Chapel of the Holy Spirit
Residence Benedict XVI th Rome, Italy
The entrance to the house of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Rome presents two images and, with them, two invitations: the first is the engraving on the door of the chapel which reads “DOMUS DEI PORTA COELI”; the second is the image of the Annunciation that reproduces the famous fresco of Blessed Angelico. The inscription that reminds us of what Jacob exclaimed after the vision of Bethel as well as the Annunciation invite us to enter the Divine presence with the same attitude of the patriarch and that of the Virgin Mary when she was greeted by the angel.
The Chapel is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. It unites four scenes that manifest and summarize the action of the Holy Spirit from the moment of the creation of the world to the end of time: the Creation (Western Wall); the Crossing of the Red Sea (South Wall); the Baptism of the Lord (North Wall); and the Cross, presented as the Tree of Life (apse).
The life-giving Spirit, who is sent by the hands of the Father, hovers over the waters of creation and transforms them into waters full of life. Fishes of various forms and sizes are captured in the waves that reflect the golden light of the Spirit. Life-giving breath is given in new form to man – male and female. It is the breath of the Divine Word that blesses them. The gaze of the Word is directed toward man and it directs all of creation toward him to receive from him a name.
The passage through the Red Sea
In the passage of the Red Sea of the old covenant, the breath of life of the Spirit is transformed into a mighty wind that proceeds from the hand of the Father. It opens a new path of life through the waters of death. Moses, represented in the center of this new path, points up with his left hand, toward the origin of life. Meanwhile, he sustains with his right hand a wooden staff (a prefiguration of the wood of the Lord’s cross) that opens a passage for the chosen people of God toward the Promised Land (the mountain and the green tree). The right side of the scene depicts the Egyptians who have chosen the path of death (the desert with the dried tree) and who drown in the sea. The seven heads symbolize the seven capital sins. The remaining Egyptians represent the sins derived from the capital sins. Opposite the Egyptians are the people who are saved. Like Moses, their hands, too, point toward God, the author of Life.
The Baptism of the Lord
In the scene of the Baptism of the Lord, Christ, in the waters of the Jordan, is the new Moses, represented with the hands raised in prayer toward the Father, who sends the Spirit in the form of a dove. The Spirit, manifested as the breath of life, descends over Jesus to anoint him for his redemptive mission. The oil of consecration (represented in the fine, golden contour surrounding the head and the shoulders of Jesus) penetrates his humanity and disposes it for the divine action of the Incarnate Word (according to the teachings of St. Iraneus of Lyons). The waters of the Jordan are also touched by the oil of the Spirit and are transformed into waters of life for all those who are baptized and follow Jesus on the path of his passion and death (symbolized here by the immersion in the waters of the Jordan) toward the resurrection (represented with the water that englobes Jesus as he exits the waters). The hand of the Baptist points out the great Mystery for his disciples. On the opposite side, the angels in reverence contemplate the Mystery with veiled hands in sign of adoration.
The Cross, the Tree of Life
The action of the Holy Spirit manifests itself in all its splendor at Pentecost, and this is represented by the fecundity of the Tree of the Cross which becomes the Tree of Life. The Spirit (represented by golden rays), sent by the Father upon the Son that He may undertake the redeeming sacrifice, makes the Tree of the Cross give many a fruit, among which are the saints, all rooted in Christ. It is they that announce throughout the world the mercy of God: the four evangelists (represented by the four living creatures in the upper part of the apse appear on either side of the chrismon); Saints Peter and Paul; and four doctors of the Church (St. Augustine, Jerome, Maximus the Confessor and Justyn Martyr.) Each of the doctors is depicted with a book or a roll of their teachings in their hands, pointing toward Christ as the fountain of Wisdom (as it is indicated by the inscriptions that delimit the lower part of the composition). As the chosen fruit of the Tree of salvation, the Virgin Mary stands at the foot of the Cross. It is Mary who guides us to this fountain of life, the Heart of the Lord: truly, “the disciple, upon contemplating with Mary Christ crucified, hears the voice of his Master who calls him to be one with Him, consecrated by the Holy Spirit in the service of the Church, and to live in Him the mystery of the heart of the Redeemer, in which the love of the Father is unveiled.”