The Mysterious Elegance of the Holy Spirit

Received this from Daily Gospel Online as part of their daily devotional email. Thought it was lovely:

“You do not know where it comes from or where it goes”
Who are you, sweet light, that fills me
And illumines the darkness of my heart?
You lead me like a mother’s hand,
And should you let go of me,
I would not know how to take another step.
You are the space
That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.
Away from you it sinks into the abyss
Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the light.
You, nearer to me than I to myself
And more interior than my most interior
And still impalpable and intangible
And beyond any name:
Holy Spirit-eternal love!

Are you not the sweet manna
That from the Son’s heart
Overflows into my heart,
The food of angels and the blessed?
He who raised himself from death to life,
He has also awakened me to new life
From the sleep of death.
And he gives me new life from day to day,
And at some time his fullness is to stream through me,
Life of your life-indeed, you yourself:
Holy Spirit, eternal life!
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] (1891-1942), Carmelite, martyr, co-patron of Europe, From a Pentecost Novena (copyright ICS publications, 1992)

Advertisements

The Love of God is Shed Abroad

“The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

“Love is joy, and love anoints the heart of man with joy. Brethren, love is power, and love anoints the heart of man with power. Love is peace, and love anoints the heart of man with peace. And from joy, power and peace, courage is born, and love anoints the heart of man with courage.

The love of God, like a fragrant oil, is poured out upon our hearts in no other way than by the Holy Spirit, the All-gentle and All-powerful Spirit. Though we are completely undeserving of it, the Spirit of God is poured out upon us: the love of God is shed in our hearts in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Chrismation. However, in time we neglect this love and by sin we alienate ourselves from God and fall into the disease of spiritual paralysis. And the Holy Spirit, unwilling to abide in an impure vessel, distances Himself from our heart. When the Holy Spirit distances Himself from us, then joy, power, peace and courage likewise depart from us immediately. We become sorrowful, weakened, disturbed and fearful. But the All-good Spirit of God only distances Himself from us; He does not abandon us completely. He does not abandon us, but rather offers us, as sick men, remedies through the Mystery of Repentance and the Mystery of Holy Communion. When we again cleanse ourselves through the Mysteries [Sacraments] of Repentance and Communion, then He, the Holy Spirit of God, again abides in us, and the love of God is poured out upon our hearts. We fall, we rise, we fall, and we rise! When we fall, the Spirit of God stands by us and raises us, if we desire to be raised. And when we are raised, the Spirit of God stands within us all until, through our sinfulness and foolishness, we fall again. Thus, in this life we interchangeably become a fertile field and a wilderness, sons of repentance and prodigal sons, fullness and emptiness, light and darkness.

O All-good Holy Spirit of God, do not depart from us, neither when we want You nor when we do not want You. Be with us all the time, until our death.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.”
–The Prologue, May 24th

The Spirit Accomplishes What the Father Wills

“When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.”
-from “Against the Heresies,” by St Irenaeus

Judging By Appearances and Experience

I can (and do more than not) fall into the trap of basing my convictions regarding the faith based on “what I experienced” positively and negatively. Another word for that trap is “relativism” and “subjectivism”. My reliance should be on the faithfulness of God in the person of the Holy Spirit to reveal and affirm the truth of my experience and the guidance it can provide regarding right faith and action.

But, even so, it is important for me to realize that it is not my experience that is really the criteria but the word of the Holy Spirit in and through my experience. Experience is an essential means (a sacramental one) for the revelation of truth. No question. But, it is not the governor of my convictions regarding the truth. The truth is “communicated” to me in and through my experience and I “communicate” with “the Truth” in and through my experience (think the Divine Liturgy). I find that I need to be extremely careful not to let my negative and positive feelings and convictions regarding my experiences of the past, and therefore my judgments about their relative validity to guide me, influence how I view the truth-bearing witness of my present experience. This includes appearances. Things are not necessarily what they appear to be to me. I must not judge by appearances. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth regarding my past and my present and my future experiences.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. 24 Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jn 16.23b-24)

Every time I speak about prayer, it seems to me that I hear in your heart certain human reflections that I have often heard, even in my own heart. Since we never stop praying, how come we so rarely seem to experience the fruit of prayer? We have the impression that we come out of prayer like we entered into it; no one answers us with even one word, gives us anything at all; we have the impression that we have labored in vain. But what does the Lord say in the gospel? “Stop judging by appearances and make a just judgment.” (Jn 7:24) What is a just judgment other than a judgment of faith? For “the just man shall live by faith.” (Gal 3:11) So follow the judgment of faith rather than your experience, for faith does not deceive, whereas experience can lead into error.

