Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Reflecting on the Holy Spirit

Father John J. Lombardi

Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest,
And in our hearts take up Thy Rest,
Come with Thy Grace, and Heavenly Aid,
To fill the Hearts, Which Thou hast Made…

Is He the "forgotten Person" of the Godhead? Spirare in Latin means "to breathe." So this Pentecost: Breathe in the Holy Spirit regularly-in prayer, the Sacraments, in the Spring winds and rains, in every thought and deed, to become divinized, transformed, sueprnaturalized. I.e., Why live a boring flat-earth life? The Holy Spirit is like our "spiritual umbilical cord"-connecting us to God-the-Trinity. Bottom line-Stay linked!

Ekporeuesthai is the Greek word the Bible uses seven times to describe the Holy Sprit's Originless Origin, and it means "proceed," or go forth. Now Jesus-the-Son is generated from God-the-Father's Intellect. Thus: He is like an idea within-the-mind-never separate but distinct, generated out of the mental matter. Think, in car terms, it's kinda like a car batter (Father-as-ground) generates a charge (the Son) to give life: these "elements" are distinct but related. Got that? Okay, now, The Holy Spirit, however, proceeds-is breathed-forth, from the Will of God, as in: a man aspires to something he wills. Here, in car talk, the (Fatherly)ground-generated charge (Son) "breathes forth" a light as in the Holy Spirit. All are one-yet-distinct. Now: here we see God-the-Trinity's Wholeness-- intellectual and heart-felt, --God is not just Intellect but also Will-Divine Desire. So: we humans are made in God's Image and Likeness-we are mind and heart, and must try to imitate God. However, thru sin, we become distorted (sometimes badly). Anyway-we are called to an Original Innocence and Primordial likeness by balancing head and heart, mind and will, thoughts and emotions, just like in God. St Gregory Naziansus counsels on spiritual progression: "By advancing and progressing 'from glory to glory,' the light of the Trinity will shine in ever more brilliant rays."

The God-Man, Jesus Christ was the perfect resemblance and Archetype of this Bliss. The Holy Spirit is our link to Him. Today is Pentecost, which means "fifty days" -after Easter. What is the Essence of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit in our lives and church? Let's explore…

What is Pentecost? It is called the Birthday of the Church since, the Holy Spirit breathed upon the apostles gathering in the Upper Room (Acts 2:1-11). Also, in the gritty and ethereal Johanine Gospel (Jn. 20:19-23) Jesus breathes upon the disciples the Holy Spirit. So we have the Church born and also humans (re)born by the Gift of God. Ergo: we are a supernatural Church and creature-spiritualized and recreated by the Holy Spirit. Never forget that-you are not just a "human being" or a "bunch of tissue and cells"-you are God's supernatural creature! A bad tendency of today's worlds tries to make the Church a human organization only (no-she's your Mother, as my friend Fr Larry likes to say--inspired by the Holy Sprit-so don't disobey your Mom!), and any persons (born or unborn) are God's Spirit Child! So let's thank God-the-Trinity and the Holy Spirit in particular by prayer, holy actions and heartfelt joy that we have a Church-God's Mind on Earth, to lead us thru this Veil of Tears-and that we have the Gift of humanhood to Imitate the Incarnation (however clumsily).

Who is the Holy Spirit? Jesus calls Him the "Paraclete"-literally, He who is 'called to one's side,' ad-vocatus (Jn. 14: 16,26). 'Paraclete' is commonly translated as 'consoler,' and Jesus is the first Consoler. The Lord is also called the Holy Spirit 'the Spirit of Truth'" (Jn 16:13--Catechism: # 692). Jesus-the-Incarnation left Earth and is not physically at our side; so He and the Father gave us the Holy Spirit-always at our side, within us, to help us toward heaven and holiness. Also, we get down and dejected in life sometimes. The Spirit is God-therefore He can lift our earthy/earthly spirits out of doldrums, doubts and dissonance into Divine Light and Life: He is the consoler. Don't be trapped or captivated by your human-only feelings and passions--pray for more intimacy with the Holy Spirit (do not forget Him-remember: He is God's Divine Desire) -His consolations and His helping you toward Truth. "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless" (John 6:63).

