Come, Holy Spirit, as soft refreshing rain

Fr Paolo Consonni, MCCJ

O’Clarim Pentecost Year B

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:12-13)

As I write this article, it is pouring rain outside. This is not surprising, as May marks the peak of the rainy season in Macau. Fortunately, so far we did not have damaging floods as elsewhere. Apart from the inconveniences of getting wet, carrying an umbrella, and dealing with heavy traffic, I was quite pleased with the rain. It had not rained properly for several months, and I felt that the city was constantly covered in dust, partly due to the numerous construction sites scattered throughout the city, causing air pollution to reach unhealthy levels. The rain of the past weeks has cleaned all this dust away. The tree leaves, which during the winter months have become pale and dry, have regained their bright green color so typical of the vegetation of the southern part of China.

This Sunday, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, which is the abundant and all-permeating “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. We more often associate the Holy Spirit with wind and fire, due to the description of the first Pentecost as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11). But we should not forget that that water, too, is one of the symbols of the Spirit. The Catechism explains: “The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As by one Spirit we were all baptized, so we are also made to drink of one Spirit. Thus, the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life” (CCC 694).

More specifically, the rain is a wonderful way to describe the action of the Holy Spirit in us. In the liturgy of Pentecost, the sequence before the Gospel “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” (Come, Holy Spirit) invokes: “Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum…”, namely “cleanse what is unclean, water what is parched”. I discovered that praying together with the falling rain is a beautiful way to invoke the Holy Spirit.

To be useful for the vegetation, rain needs to be able to penetrate the soil in depth. Constant, prolonged gentle rain is more useful than sudden and heavy rain which can cause floods. Unfortunately, in the past years because of climate change, in many parts of the globe, gentle rainfall has become rarer while heavy downpours have become more frequent. Beside the risk of flooding, heavy downpours wash away precious fertile topsoil, and farmers then need to use more fertilizers to grow crops, increasing chemical pollution in rivers and other water sources.

The action of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual life can be described both as a generous outpouring, such as on Pentecost day, to signify the power and the abundance of His Gifts, but also as a soft, lasting soaking rain that slowly penetrates the depth of our souls. While we thank the Lord for the exciting and empowering feelings of being filled with the Holy Spirit, which is a Grace to be asked especially in times of difficulties, when we need a breakthrough, at the same time we invoke the Holy Spirit to gently permeate all the different layers of our existence.

In fact, it takes time to “soak in” the life-changing message of the Gospel and to understand the implications it carries for our life. It takes time to conform our choices and attitudes to the truth about God, ourselves, and the world we come to discover while following Jesus as His disciples. It takes time to read all our history, with its lights and shadows, in the light of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, and see in the alternation of joys and sorrows, sin and redemption, successes and failures, wounds and healing, the unfolding of God’s plan of love for us and for humanity to lead us towards a destiny of total happiness and fulfillment in God’s Kingdom.

Spiritual transformation does not consist of one decision or one single special experience, no matter how powerful it might be. It comes from the availability of being led by the Holy Spirit to a greater depth of commitment to the truth and a more profound intimacy with Christ, especially in prayer. If we are open and patient enough, drop by drop, the Holy Spirit will seep deeply into the deepest, and sometimes hidden layers of our hearts, where we most need His light, His strength, and his Love to become more Christ-like.