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  • Luigi Gioia

I believe in the Holy Spirit

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And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.

Many in the ancient Church were tempted to consider the Holy Spirit as an attribute, a property, an aspect of God

Just as my spirit is a part of who I am

So the Spirit of God was supposed to be an aspect of who God is

The discernment of the Church in this matter was guided by the way in which the New Testament speaks of the Holy Spirit

In the book of the Acts of the Apostle, the HS takes the initiative and acts as a person:

“While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them’” (10:19-20; cf. 11:12).

In this last statement the Holy Spirit refers to himself in the first-person singular as “I” (10:20).

Then, more fundamentally, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says

Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are on the same level.

Even when Christians still did not fully understand that the Holy Spirit is God exactly like the Father and the Son, they were confessing this truth each time they received or administered baptism.

The creed eventually confirmed what they had been confessing by their liturgy and practice all along.

In the life of God – that is in the Trinity – the Holy Spirit is the gift that the Father gives to the Son and the Son to the Father

This is why we say in the Creed that he ‘proceeds from the Father and the Son’: the Holy Spirit comes from the Father but the Son gives it back to the Father and to us.

And St Augustine says that, because the Holy Spirit is a person, when he is given, he also gives himself.

There are two things that the Holy Spirit does in particular in our lives

Fitting us to the whole, and

Making things ‘personal’ for us

Fitting us to the whole

The New Testament describes the Holy Spirit by saying the he is and therefore he creates fellowship

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Fellowship in the Church is not simply the result of friendship and good will, but the gift of the Holy Spirit - who acts as the great puzzle assembler

We all are like the pieces of a puzzle: we all have a unique contribution to give to the whole picture and yet we need to be helped to find the way in which our gifts, our talents can fit with all the others – not accidentally, but harmoniously

No piece of the puzzle is more or less important than the others – they are all equally needed and all depend on each other for the world to on the face of the Church the face of Christ.

Making things ‘personal’

The Holy Spirit is the way in which God is not just ‘out there’ but also ‘in here”, in us, that is acting, moving us from within – inspiring us

It is thanks to the Holy Spirit that God becomes real, personal to each one of us

We think to our spirit as the innermost part of ourselves

And we are told that God the Spirit talks directly to our spirit:

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16)

“Bearing witness” is a legal metaphor which can be misleading unless it is fleshed out by what the HS actually. He gives us the ability to

Be and feel free

“The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. (Corinthians 3:17-18)

Understand

“We have received God’s Spirit so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us”. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

Pray

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26)

Love

“The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22)

Interestingly in this passage, we are not just told that the HS gives us love generically, but also told what shape this love takes

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22f)


The kind of love that comes from God is joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled

One of the ways in which the HS awakes these sentiments of joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness in our dealings with others is by changing the way we perceive others – this is what love does, this is how he fits the puzzle together: thanks to him I see not only myself, but every other human being as a child of God, and therefore as sisters and brothers

Rowans Williams beautifully captures this truth:

“The gift of the Holy Spirit of God enables us not only to be a new kind of being but to see human beings afresh and to hear them differently.

It gives us something of Jesus’ capacity to hear what is really being said by human beings.

It gives us the courage not to screen out those bits of the human world that are difficult, unpleasant, those that are not edifying.

It opens our eyes and our ears and our hearts to the full range of what being human means.

So that, instead of being somebody who needs to be sheltered from the rough truth of the world, the Christian is someone who should be more open and more vulnerable to that great range of human experience”.




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