And what is the truth of faith other than that the Son of God himself promised: “If you are ready to believe that you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer, it shall be done for you.” (Mk 11:24) Thus, may no one among you, Brothers, consider prayer to be a small thing. For I assure you, the one to whom it is addressed does not consider it a small thing; even before it has left our mouth, he has had it written down in his book. Without the slightest doubt, we can be sure that God will either give us what we are asking him or he will give us something that he knows to be better. For “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26), but God has compassion on our ignorance and he receives our prayer with kindness… So “take delight in the Lord, and he will grant you your heart’s requests.” (Ps 37:4) Saint Bernard (1091-1153), Sermons for Lent, no. 5.5

The Witness

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1.1-2)Elder Sophrony

“In Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit God gave us the full and final revelation of Himself. His Being now for us is the First Reality, incomparably more evident than all the transient phenomena of this world. We sense His divine presence both within us and without: in the supreme majesty of the universe, in the human face, in the lightning flash of thought. He opens our eyes that we may behold and delight in the beauty of His creation. He fills our souls with love towards all mankind. His indescribably gentle touch pierces our heart. And in the hours when His imperishable Light illumines our heart we know that we shall not die. We know this with knowledge impossible to prove in the ordinary way but which for us requires no proof, since the Spirit Himself bears witness within us.” Elder Sophrony

Christ, The True Me by Grace – The Icon of God

Salvation is not, primarily, about morality. It is, essentially, about identity.

True self and false self. The me I truly am is not the me I insist on being but rather Christ Jesus by grace. Not Christ Jesus instead of me. Not me mimicking Christ Jesus who is “over there,” separate from me in my independent existence; or even in an intimate relationship with me. Rather, me as me by Him living in me, and in so doing, giving me the only authentic life I can define as life. God living in me and through me that is me living a true, substantial, life in authentic human personhood. Without separation and without confusion. So, God dwells in me, giving me life, and God unites Himself to the truly alive me as One Who is completely other than me. Wow… Now THAT is Mystery with a capital “M”.

If the evil one can confuse and delude us regarding identity he wins a victory. If the evil one can convince us that salvation is primarily about “being good” he wins a victory. If the evil one can convince us that letting go of what we are convinced is our “irreducible self” without which we will slip into non-existence instead of the reception of our authentic self and the beginning of our true life from God, he has won a victory.

The realization that all of this just might be the case; that there might be a chance that what we have so deeply held as true is, in fact, delusion, is the beginning of our salvation. Indeed, is it a place we visit over and over to further the work of consummating our salvation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. The Illumining One.

—————–

18And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” 23And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9.18-26)

——————

As a preliminary to detaching him from the Enemy, you wanted to detach him from himself… Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever. Hence, while He is delighted to see them sacrificing even their innocent wills to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own nature for any other reason. And we should always encourage them to do so. The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 13, by C.S. Lewis

——————-

“It is not humility to insist on being someone that you are not. It is as much as saying that you know better than God who you are and who you ought to be. How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else’s life?: His sanctity will never be yours; you must have the humility to work out your own salvation in a darkness where you are absolutely alone… And so it takes heroic humility to be yourself and to be nobody but the man, or the artist, that God intended you to be. You will be made to feel that your honesty is only pride. This is a serious temptation because you can never be sure whether you are being true to your true self or only building up a defense for the false personality that is the creature of your own appetite for esteem. But the greatest humility can be learned from the anguish of keeping your balance in such a position: of continuing to be yourself without getting tough about it and asserting your false self against the false selves of other people.” The New Seeds of Contemplation,  pg. 100-101, by Thomas Merton