"Moist Mysticism": The Holy Spirit is called the "saint maker". Why? Because He is holiness "breathed out" from the will of God. The Intellect of God does not breathe out--it generates a Supreme Idea-Christ. The Will of God and Holy Spirit is Divine Desire, an aspiration. The Spirit is called "Holy" because He is Infinite Goodness and perfect equilibrium of Love. Therefore-when people really let go and let the Spirit within them "grow" (become more manifest) they eventually become heroically holy and saints. St Paul says: "Are you not ware that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?" (I Cor. 6:19) But the Saints, contrary to most people's opinion, were not plastic, static religious robots, but were really human-become-divine-like people. Mother Teresa of Calcutta got upset at times, prayed heroically through doubts, and other times shared in humor. Pope John Paul was intensely prayerful and also befriended youth and families-he liked praying in church with them and also kayaking in the mountains. St Phillip Neri is called the joyful saint because of his practical, sometimes surreal practical jokes (shaving half his beard and going public). St Francis-the-Italian stripped in front of his dad and bishop once to show he belonged--was naked, for God alone. St Bernadette was, at times precocious. Dorothy Day of contemporary New York was a whippersnapper who once loved communism and smoking cigarettes and who became grittily godly. All were filled with the Holy Spirit-they kept breathing in God's Spirit, they stayed linked no matter what befell them. The Holy Spirit, then, does not dry up personalities or a "holy humanism" within us-so don't be afraid-- but makes us "moist"-- re-filled with God's Grace. Likewise the Spirit etherealizes our earth-gravity-pull into the heights of mystical love. We are "flat-earthers" at times, not only because we are sinners (do not look to what is above) and not only because we do not rely on the Spirit enough (supernatural Spirit), but also because we promote and protect a conveyor-belt mentality of life where we get worn out and dried up, lukewarm to the spiritual life of our being-hood. St Basil the Great, oppositely, writes this about the Spiritual life: "The Spirit is the Source of Holiness, as spiritual light, and He offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our human mind. The Spirit raises our hearts toward Heaven…Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations-we become God." Read that again. Then read II Pt. 1:4. Be filled with the Spirit! Be moistened, be mystified-allow the Paraclete to help you. .

The Spirit and Unity of Church: St Cyril of Alexandria writes: "All of us who have received one and the same Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, are in a sense blended together with one another and with God Who dwells in all, leads all into spiritual unity". In the Acts reading we hear how the Church was one and unified. Today some say "truth" is not possible to grasp, or "That was then, this is now". This manifest in different ways-thru rejection of the Ten Commandments (natural Law-innate truths in all people) to "pick and choose Catholics" who select what they want to believe or do I the Church. Now, it's Spring and that means disunity at some college graduations. At Loyola College of Baltimore we recently learned that ex-mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani is not only commencement speaker but also receiving an honorary degree. Is the Spirit really at work there when a Catholic college supports and honors one who favors the killing of children and homosexual unions which threatens marriage? Imagine if a child abuser was honored at a Catholic school, or someone who promoted Abu Grhaib-like humiliations of prisoners, or a person promoting slavery or abuse of minority persons--people would be outraged. This is not unity in the Holy Spirit but disunity: "We have not received the Spirit of the World but the Spirit that is from God…and we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit…" (I Cor . 2:12-13). Just as in St Paul's Corinthian-challenged time (truths being denied, mis-truths promoted), Catholics are threatened to stifle the Spirit and not speak out against these injustices. So, part of the Spirit's manifestation, just like in abolitionists, concentration-camp-heroism and civil-rights movement forces, we must rise in protests-not always fun or seemingly "spiritual"-to remember Pope Paul VI's line: "If you want peace work for justice." Remember: when you feel uncomfortable the Holy Spirit is your Consoler!

