By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
This is part one of a two-part series on the Holy Spirit and Pentecost by Bishop, published in the Arlington Catholic Herald.
As Pentecost nears, we pray repeatedly:“Veni, Sancte Spiritus. Come Holy Spirit!” Who is the Holy Spirit? How do we know this?
At the Last Supper, on the night before His Passion, the Lord Jesus shared the most explicit and intimate revelations about the relationships among the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, including revelations about the Holy Spirit. It must have amazed and frightened the Apostles celebrating Passover in the Upper Room when Jesus said: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn. 16:7).
This is important for us because in reflecting upon the Three Persons of the Trinity, it is the Holy Spirit who is so often the least understood as a Person. We know the familiar signs and images of the Holy Spirit — fire, breath, wind, and dove — each pointing to some quality of this Third Person of the Trinity. It can be easy, though, to cling to the images while losing the dynamic reality of the Person to whom they point.
When Jesus told the Apostles on that first Holy Thursday that He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit, He spoke of the Third Person of the Trinity as “another Counselor.” This meant that Jesus Himself was the “first Counselor” whom they had known familiarly in daily life.
Why the name “Counselor”? This term that Jesus used, in Greek parakletos, in the language and culture of the time means a “defense lawyer”! Obviously, the term in Aramaic means the same. St. John Paul II in his encyclical The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, offers a splendid reason for this, saying: “It is precisely this Spirit of truth whom Jesus calls the Paraclete — andparakletos means ‘counselor’ and ‘intercessor,’ or ‘advocate’” (No. 5). The name points to the immediate and effective presence of a divine guide and protector.
In speaking of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles as the One who would guide and teach them, Jesus also said that the Spirit would enable them to remember what He had told them. Jesus promised something incredible: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (Jn. 16:12f). What the Spirit would “hear” would be the inner Trinitarian communication among the Three Divine Persons.
No wonder, then, that the Holy Spirit is known by other titles that describe a Divine Person Who carries forward through history what Jesus gave in His total self-gift as Bridegroom of the Church! The Mystery of Christ, taken as a whole, demands faith, said St. John Paul II. To be faithful witnesses to this Personal Mystery requires the help of the Holy Spirit, supreme guide and light of the human spirit. The Church, then, also calls the Holy Spirit by the intimate names of “uncreated Love-Gift,” “Person-Love” and “Person-Gift” (No. 10).
The Catholic Church is sometimes accused of being staid and narrow. The Holy Spirit, however, dwells in the Church and in Her believers, to offer the possibility of making the Good News permeate the entire world, of making all things new and vibrant with redemptive love. That is why fire, wind, and bird-flight are such apt loving terms for the Third Person of the Trinity.
In a recent homily, Pope Francis said: “The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God in the Church. He keeps the Church going . . . .The Holy Spirit with His gifts guides the Church. You cannot understand the Church of Jesus without this Paraclete whom the Lord sends us for this very reason.” (Homily on May 12, 2014).
In my next column, I want to share with you the particular significance of Pentecost for us this year, and what the always-new coming of the Holy Spirit can mean for us at this moment in the life of the Church. So that we may receive this Divine Person with open hearts, let us pray often “Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Come, Holy Spirit!”
Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.