As we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church, it’s good to reflect on just who this Person is and who he is for us. Remember when we called the Holy Spirit the Holy Ghost? That spooky term did not do much to encourage a relationship with the third person of the Trinity. As it is, except for at Confirmations, we rarely give the Holy Spirit a thought or prayer. That’s why the Holy Spirit has been dubbed the Cinderella of the Trinity. This is unfortunate. It is also totally contrary to the major role the Spirit plays in our lives as Jesus described it at the Last Supper. The Spirit is actually more like the Venus of the Trinity, for the Spirit is love personified.
In explaining the inner life of the Trinity, theologians consider the Holy Spirit the love between the Father and Son. (The Father is the Lover, the Son the Beloved, and the Spirit Love.) This Love spills over into our lives, beginning at baptism. The Holy Spirit at work in our hearts empowers us to be holy. He teaches, guides, counsels, prompts us, and helps us pray. He comforts us and gives us joy. Jesus called the Holy Spirit Advocate, which means Helper. It is sometimes translated as Paraclete, a term that means a lawyer, someone who speaks and acts on our behalf.
As a student you might have prayed, “Holy Spirit, Lord of Light, help me choose the one that’s right.” But the Spirit is with us in the greater tests of life too. In making decisions, we can ask the Spirit to help us make the correct ones, the loving ones. When we need courage, the Holy Spirit is at our service. At baptism he brought us gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear (awe) of the Lord. They were deepened when we were confirmed. We can tap into these at any time.
The Holy Spirit as a bodiless person is neither man nor woman, but rather than referring to this person as “it” we use “he.” Artists depict him as a dove based on the story of the baptism of Jesus where the Spirit descends like a dove. Praying to a bird is not appealing. A more appropriate image for the Holy Spirit is fire, which implies light, burning, purifying . . . and love.
In my community because traditionally Monday is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, each Monday we prayed the Litany of the Holy Spirit. You might begin this practice.
Do you have devotion to the Holy Spirit? How do you show it?
Prayer of Hildegard von Bingen
Holy Spirit, giving life to all life,
moving all creatures, root of all things,
washing them clean, wiping out their mistakes,
healing their wounds, you are our true life,
awakening the heart from its ancient sleep.