Cardinal Cantalamessa delivers his Advent sermon to the Pope and the Curia Cardinal Cantalamessa delivers his Advent sermon to the Pope and the Curia  (Vatican Media)

Cardinal Cantalamessa: Holy Spirit renews our fervor to call God ‘Father’

The Preacher of the Papal Household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, delivers his second Advent sermon, and reflects on the Holy Spirit’s role in our prayer as children of God.

By Devin Watkins

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa continued his reflection on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in his second Advent sermon for Pope Francis and the Roman Curia.

He began by holding up an ancient Bishop named Abercius as a model for how to rediscover “freshness, enthusiasm, and amazement” of faith in Christ.

“It is a question of looking at the stained-glass windows of the cathedral from the inside, rather than from the streetside,” he noted.

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Overcoming reign of sin

Cardinal Cantalamessa then reflected on the role of the Holy Spirit in lifting our minds and hearts to God, saying that without Him we cannot even begin to pray or become aware of our being children of God.

“If the Spirit is ‘the proof’ that we are children of God, if he ‘bears witness’ to our spirit,” he said, “it cannot be something that takes place ‘somewhere’ without our being aware of it or without some confirmation.”

The Cardinal said this confirmation comes when we overcome the “regime of sin” which makes us view God’s will with animosity and as a restriction on our human freedom.

“It is not farfetched to understand how, unconsciously, we connect the will of God with everything unpleasant, painful, everything that outs us to the test, that requires renunciation and sacrifice, in short, everything that can be seen as curbing our personal freedom and development. We essentially perceive God as being opposed to all festivity, delight, and enjoyment. If at that moment, we could look at ourselves as if in a mirror, we would see ourselves as people with heads bowed in resignation, muttering through clenched teeth: “If there’s nothing else I can do about it…ok, your will be done.””

Love replaces fear

Rather, noted Cardinal Cantalamessa, the Holy Spirit comes to heal us of this “terrible distortion” by showing us a “different face of God, the face revealed to us by Jesus in the Gospel.”

“Little by little, the feeling a child experiences blossoms in us which spontaneously translates into the cry: Abbà, Father!” he said. “A child has replaced the slave, love has replaced fear. The person ceases to be antagonistic toward God and becomes God’s ally.”

Silent before God’s majesty

The Preacher of the Papal Household went on to reflect on the prayer which the Holy Spirit inspires in us by grace to help us realize our true vocation.

He said prayer is the “privileged place where the Holy Spirit works always anew the miracle of making us feel like God’s children.”

This experience often takes place “suddenly and intensely” in a person’s life, and is accompanied by a sense of “God’s majesty and transcendence” that leaves us “overwhelmed and silent”.

“When we talk about the exclamation, “Abbà, Father!”, we usually think in terms of self-reference, that is, what it means to us who pronounce it. We hardly ever think about what it means to the One who hears it, to what it produces in God. No one reflects on the joy it brings God to be called “Dad”. But anyone who is a father knows how it feels to hear himself being called in that unmistakable tone of voice of his own boy or girl. It’s like becoming a father again each time because every time that exclamation is pronounced, it reminds you and makes you realize who you are. It calls forth into existence what lies at the core of your being.”

Calling upon the Father in our dryness

Jesus, said Cardinal Cantalamessa, taught us to call God our Father, or “Daddy” which draws closer to the meaning of the Aramaic word Abbà.

He added that God’s heart is “touched” when we speak so lovingly to Him, even when we fail to “feel” anything special in our prayer. It is precisely in our dryness that our prayer reaches its true heights of love and depths of faith, said the Cardinal.

Spirit guiding Church’s synodal path

Cardinal Cantalamessa concluded his second Advent sermon urging Church leaders to base their every pastoral action and planning on the Holy Spirit.

“When circumstances allow,” he said, “we need to spend some time disclosing ourselves to the Holy Spirit, to give the Spirit time to manifest Himself, to synchronize ourselves with Him.”

Entrusting our work to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to guide us, said the Cardinal, is especially necessary as the Church embarks on the synodal adventure.

“The Holy Spirit is the only one who opens new paths, without ever denying the former ones. Rather than doing new things, the Spirit renews things! That is, the Spirit does not create new doctrines and new institutions, but renews and breathes new life into those instituted by Jesus. Without the Spirit, we would always lag behind history.”

10 December 2021, 11:57