Calling on the Holy Spirit
I began preparing for this article by praying to the Holy Spirit for inspiration. This is not unusual. The Holy Spirit has heard a lot from me over the years in my search for wisdom and understanding, from my days in school when I used to pray for help on tests, to the present day when I search for a cure for writer’s block.
As I was praying tonight, I began to reflect on how little we actually think about the Holy Spirit. We reference the Holy Spirit as we make the “Sign of the Cross” or pray the “Creed” or “Glory Be.” We talk about the Spirit at Pentecost and at Confirmations and imagine the Spirit as a dove hovering over Jesus’ head at his Baptism in the Jordan. Some may recall being told that our bodies are “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” But how much do we actually know about this mysterious Spirit? Who is this third person of the Holy Trinity?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “it belongs to the Holy Spirit to rule, sanctify, and animate creation . . .Power over life pertains to the Spirit, for being God he preserves creation in the Father through the Son.” The Holy Spirit leads us to Christ who in turn leads us to the Father. The Holy Spirit “comes to meet us and kindles faith in us.” The Spirit has no voice unto himself. Rather, he enables us to hear God’s word and welcome Christ in faith.
St. Gregory of Nyssa tells us that “the term ‘Spirit’ translates the Hebrew word ‘ruah,’ which in its primary sense, means breath, air, wind. Jesus indeed uses the sensory image of the wind to suggest to Nicodemus the transcendent newness of him who is personally God’s breath, the divine Spirit.” The Holy Spirit provides us with our very breath. Jesus also referred to the Spirit as “Paraclete” which translates “he who is called to one’s side.” The Spirit walks with us, providing support and counsel as we travel through life.
The Spirit also provides the life for the Body of Christ, the Church here on earth. The Holy Spirit bestows upon us our gifts to be used for the benefit of the whole Church. “The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. . . .The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: ‘charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control [and] chastity.’The symbols of the Spirit are many, from the waters of baptism that cleanse us and bring us new life to the tongues of fire that hovered above the Apostles at Pentecost signifying the“transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions” to a cloud that covers and overshadows as in the Transfiguration and the conception of Jesus. Each of these symbols has value and helps to illustrate the many ways the Spirit works in our world.
The Holy Spirit, like the wind which he is often compared to, is known by what he does. We cannot see the Spirit, but we can see the effects of living life in the Spirit. We can call on the Spirit to aid us as he has helped countless Christians before us. The Holy Spirit is much too important to be left as an afterthought in our image of God.
The following prayer, attributed to St. Catherine of Siena, is a good place to start for inviting the Spirit to play a more active role in our lives: - Prayer to the Holy Spirit - Holy Spirit, come into my heart; draw it to Thee by Thy power, O my God, and grant me charity with filial fear. Preserve me, O ineffable Love, from every evil thought; warm me, inflame me with Thy dear love, and every pain will seem light to me. My Father, my sweet Lord, help me in all my actions. Jesus, love, Jesus, love. Amen.