April 27, 2006

The Poverty of the Holy Spirit

The Gospel reading for today assures us that God gives us his Spirit with utter generosity; God doesn't give according to "measure." Or, as our New American Bible would have it, God does not "ration" the Spirit.

The poor old Holy Spirit, often the forgotten Person of the Trinity. Even we Catholics can sometimes focus so much on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, or the Church itself as the Body of the Risen Christ extended, as it were, through history, that we lose sight of the Spirit. This isn't even to speak of those who preach to us that we must accept Jesus as our "personal Lord and savior," as if Jesus Christ were one more discrete individual with whom we must network in order to obtain some kind of spiritual commodity.

But this isn't all our fault. The Holy Spirit does have a kind of poverty of identity, poured forth not to make Himself known, but the Word. See, here's how the Trinity happens, if we may speak so roughly. From all eternity the super-abundant goodness of God speaks forth a Word, who, because God is perfect, is a perfect self-image and self-knowledge of God. The mutual delight of God the Source and the Word we call the Spirit. Thus we end up with the Trinity of God as unbegotten Source or Father, Word, and Love, or Spirit.

And this is not so strange! Whenever you think of someone you love, immediately your delight in that person arises. But this process of thought and delight in our own mind is only our distant imitation of the eternal, infinite, dynamic movement we call God.

The Spirit stretches forth from the Source and the Word to make the Word known. Thus when it is time for the Word to take flesh from the womb of Mary, it is the Holy Spirit who conceives Him. After the Resurrection, it is the Spirit that forms the Church that will continue the incarnate presence of the Word of God in the world and through history.

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