Guarding Christ, Guarding Us

Regardless of our response to Him, God never abandons us; never. God’s love is His own presence. Presence is personal and therefore unceasing. Deeds begin and end but personhood is unceasing. God’s love is a guarding love, a providing love, an exhorting/disciplining love — a saving love. First, in His person and then in His deeds. This is how He is actively present though in our times of rebellion we sense His saving presence as everything that is the opposite of what that term connotes. The name of God is Emmanuel — God WITH us, personally with us, as well as God acting on our behalf.

Salvation is not narrow. Salvation is wide and deep and broad. Salvation is the recovery of personhood. And, therefore presence. And, therefore union. And therefore union of authentic presence. Mutual unceasing self-giving presence in personhood. Because God is present to us, we have the opportunity to be present to Him. We have an icon of this mutuality of personhood/presence in the life of the Holy Family of Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth.

The words of Robert Frost’s poem come to mind, “…and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Mary and Joseph took the road less travelled in this world to point the way for us. They did not do so as people unlike us, with nothing in common. No, they are JUST LIKE me and you. And so, they can point the way with understanding and we can intuitively trust them even though the way they point runs against the grain of the way of this world. They were personally present to Jesus. They guarded Jesus. Indeed, they saved the life of Jesus!

But, who is guarding whom?! Who is saving whom?! Indeed…

St. Gregory of Nazianzen said it, “For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.”

Rejoice, I bring you tidings of a great joy which is for ALL the people. God is WITH us. Indeed, as we proclaim in the Divine Liturgy, “Christ is in our midst. He is and ever shall be!”

“Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit.” (Bidden or unbidden God is present.)

———————–

Matthew 2:13-23, especially vs.13: “Now when [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’”

When God planted in Paradise, He set “the tree of life” (Gn 2:9) in the middle of the garden. After Adam’s disobedience, God imposed the divine consequences of sin: “to earth you shall return” (vs. 3:20). To prevent Adam from evading this judgment, “the Lord God sent him forth out of the garden. . . . And [He] stationed . . . the fiery sword which turns every which way to guard the way to the tree of life” (vs. 3:24-25).

Thus mankind enters into history and this existence full of sickness, death, and the slaughter of innocents. However, God the Life-giving Trinity never abandons us. According to Metropolitan John of Pergamos, “The Father and the Spirit are involved in history, but only the Son becomes history. . . . [And] if the Son dies on the cross, thus succumbing to the bondage of historical existence, it is the Spirit that raises Him from the dead. The Spirit is the ‘beyond’history, and when He acts in history He does so in order to bring into history the last days, the eschaton” (Being as Communion, p. 130).

The Spirit introduces the age to come into this present existence, beginning at the moment our Lord assumes history: “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you’” (Lk 1:35). The Holy Spirit then continues to act on behalf of the Lord Jesus, as this early passage from St. Matthew shows.

Through an angel, He directs Joseph to flee to safety with Jesus and His mother (Mt 2:13). Following the death of Herod the Great, the same Spirit directs Joseph as to when it is safe to return (vss. 19-20).

We must be careful not lose sight of the Holy Spirit in this passage, for it is He who actually gives the command to flee, even though the message is delivered by an angel. According to St. Maximos the Confessor, “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being, especially not from one which in any way participates in intelligence” (Philokalia vol. 2, p. 180).

The holy angels, of course, are known as the intelligent (noetic) powers. The Spirit works through those beings who are wholly pure, including our guardian angels and the other bodiless powers (Mt 2:13, 19). We should respect them and pray for their help. Through the angels, the Spirit actively guards everyone who is united to Christ, protecting us against the evil one and his servants.

Later, we see how the Holy Spirit makes Joseph rightly afraid of Archelaus, the murderous son of Herod the Great (vs. 22). The Spirit communicates with those mortals who have attained a measure of personal purity through prayer, men and women who are receptive to His voice. In this instance, He works through the dream life of the righteous Joseph.

