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“Before the Spirit of Grace” – an Easter aspect of our program (motto) prayer

Author: Dariusz S. Pielak, SVD
Subject: SVD prayer
Language: English, Spanish
Publisher: VivatDeus.org
Year: 2023

“Before the light of the Word and the Spirit of grace, may the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief vanish, and may the Heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all people. Amen!” (translation used in SVD) –  this is how we pray in our “programmatic prayer” that Saint Arnold left us. It is a very short sentence and the role assigned to it may surprise us, since the name “programmatic” suggests that this sentence reflects our identity and the objectives of our existence.

However, let us not be fooled by its brevity. In this prayer the spiritual path of our Founder is reflected. The prayer reflects an early stage of his spirituality, when he was involved in the Apostleship of Prayer, the founding stage of the Society of the Divine Word, and the later stage of his path, when he turned more towards the Holy Spirit. The prayer expresses the desire for the merciful action of the One and Triune God** in the world (Missio Dei) for which the missionary help of believers is required. It is therefore not surprising that when Fr. Albert Rohner (1899-1992), who was very well-acquainted with  the spirituality of Father Arnold, wrote a commentary on the origin and content of this prayer, the text was nearly 20 pages long and still it was difficult to say that it is an exhaustive analysis (the article is available on our page. See: “Coram lumine Verbi…”, SVD programmatic prayer, in: Arnoldo Janssen yesterday and today. Personality, charisma, heritage, p. 248-269 (https://drive.google.com/file/d/197RcQfxJLCpuknNfgbRW0UNT8ArtOBDC/view).

In my short article I want to focus on a single expression: “The Spirit of grace”. This is not an ordinary expression. Usually, we speak of “the Holy Spirit”. And sometimes there have been attempts to translate this term as “the grace of the Spirit” or even as “The Spirit of mercy”. According to Fr. Rohner, the expression “Spirit of grace” is not the fruit of a theological or spiritual reflection, but comes from the Bible. Indeed, in the book of the prophet Zechariah (12:10) we read: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication so they will look on me, as to whom they have pierced, they will mourn for him as for an only son and they will weep bitterly over him, like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”

In the quoted version the word “spirit” is lowercase. The exegetes do not agree if the original text is about the gift of the Holy Spirit, or about the divine gift of grace and supplication. There is a broad consensus, according to which directly or indirectly one speaks here of the Holy Spirit who comes in person, or sends his gifts. St. Arnold followed the Vulgate, where the version with a capital letter is chosen. In fact, the famous prophecy of Jesus in John 7: 37-39 seems to refer to the scene described in Zach 12:10: “On the last day, the most solemn of the feast, Jesus, standing up, exclaimed: ‘Whoever has thirst, come to me; and he who believes in me drinks. As the Scripture says: From his womb springs of living water will sprout.’ He was referring to the Spirit that those who believed in him should receive. Because the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Taking into account all that has been said, we can draw some conclusions for the spirituality of the Arnoldus Family.

  1. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the cross (the Easter context).

When we look at the names of the Congregations founded by Saint Arnold, then we may have a tendency to see our “theological context” at different times of the liturgical year: the Society of the Divine Word may lean more towards Christmas (the coming of the Word into the world) and the Holy Spirit congregations (SSpS and SSpS AP) to the solemnity of Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit). However, it seems more accurate to find our common theological site in the scene of the cross, when thanks to the death of Jesus (the Incarnate Word) the Holy Spirit comes into the world. This is also the key to understanding the images that Saint Arnold left us, above all the image of the Heart of Jesus with the Holy Spirit. It seems that one of the best graphic expressions of this is the mosaic found in the convent of the SSpS AP Sisters in Nysa (Poland). In this image we contemplate Jesus dying on the cross, with his Sorrowful Mother by his side and the Holy Spirit who comes at this precise moment with his gifts.

  1. The Eucharistic context.

Saint Arnold had a great veneration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and therefore the moment when the soldier pierces the Savior’s side with his spear was very important to him. The water and blood that flowed from his Heart were symbols of the sacraments of the Church, especially Baptism and the Eucharist. Above all, our Founder wanted to share these two gifts with the people evangelized by his spiritual sons and daughters.

  1. The cross – source of spiritual fertility.

Before Easter Fr. Igor Kral SVD shared this aspect of the spiritual life of Saint Arnold (https://vivatdeus.org/library/blog0086/ ). But also, in our service today we are called to be present above all in “frontier” situations, together with those excluded from the social and economic system: the underprivileged, the poor, the persecuted. He calls this “the Spirit of grace and supplication”. In this context we feel truly coherent with our vocation. These are the darknesses that must be dispelled by the light of the Word.

We all know that these are not easy situations, but our faith that “the Spirit of grace” accompanies us gives us the hope of having everything we need to fulfill our mission. The motto of the future General Chapter also calls us to collaboration with this Spirit, which calls us to be “faithful and creative disciples in a wounded world”. It is not about being brilliant and very smart with our natural intelligence, but about being creative by obeying the Spirit, who through its inspirations brings us the answers and the necessary means to carry out the mission.


Dariusz Pielak, SVD
Dariusz Pielak, SVD

Dariusz Pielak born on 30.03.1965 in Poland. In 1985 he joined the Society of the Divine Word. During the seminary he did the experience of OTP in Argentina in a community of life inserted in popular environments of Greater Buenos Aires. After finishing the seminary he worked in Spain and did a licentiate in biblical theology there. Since 2003 he has been working in Russia teaching at the seminary and attending the parish of St. Olga in Moscow. He also devotes himself to deepen the themes related to the spiritual history of Arnold Janssen.


2 Responses

  1. Muchas gracias Padre Dariusz S. Pielak, SVD, valioso blog y oportuno en mi caso.

    me perdí el webinar de la Oración del Cuarto de Hora el pasado sábado, teníamos formación por zoom también ese día de la zona PANAM a continuación del horario del webinar. Ojalá tener pronto novedades un resumen de ese webinar.
    saludos desde Asunción, Py
    soy Silvia Vera laica de la Parroquia San Juan Bautista del Verbo Divino

    1. Hola, Silvia! El p. Joaquin publicó estos contenidos en inglés en la revista “Verbum SVD”. Intentaremos hacerlo disponible en castellano. Gracias por su interés. Sabiendo que hay gente interesada en el tema resulta más fácil trabajar!

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