling for the Holy Spirit to descend upon the bread and wine so that they may become the Body and Blood of Christ (CCC 1105, also 1127).
The Tradition of the Church teaches us that there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1 – 3, CCC 1830). Isaiah chapter 11, which was the second reading for this Sunday, describes these gifts. The Gospel this Sunday (Matthew 3:1 – 12) tells us about St. John the Baptist, the last and greatest prophet (Matthew 11:11). Before the Incarnation the Holy Spirit spoke only through specific individuals as we declare in the Nicene Creed every Sunday, “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who has spoken through the prophets.” As I said before, at the last supper Christ gave the Holy Spirit to the Church (John 14 and 15). The Holy Spirit is available to all of us through the Church.
Advent is a time to reexamine our relationship with God. God wants to help us with that task by the gift of His Spirit. We have access to the Holy Spirit, that is God, in the teaching of the Church and our participation in the sacramental life of the Church.