Understanding the Spirit’s work is crucial if we are to grow in holiness (Jn 3:6-8). This much is certain: the Spirit of God never leaves Joseph, nor will He abandon the members of Christ who are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Let us heed His promptings as we pray for clarification and guidance. Above all, we understand that the Holy Spirit never ceases to work among the faithful to bring about our salvation, as revealed to us through the prophets (Mt 2:23; Eph 3:4-5). Our decisions and actions, especially those that aim to please God, will be woven into His plan of salvation for us and for all of mankind. Let us pray for wisdom!

“Assist me, I pray Thee, and direct me with divine wisdom to do Thy will faithfully.”

Source: Dynamis

Pray Yourself in Me

There are times when the Lord reminds us of how we got to where we are in our relationship with Him. How we arrived at the degree of maturity we now enjoy. In those moments the Holy Spirit reminds us of where we learned certain things that are for us now, just the way we now naturally see things and live life. He reminds us that there was a time when what is now so natural was awkwardly and painfully new.

Let me give you a real life example from my journey of salvation.

When I think about prayer, I do not think of it as something “I am doing,” but something the Holy Spirit is accomplishing  — being and then doing — in me. It is, in other words, Christ Jesus who is praying in me by the agency of the Holy Spirit. I do pray and my prayer is the prayer of Christ Jesus. I do not mean I imitate or mimic Him. No, it is He Who prays in me and that is, mysteriously, my substantial prayer.

It is hard for me to conceive of prayer in any other way. Now, there was a time when that was not the case. I saw prayer as something “I did” albeit by the power of the Holy Spirit. But, it was still somehow separate even though it was by grace.

So, the question is, “When did that conceptual shift take place?” I read a passage yesterday that served as the Holy Spirit’s reminder that that shift occurred when I was in seminary. It occurred when I read a book entitled, The Go-Between God, by John Taylor published in 1972. I still have my copy from the mid-70’s somewhere among all the boxes of books in my garage!

The point is that I now pray a prayer every morning as part of my morning prayers that articulates this very point. But, if I am honest, I cannot say that I learned this concept when I found that prayer although it felt that way. No, the real beginning of the realization, the planting of the seed that has been bearing fruit for the last 15 years or so, was planted back in the mid-70’s.

Here are both the passage from The Go-Between God that was the original seed and the fruit of that seed in my life, the “Morning Prayer of Philaret of Moscow” which Christ Jesus prays in me every morning….

The prayer of the first Christians was simply a reflection of the living Christ in their midst. It was prayer ‘in his name’; and by this, we mean not that a formula was added at the end of every petition, but that in all their prayer they joined themselves to the prayer of Christ himself, and knew that it was his spirit which prayed in them. The best worship they could offer was simply his self-oblation in them. Praying in that Spirit, the Christian’s prayer is immersed in the ocean of the Son’s communion with the Father: ‘Praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God.’ And again, ‘Keep your watch with continuous prayer and supplication, praying the whole time in the Spirit. With constant wakefulness and perseverance you will find opportunity to pray for all the Christian brethren.’ ‘We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s own people in God’s own way.’

To live in prayer, therefore, is to live in the Spirit, and to live in the Spirit is to live in Christ. I am not saying that prayer is a means or a method which we have to use in order to have more of Christ in us or in order to be more fully possessed by the Spirit. I am saying something simpler and more fundamental: to live in Christ is to live in prayer. Prayer is not something you do; it is a style of living. It is living under the witness which the Spirit bears with our spirit that we are children of God. Such a witness lays upon us the aweful freedom of adult sonship. Prayer is our response to both the privilege and the responsibility whereby we cry Abba, Father! To engage in the mission of God, therefore, is to live this life of prayer; praying without ceasing, as St Paul puts it, that is to say, sustaining a style of life that is focused upon God. This is indeed to engage in the mission of the Holy Spirit by being rather than by doing. To realise that the heart of mission is communion with God in the midst of the world’s life will save us from the demented activism of these days. The Go-Between God, by John Taylor

—————————

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen.