The Spirit and spirit of Relativism: The New Testament emphasizes the Holy Sprit as the Spirit of Truth: "The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit will teach you all things" and "When He, the Spirit of Truth is come, he will teach you all things" (Jn. 14:2616:13). In the Acts reading we hear how the Church was one and unified. Today there are many divisions, especially regarding the essentials of the Faith. The Holy Spirit's role here is to guide us to truth. Sometimes people stray from essential truths of the Faith (perhaps we all have). However, the Church has taught (i.e.,Vatican Council II, in Lumen Gentium) that our hearts and minds are obliged to assent to the truth, no matter how hard to understand or grasp. The Holy Spirit can help us-our minds are darkened, "wounded". The world today is as emphatic; however, that there is only a relativist truth-which means truth is prejudicially flavored by various backgrounds, so much so that there are no absolutes. Recently we read of a journalist-editor priest disciplined for publishing articles favorable to homosexual unions and activities; questioning Church policies regarding Communion for pro-abortionist politicians, and contraception. Not bad, you think? Now, imagine: you are a manager of a baseball team, and you have eight good players and one dissenter. He continually questions you, thus demoralizing others on the team. He also begins to solicit outside dissenting help from others-soliciting an anti-team spirit, all the while saying it is helpful. Wouldn't you question that player; ask him to change, and then define: he is not representative of the team and is, in fact, destructive to it. This would no doubt happen in business as well as baseball. Yes, there are right things to dialogue about, but, in essentials (let's say the player wants to provide illegal drugs to the rest of the team) then dissent is intolerable-even if it is called (as some have re. today's theologians) "loyal opposition." This is a ruse when analogized with business and baseball.

The Holy Spirit, the Bible says, can help us-as Ad-vocatus, and Paracletus-to speak for and be our consoler when the Truth is difficult. Once again, we will all face truths like that priest-editor and, hopefully, by the Spirit's Counsel, believe what is taught and not spread error to others, nor solicit others to propagate error and false ways to others and the priest could have been doing. Ergo: we definitely need the Holy Spirit to help our Catholic Church in, to put it frankly, it's "spiritual guts"-in the basics of the Faith, esp. the essentials-incl. teachings on, most importantly, Christ's Sacrificial Atoning Death; the Mass's efficacy, it's Sacrificial aspects and need; the soul's Supernatural destiny (Heaven, Hell, Purgatory); the Sacraments and need of Grace; Supernatural revelation of the Bible and miracles; morality (vs. relativism, loss of Ten Commandments); discipleship and denial of self, deadly sins, including, esp. for Americans avariciousness, materialism. Anyway, etc. hardly anything in life is more important than the essentials of our Sacred Tradition, and how we pass that on. For that, in these perilous times, we need the assistance and Counsel of the Holy Spirit-lots!

The "Gospel of the Holy Spirit": read St. Luke's Gospel (and Acts-the "Second Volume" which records details of the early Church, and see how active, penetrating and inspiring the Holy Spirit is. Breathe with Both Lungs: Pope John Paul II used this imagery to describe the need for the Western, Latin Church to rely more on the Holy Spirit and Mystical Life of the Trinity. True. We can get stuffy, moralistic, linear and un-charismatic-we need the moisture of the Holy Sprit to enliven us! The Holy Spirit interpenetrates us, dwells within us "For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God" (I Cor 2:10). Let the Spirit purify and penetrate you so you become more spiritual, more human and like God-like the Saints!

What to Do/How to Respond…

  • Meditate upon the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit-wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord (Isa. 11:1-2); and Fruits of the Holy Spirit -love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness (Gal. 5:22).
  • Pray: Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest/ And in our hearts take up Thy rest/ Come with Thy Grace/ And heavenly aid/ to Fill the hearts/ which Thou has made…"
  • Mediate upon the Godhead-Saints talk about being linked to God-the-Trinity. The Spirit is our vital/vitalizing link-"God's Will-desire-aspiration" to save, sanctify and heal us
  • Pray for The Church, Pope Benedict and your priests and bishops to be filled with the Holy Sprit-to preach and teach the Truth! hast made." Veni Sancte Spritius-Come, Holy Spirit!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi