Thou shalt renew the face of the earth

An ancient prayer to the Holy Spirit brings lessons for anyone working to protect the created order

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord.

And so we come to the great Feast of Pentecost—a liturgical moment that comes with a prayer that we Catholic eco-advocates should say daily and meditate on in three important ways.

The first teaching is on humility. “Come, Holy Spirit” is a cry for aid. It’s an admission of our need for God’s nature-elevating grace. To utter these words is to admit before God and neighbor that we need this grace to grow in holiness and, in the process, grow in the virtues necessary to share with others (through word and deed) the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The second teaching is on the centrality of love. This “love” is not the worldly eros or philos, as important as those loves are. It is, instead, agape, the love that sacrifices. And as we learn in the Catechism, this love comes with profound implications:

"God is Love" and love is his first gift, containing all others. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Because we are dead or at least wounded through sin, the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of our sins. The communion of the Holy Spirit in the Church restores to the baptized the divine likeness lost through sin. He, then, gives us the "pledge" or "first fruits" of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as "God (has) loved us." This love (the "charity" of ⇒ 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received "power" from the Holy Spirit. . . . Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God "Father" and to share in Christ's grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory. (CCC 733-736)

Did you catch that? Restored to paradise. In other words, it is through, in, and with love—sacrificial love—that we Christians can do our small share to change the world. Of course, God alone will usher in the full restoration—the New Heavens and New Earth. “And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth,” the prayer makes clear. But our efforts, aided by God’s grace, are necessary for the times in which we live and in the corners of creation that we call home.

Which gets us to the third teaching: the need to cooperate with God.

Grant that we may be truly wise, the prayer exhorts, and rejoice in His consolation. In other words, this prayer—this humble call to grow in God’s divine love—is really a call to act wisely and to trust in God as we go about our lives—as we undertake our individual vocations of preaching and teaching the Gospel of Life to a world drowning in a culture of death.

And so in a special way on Pentecost, let us cry out to the Holy Spirit—as we should every day—that He will be with us and strengthen us in love for the good of all life, and for all the good that God has created, which we, now, must resolve to care for.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.