December 16, 2018
Today we conclude our meditations on a ‘mobile God’ with some thoughts about the Holy Spirit. And talk about mobile! The Spirit of God ‘moved over the abyss’ in the first chapter of Genesis and he descended upon the waters of the Jordan at the Baptism of Jesus. He was ‘breathed’ into the clay of the earth to make Adam a living being and he overshadowed the virgin of Nazareth to beget the Son of God in her womb. He ‘inspired’ prophets and judges kings in Israel and he caused Jesus to ‘rejoice’ that God hid the greatest of truths from all but ‘little children’. Saint Paul says that the ‘Spirit raised Jesus from the dead’ and the Book of Acts tells us that he created the Church out of scared and hiding Apostles. He is described as a dove, as water, as a breeze, a mighty wind, a tongue of fire.
All of this movement is quite ‘natural’ to the Holy Spirit who exists, in all eternity at the meeting point of the Fathers gift of himself to the Son and the Son’s reciprocating gift of himself to the Father. The Fathers of the Church spoke freely of Spirit as the confluence of two streams of fire. My favorite Orthodox theologian recounts the history of the world as the story of the Holy Spirit’s fashioning – in creation, in the creation of Adam, in the annunciation to Mary, in the Baptism of Jesus and his resurrection – as the single work of taking inanimate nature and filling it with life and grace to form the life-giving humanity of Jesus. As if to polish off that narrative, notice how, at Mass, just before the Consecration, the Holy Spirit’s work is invoked to make bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ! Lest me venture a personal theologumenon that even the ‘word’ of God is but the sound that shapes the breath/spirit of his heart.
So, why do we hear so little about the Holy Spirit?
If you notice, the Spirit is a ‘mediating’ figure, a sort of ‘middle man’. The Orthodox value this mediation as a real co-operation. The Latin-speaking West has tended to focus on the ‘principal’/originating actor. But it is to the East that we turn to discover a really Spirit-modeled way of life.
All that the Spirit has and is is a gift from Father to Son and Son to Father. A really ‘Spirit-ual’ person will think of himself as but a channel by which the gifts he has received become gifts to others. Think of the Prayer of Saint Francis.
Because the Spirit is always the ‘bearer’ of another’s love, the ‘Spirit-ual’ person will always be concerned to bring God’s love to bear upon a situation; his own judgments, preferences and needs will fall way down on his list of important things to worry about.
Really and truly and spiritually yours,