Fr. Dwight P. Campbell, S.T.D.
Ten days ago we celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord into heavenly glory. If you will recall, before Jesus ascended His Apostles asked Him, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom now?” His Apostles, even after having been with Jesus for forty days, still did not grasp the true meaning of His mission. They viewed Jesus’ mission on earth in all too earthly terms, thinking that He had come to restore the former glory of thekingdomofIsrael. Before he ascended, Jesus told them to pray and to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Today, ten days after the Ascension and fifty days after the Resurrection, we celebrate Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles just as Jesus had promised. With the coming of the Holy Spirit the Apostles received enlightenment, through the Gift of Understanding, which enabled them to fully grasp the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ mission.
And what was it that the Apostles were now able to see and understand? Precisely this: that Jesus, the Son of God by nature, became man not only to redeem us from our sins by His suffering and death on the Cross, but also to sanctify us, to transform those who believe in Him into adopted sons of the heavenly Father. In other words, Jesus died on the Cross in order that we might receive the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, and thereby be raised from a natural to a supernatural state, to be made sharers in the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4) and thereby to become deified, God-like, divinized, and thus enter into true friendship with God – something not possible in our fallen, natural state. “God becoming man, became a friend of man. Man being made God-like by the Holy Spirit becomes a friend of God.” [Edward Leen, The Holy Ghost, p. 99.]
The Apostles were unable to grasp this truth as long as Jesus was with them, for they viewed Jesus in an all too human and natural way. Jesus had to be taken from them in order for them to properly understand the purpose of His mission. At the Last Supper Our Lord told them: “It is expedient that I go, for if I do not go the Paraclete will not come to you” (Jn. 16:7). Now, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, they are enlightened; they now grasp that Jesus accomplished His redemptive work in order to communicate the Holy Spirit to us so that we can become partakers in the very life of God.
How does this happen? At Baptism the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, accomplishes the most amazing of feats: He begins to dwell in the soul of the baptized person. In theology we call this the “Divine Indwelling.” And because the Holy Spirit is one in substance with the Father and the Son, the effect of the Spirit’s dwelling in us is that the very life of Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – lives within the baptized soul, habitually, that is, continuously, as long as a person remains free from mortal sin. Jesus speaks of this Divine Indwelling in today’s Gospel when He says: “If anyone love me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and will make our abode with him” (Jn. 14:23). It is then that we become deified, God-like. “The Holy Spirit, in the work of the Incarnation, brought God down to man. He crowns this wonder by one more dazzling still. He raises man up to God.” [Leen, ibid., p. 98.]
By means of the Divine Indwelling, and the charity of God which the Holy Spirit pours forth into our souls (cf. Rom. 5:5), we are enabled to live and act no longer on a natural level, but on a supernatural level; we are empowered to live and to love in a God-like manner, in imitation of Christ Himself. In fact, the Holy Spirit enables us to make Christ’s life on earth our own. The great Solemnity of Pentecost which closes the Easter season should move us to reflect upon this profound truth.
As with Jesus while He was on earth, the Holy Spirit must become the principle of our thoughts and affections, of our will and our actions, of all that we think, say and do. Each and every day we must strive to identify ourselves with Christ’s life; His thoughts, words, affections and actions must become our own. WithSt. Paulwe must say: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Gal.2:20). The Holy Spirit, who was the principle of all Christ’s human actions, must become the principle of ours as well so that we can imitate Jesus more perfectly.
On this Pentecost Sunday, I propose two ways to accomplish this.
The first is by imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary. The spiritual tradition of the Church refers to her as the “spouse” of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus, no one followed the promptings and inspirations of the Holy Spirit as perfectly as did Our Lady; the Holy Ghost was her guiding Light in all things. AsSt.John of the Cross says, no created form ever entered her mind or imagination or was impressed upon her memory; rather, her entire live was governed completely by the Holy Spirit. The more we imitate Mary in her total responsiveness and free submission to the movements of the Holy Spirit, the more completely we will conform our lives to Christ’s life and accept His Kingship, His reign, over us.
The second way for the Holy Spirit to become the active principle in our lives is to develop a personal relationship with the Him; and for this we need pray to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit tends to be, I think, the neglected Person in the Trinity. This is due, in part, to the difficulty in conceptualizing the Holy Spirit as a Person. The truth is that the Holy Spirit is not fire, or a dove, or wind or some impersonal “force”; rather, He is a Divine Person, the Third Person in the Blessed Trinity, who proceeds from the mutual love that flows eternally between the Father and the Son, and who “with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,” as we profess in our Creed every Sunday.
To cultivate a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit we must carve out time for prayer to God each day. If we don’t set a time for daily prayer, the end of the day comes and we find we did not pray. Perhaps these words of the famous Primate of Belgium, Désiré Joseph Cardinal Mercier, will prove helpful here: “I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit.”
Additionally, in our daily dialogue with God we must incorporate prayer to the Holy Spirit. AsSt.Paul says, when we know not how to pray the Holy Spirit assists us in our weakness and makes intercession for us with “inexpressible groanings” (cf. Rom.8:26).
I’ll end here by quoting from one of my favorite prayers. I came across it a number of years ago; it’s from a prayer of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which the Apostleship of Prayer promotes. The second half of the prayer addresses the Holy Spirit:
Come, Holy Spirit, make my body Your temple. Come, and abide with me forever. Give me the deepest love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to serve Him with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Take possession of all my faculties of body and soul. Regulate all my passions: feelings and emotions. Take possession of my intellect, understanding and will; my memory and imagination. O Holy Spirit of Love, give me an abundance of Your efficacious graces. Give me the fullness of all the virtues; enrich my faith, strengthen my hope, increase my trust, and inflame my love. Give me the fullness of your sevenfold gifts, fruits and beatitudes. O Holy Trinity, make my soul Your sanctuary.
(Full prayer avail. from the Apostleship of Prayer: http://apostleshipofprayer.org/otherPrayers.html.)