The Holy Spirit: The great stranger
When St. Paul asked the disciples of Ephesus if they had received the Holy Spirit they said: 'No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit' (Acts 19:2). There must be a reason why even in our times the Holy Spirit has been called "the great stranger.' In truth He is the true conductor of our spiritual life. Hence, in this year of the Holy Spirit, we will try to know Him and His work with this brief, but rich lesson by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.
Does the old testament mention the Holy Spirit? The opening words of the Bible are: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon theface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Gn 1:1). The world had been created but it was without form. There was chaos and darkness in the world; it was an abyss. That is, until the Lord's Spirit began to move over the waters; then, creation began to emerge. And there wasthe cosmos.We have before us a piece of beautiful symbolism. St. Ambrose interpreted it thus: The Holy Spirit is He Who makes the world pass from chaos to cosmos, that is, from confusion and darkness to harmony. In the Old Testament the features of the Holy Spirit are not yet clearly defined, but we do learn of the way He acts, and it is manifested mostly in two ways, as if He uses two different wave lengths.
Charismatic Action. God's Spirit comes; rather, it bursts onto some people, giving them extraordinary powers, though temporarily, so they can fulfil certain tasks for Israel, God's people. It comes onto the artists who have to plan and realize the objects of worship; it enters the kings of Israel so they can suitably govern God's people: Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers;and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward (1 Sam 16:13). The same Spirit comes onto God's prophets so His will is revealed to the people; it is the Spirit of prophecy which animated the prophets of the Old Testament up to the time of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord; and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin (Mic 3:8). This is the charismatic action of God's Spirit; action destined mostly for the good of the community,through those people who receive it.
There is another manner in which God's Spirit is manifested; it is His sanctifying action meant to transform people from within; to give them a new heart and new feelings. The receiver of the Lord's Spirit in this case is no longer the community, but the individual. We see this second type of actiontowards the end of the Old Testament, in the book of Ezekiel, where God says: A new heart I will giveyou, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and giveyou a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and becareful to observe my ordinances (Ez 36:26-27). It can also be seen in the famous psalm no. 51, the"Miserere," where the psalmist implores: Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. We begin to see the Spirit of the Lord as an inner transforming power, which changes man, raising him above his natural wickedness.A mysterious power.
In the Old Testament, however, the features of the Holy Spirit are still not well defined. St. Gregory Nazianzen said of the way the Holy Spirit was revealed: "In the Old Testament we clearly get to know the Father (God, the Creator) and we learn a little of the Son (in fact, some messianic texts speak of Him, though in a veiled manner). In the New Testament we come to know very well the Son because He became flesh and came among us, but we also get to know a little of the Holy Spirit: Jesus announces to the disciples that after Him will come the Paraclete.
At long last," continues St.Gregory, "in our times, of the Church after the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit is among us and we can know Him. God's way of teaching is very gradual; almost light after light, in a slow rhythm, He takes usto the full light of the Trinity."The Old Testament is entirely pervaded by the breath of the Holy Spirit. But, of course, we cannot forget that the books of the OT are His greatest sign, because according to Christian doctrine, they were inspired by Him. His first action was to give us the Bible, which speaks of Him and of His work in the hearts of men. When we open the Bible with faith, and not just as scholars or out of curiosity, we meet the mysterious breath of the Spirit. It is not an abstract or fleeting experience. Echo