..”like the dewfall”
Oops! Where did that come from? Many a Mass-goer has wondered what this poetic image might be doing suddenly popping up in the priest’s prayer over the bread and wine.
Unexpected, but also unfamiliar. What’s more, dew doesn’t “fall” like rain or snow anyway; it just forms.
What is it meant to tell us, in this prayer known technically as the epiclesis – the invoking or calling down of the Holy Spirit to transform our gifts of bread and wine? Its function is surely a vital one. For without the Spirit, our Eucharist would be just another nostalgic commemorative ritual.
Scripture teems with images for the Spirit’s action. Very often they seem utterly opposed in character. On the one hand, we have images of erupting power – a roaring sound like rushing wind, purifying fire and tongues of flame or gushing torrents of water. On the other, a gentle breeze, life-giving breath, the fluttering wings of a dove.. and, here, the glistening freshness of the morning dew.
Throughout both Testaments we hear of the Spirit at work: communicating God’s word to prophets, bringing life to reassembled bones, cascading from the sides of the Temple so as to pour down into the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea, bringing it back to life and renewing the face of the earth… and, of course, acting in Jesus at every moment of his existence!
Similarly with the Spirit’s action in us as intimate guest, guide, teacher, helper, advocate, intercessor… inspiring, bringing to remembrance, guiding into truth, triggering understanding and enlightenment, enabling, anointing and empowering, consoling, comforting and encouraging, defending …
This rich gamut of striking yet contrasting expressions warns us that the Spirit and the Spirit’s ways will always surpass the reach of our minds, remaining, as Jesus once reminded us, forever ungraspable, unfathomable – like the wind that blows where it will.
What about our image of the morning dew?
In lands prone to aridity, the morning dew is a vital gift for the agricultural cycle, especially in the hot summer months. For them, it stood for cleansing, renewal and regeneration. We find it in psalms and prophecies and prayers of blessing. Here is one of the most beautiful:
I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon. His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon. They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon. (Hos 14:5-7)
Our faith will be a vital and truly enlivening source of energy in our daily living to the extent to which the images we store in our minds to represent its truths are rich and true. That is why the Scriptures are so important. We need them to re-fuel our minds.
In a society in which brute coercion or deceitful persuasion are all too common, this coupling of overmastering power and delicate gentleness is a refreshing reminder of the respect with which the divine source of all power treats us humans.
Let us meditate on these things during this month in which we celebrate a cluster of three important feasts that close the Easter Season – Pentecost, the Trinity and Corpus Christi.
We here at St Francis are eagerly awaiting the descent of the Spirit upon our SSS Brother, Ben Ho, to empower him to exercise the ministry of the Lord Jesus as a Deacon. If the event is unlikely to be marked by flashing flames or rushing winds, we can certainly pray with confidence that the Spirit’s gracious energy may gently enfold and empower him “like the dewfall.”
August 03, 2017
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October 31, 2016