The “Comings” and “Goings” of Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit

The Incarnation, Ascension, and Pentecost are the feasts that reveal the nature of God’s absolute presence NOT His relative absence. The following excerpt from one of John Henry Newman’s sermons elucidates this mystery. By the way, for those who have the time and inclination, the whole sermon is well worth reading.

“If I go, I will send the Advocate to you”
Christ really is with us now, whatever be the mode of it. This he says expressly Himself; “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Mt 28,20)… You may be led to explain his declaration thus; “He has come again, but in his Spirit; that is, his Spirit has come instead of him; and when it is said that he is with us, this only means that his Spirit is with us.” No one, doubtless, can deny… that the Holy Ghost is come; but why has he come? to supply Christ’s absence, or to accomplish his presence? Surely to make him present. Let us not for a moment suppose that God the Holy Ghost comes in such sense that God the Son remains away. No; he has not so come that Christ does not come, but rather he comes that Christ may come in his coming. Through the Holy Ghost we have communion with Father and Son. “In Christ we are built together,” says Saint Paul, “for an habitation of God through the Spirit” and: “Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ep 2,22; 3,16f). The Holy Spirit causes, faith welcomes, the indwelling of Christ in the heart. Thus the Spirit does not take the place of Christ in the soul, but secures that place to Christ…

The Holy Spirit, then, vouchsafes to come to us, that by his coming Christ may come to us, not carnally or visibly, but may enter into us. And thus he is both present and absent; absent in that he has left the earth, present in that he has not left the faithful soul; or, as he says himself, “The world sees me no more, but you see me.” (Jn 14, 19).
Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890), “The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church”

Newness of Life — Riskless Risk and Changeless Change

Luke 11.9-13
[9] And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
[10] For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
[11] What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;
[12] or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
[13] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

This passage is not about getting answers. It is about persevering on a journey. God invites us to persistently seek, ask, and knock for transformation. Transformation, on many occasions, seems like the opposite many times.

It means, at one and the same time, living on the edge of “my life” in order to live in the center of “God’s life.” Centered life is living on the edge. Likewise, transformation involves letting go of risky living. My need to be in control in all of the ways that expresses itself is the real risk, not living by faith. Living by faith is the willingness to be totally centered and secure in the changeless and dependable truth of God’s love and available to step out beyond the edge where it seems like there is nothing but change and impermanence and a lack of anything that might resemble a real future.

Transformation means, at a deep level, relinquishing our set of measurements regarding “progress” and “success” for another set — God’s set.

If we seek, ask, and knock, God will give us the greatest gift of all — Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. But, be warned. He will wreck havoc on our nice neat little churchy fiefdoms. He will color outside the lines of propriety we have invented and advertised as the Kingdom of God and the right way to be Christian. (I’m just saying…)

Pope Francis reflects on this multifaceted mystery in his homily from Pentecost of this year. Here is an excerpt:

1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more  secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build,  programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort,  our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we  follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to  abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the  soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force  us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and  selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history  of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness – God always  brings newness -, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all,  builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand;  Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the  apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim  the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search  for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own  day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually  brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and  desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves today: Are we open to “God’s  surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy  Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s  newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures  which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new? We would do well  to ask ourselves these questions all through the day.

2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in  the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this,  by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit  of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of  Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is  harmony – “Ipse harmonia est”. He is indeed harmony. Only the  Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time  building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and  close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division.  When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans,  we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselves  be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source  of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of  the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her  pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of  the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for  every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which  brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are very  dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and  community – the Apostle John tells us in his Second Letter – and do not  remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn v. 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit,  overcoming every form of exclusivity?  Do I let myself be guided by him, living  in the Church and with the Church?

3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a  kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives  it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his  impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the  mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is  gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the  doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel,  to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is  the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two  thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which  affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the  Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy  Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants  that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask  the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter”, who grants us the  courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy  Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of  existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do  we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy  Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness,  harmony and mission. Source: The Vatican Website