I was recently at a friend’s ordination to the priesthood. It was a beautiful and elegant ceremony, rich with symbolism and the Holy Spirit. I doubt many around me ever noticed any of that. They were too busy trying to catch a photo memory of the event for later that they couldn’t be present to experience what a picture cannot capture in the now. I am not referring to those who took occasional snapshots of cherished moments. I am referring to those who stood in the pews (in, not on) constantly recording or clicking away at their cell phones. They obviously had no regard for those sitting behind them who were also trying to see. This then caused others to stand and lean sideways so they could catch the pictures they wanted. Getting the pictures came before the people and the moment.
As an ex-videographer for a local priest and as a proud father equip with a video camera I can tell you firsthand how much of an event you miss when seen through a little viewfinder or LCD screen. I always have to watch the tape over several times just to catch the details I missed when filming. At events like this ordination, a baptism, confirmation, or wedding we are called to be present, witnessing the Glory of God and the Holy Spirit at work. You are not going to catch the Holy Spirit on your Galaxy Note 6 or iPhone.
But that is exactly what the devil is hoping for. God speaks to us in a still, small voice that we can only hear when we are listening and open to His presence. When we are distracted by the noise of life and things we think are more important than the moment at hand, like catching every little detail on camera, we easily miss the Holy Spirit speaking to us.
Holy Spirit – that’s a bit of a poor translation of the actual Greek used in scripture. The actual Greek word used for the Holy Spirit is “pneuma”. A better translation of this would be “breath” or “wind”. It is where we get words like pneumonia and pneumatic, both words dealing with the movement of air. We see many places in scripture where the Holy Spirit is referred to as a mighty wind. In Genesis at the beginning of creation we see the wind come over the waters and calm the chaos. After Pentecost we see a mighty wind rush into the upper room and tongues of fire come to rest over the heads of the Twelve. Anywhere you see the Holy Spirit mentioned in scripture think of it as the Holy Breath of God.
God speaks to us in a still, small voice – a whisper. How is a voice made? Breath is passed over the vocal cords to make vibrations the ear sends to the brain where it is translated as sound. The Father speaks to us through His Holy Breath. What is spoken but words?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” - John 1, 1-5.
In the beginning the Father used his Holy Breath to utter one Word. That Word was Jesus. And Jesus was with the Father and of the same stuff as the Father (consubstantial). Father – Holy Breath – Word (Jesus). This is the Holy Trinity – the three Persons, one God Catholics know to exist.
Jesus was tested by the Pharisees; “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22, 34-40.
Jesus was referencing the Torah, which we Christians know as the Old Testament. This is Law handed down by God through Moses.
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6, 4-9.
When you ask a Christian or a Jew what the great law is they should answer, “Love your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” This, in reality, is the second part of the great commandment. Hardly anyone will ever reference the first part of the great Commandment.
“Hear, O Israel!”
We are instructed to hear God first, and then love Him with everything we have and are. When we are not present to hear the Holy Breath we cannot follow the Law as it was handed down to us. When we are too distracted by the noise of life we cannot hear that small, still voice when the Father tries to talk to us. When we do not hear we cannot love with everything and all that we are.
When was the last time you told a priest that one during confession? It should be the first sin out of your mouth.
So put the cell phones and cameras down during our religious ceremonies and be fully present to the Father, His Holy Breath, and His Word of Life – Jesus. You will come away with so much more than just pictures.
For anyone who has never seen an ordination please watch the ordination of my friend, Father Ervin Pio M. Caliente. Pray for Father Ervin as he begins this new chapter in his service to our Lord.