Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Holy Spirit

The Christian Church has always maintained within its theology a balance (or, alternatively, a tension) between the Unity of God's essence and the Trinity of His persons. Christians profess to believe in one God in three persons. The Quicunque vult teaches that

...the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and
Trinity in Unity.

The dogma surrounding the Blessed Trinity, our thrice-holy God, has for millenia now been accepted as fundamental to Christian faith. We are very familiar with the co-equal Father and Son, the Father being the fons divinitas, the Son the incarnate Logos of the Father. Sadly, as is the often the case when a third person is involved with such a dynamic duo, the Holy Spirit often limps in at third place in the personal, popular theology of the average mainstream Christian layman. It is undeniable that traditionally in the Latin West there has often been a deficiency in popular perception of the Spirit in the Christian life.

The Holy Spirit is nonetheless a fundamental of our Faith. At the very beginning of everything it was the Spirit - ruach: breath or wind - of God which "swept over the face of the waters", a verse which, despite presenting an interesting little problem for the concept of creatio ex nihilo, offers a tantalisingly brief first Scriptural glimpse of God's third person.

We learn far more about the Spirit, however, from the Prophet Joel. A relatively minor Prophet, the second chapter of Joel (third in the Hebrew text) contains a wonderful prophecy of the work of the Spirit:

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days,
I will pour out my spirit.

Joel 2:28-29

This is of course most clearly seen on the day of Pentecost, narrated in the Acts, with St. Luke making an explicit reference to God's words to Joel (Acts 2:17-18). The importance, indeed the very centrality, of the Holy Spirit to the Christian life is most clearly spelled out by Christ himself according to St. John:

Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.

John 3:5

As the Church approaches Pentecost I can see how my own appreciation of He "who with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified" is sorely deficient. I'll be thinking about this for the next few days. If any of you have thoughts, comments, insights or corrections on this subject for me, please comment below.

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