This weekend we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit whom we worship as the third person of the Holy Trinity is given our full attention and devotion.
Perhaps we can understand the fact that the Spirit receives less attention than the Father or the Son since the Church took longer to explicitly affirm her faith in the Spirit than in the first two persons of the Trinity. It was only at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 that belief in the divinity of the Holy Spirit and its co-equality with the Father and the Son were explicitly defined as matters of faith. Prior to that time Christians had indeed believed in the divinity of the Spirit, though this belief was held implicitly and its expression was sometimes confused.
Another reason why the Holy Spirit receives less focused attention may be the fact that we hear less explicitly stated about the Spirit in the Bible than we do about the Father or Christ, the Son. Still, the Holy Spirit, mysterious as it may be, is a person of the Trinity as much as the Father and the Son and merits our worship and meditation.
The variety of scripture passages that speak directly or indirectly of the Holy Spirit is amazing, and so the Church offers us a range of biblical texts at the vigil mass and the Sunday morning mass for Pentecost that is impressive. Depending on when we attend mass this weekend we might hear from Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, the Acts of the Apostles, Romans, First Corinthians, and the Gospel of John. All these passages are attempts on the part of inspired authors to share a glimpse of who the Holy Spirit is and what the Spirit does to bring about our salvation.
Looking at just a few of these indications from the readings for Pentecost, we see that in Acts the Spirit unites many diverse members into the one living Body of Christ; in the Psalms the Spirit creates and renews as the “Lord and Giver of Life;” in First Corinthians Paul teaches us that the Spirit bestows gifts and charisms; and in Romans Paul also reminds us that the Spirit strengthens the members of the Church, saying: “you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!” Finally, in the Gospel of John we see that the Holy Spirit reconciles and promotes reconciliation among Christians, as our Lord commands: “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”
All these actions of the Holy Spirit sustain us in our efforts to live as faithful disciples of Christ, yet the most beautiful thing about the Spirit is that it not only unites, renews, bestows gifts, strengthens, and reconciles us, it also abides within us. Saint Paul writes, “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Each one of us is then a “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and has been given a share in the Spirit through our baptism (1 Cor 6:19). On Pentecost we rejoice in the Spirit’s abiding presence and gifts and ask for a renewed outpouring of the Spirit for the sake of the Kingdom and the Church. Going forth from the Easter season let us pray for an increase in our awareness of the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in our midst, and a deeper appreciation for its manifold roles as we say, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!” (Ps 104:30).
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.