We cannot make ourselves holy: Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit.
According to St. Luke, Jesus ascended into heaven after “appearing to [the apostles] during forty days” (Acts 1:3) after his Resurrection. This means that the time between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is nine days (not including the day of Jesus’ ascension). Many Christians through the ages have seen these nine days of prayer as a model, and thus developed devotions that consist of nine days (or months, or even hours) of prayer for a specific intention or to a particular saint. This number was seen as divinely inspired and so “novenas” (from the Latin word, novem, meaning “nine”), were viewed as a uniquely powerful way to pray.
Pentecost Novena, Day 1
Come, O Holy Spirit: enlighten my understanding in order to know your commands; strengthen my heart against the snares of the enemy; enkindle my will … I have heard your voice, and I don’t want to harden my heart and resist, saying “later … tomorrow.” Nunc coepi! Now! Lest there be no tomorrow for me! O, Spirit of truth and wisdom, Spirit of understanding and counsel, Spirit of joy and peace! I want what you want, I want it because you want it, I want it as you want it, I want it when you want it.
Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit. We tend to fall into the (heretical) idea that we humans are responsible for making ourselves holy. We think that all we need is a little more will power, or a better plan, or some other cocktail of tricks and, one day, we’ll finally get there.
As spiritual writer Jacques Philippe points out, however, “unfortunately (or fortunately!) there is much more to it than that.” While it does take human effort — patience and the readiness to begin again and again, for example — holiness is not the result of some program we design and attempt to implement. Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Holy and divine Spirit! Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, your Spouse, bring the fullness of your gifts into our hearts. Comforted and strengthened by you, may we live according to your will and may we die praising your infinite mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The prayers are those used by St. Josemaria for his 10-day devotion to the Holy Spirit.