Family, clergy, peers are all circled around the person in front of me. After I solicit everyone’s prayers for said person I pause for a moment. It is an intentional, silent space that I always take prior to laying my hands on the person’s head – “making room for the Spirit” I always suggest in the rehearsal. I also always make it clear that each person coming forward is a child of God worthy of their own moment and that I am not a “Confirmation machine”. The Holy Spirit always, and I do mean always, “shows up.”
Foundationally, but certainly not exclusively, this is the primary ministry of the Bishop. In Eucharistic language this is what is referred to as the invocation of the Epiclesis – specifically when the celebrant invokes the Holy Spirit to consecrate the bread and wine. Chrismation at baptisms, Consecration of the elements in Holy Communion, Absolution, Blessing, Confirming / Receiving / Reaffirming and Ordination are the most notable times when the Bishop or, in the Bishop’s absence, a priest (with the exception of Confirming / Receiving / Reaffirming and Ordination) invites those gathered to make room for the Holy Spirit.
One of the greatest blessings of serving as Bishop that I experience is inviting those gathered to make room for the Holy Spirit. Yes, on the aforementioned occasions, but also in other times of great joy and tremendous tragedy, regular meetings and spontaneous situations. It is an incredible privilege, one that I never take for granted, and one about which I was duly warned a number of years ago, “If you invite the Holy Spirit into your midst – be prepared for the unexpected!”
Jesus was clear, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:16,26). As we gather this Pentecost let us do so with grateful hearts for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and with grateful hearts for how the Spirit has gifted each and every one of us. And let us do so fully open to wherever the Spirit may lead us.