Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.
With hearts well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. John.
“When the doors were locked where the disciples were, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’” When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. In fact, the nails had transpierced the hands, the spear had opened his side, where the marks of the wounds are preserved to heal the hearts of those who were doubting. On the other hand, the closed doors were no obstacle for the volume of the body where the divinity was; in fact, with doors not opened, he could still enter by whose birth his Mother’s Virginity remained intact.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. He said to them again: “Peace be with you.” The repetition is a confirmation; indeed, the same gives peace upon peace, promised through a prophet. He affirms, As the Father sent me, so do I send you. We know that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, but here we recognize the words of the Mediator, for he shows himself as intermediary, saying: “He sent me, I also send you.” After having said this, he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Breathing he has indicated that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit not only of the Father, but also his.
He declares: Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. The charity of the Church, that through the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts, forgives the sins of his companions (those who are within the Catholic Church); on the contrary, he retains the sins of those who are not his companions. That is why, after saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he immediately added about the pardon and the retention of sins (Io. eu. tr. 121, 4).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you a dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in you dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
a. “Peace be with you.” The repetition is a confirmation; in fact, that gives the same peace upon peace” (Io. eu. tr. 121, 4).
- How do you live the gift of peace?
- How do you build peace in your community with the aid of the Spirit?
b. “Then he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn. 20:23).
- How is the presence of the Holy Spirit discernible in your life?
- Why is the Spirit the gift of Christ and the Father?
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
a. Contemplate Christ breathing upon you as he did upon the Apostles, and he invites you to re-live and revive the presence of the Spirit in your life. Ask Christ that you be guided by his Spirit of love and peace.
b. Contemplate how Christ places his own Spirit in your heart. Contemplate and experience the joy of knowing that your life is animated by this Divine Guest. Make a thanksgiving prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about God’s indwelling in you and of receiving Christ’s peace. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
Final Prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your good will, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind, and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps.150:8).
“Neither does the true love of God dwell in him who is ungrateful to the Holy Spirit, by whom his love is implanted in our hearts” (en. Ps. 71:3).