As a young student of theology I remember trying to grasp and make something practical of the Church’s teaching that the Holy Spirit was ‘the love between the Father and the Son.’ The doctrine felt dry and academic, and I used to wonder why there were big bitter fights over it in early Christianity.
I found the Bible’s various descriptions of the Spirit of God to be more user friendly. From the life-giving and creative ‘breath of God’ in Genesis to the tangible presence of the Spirit experienced in ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, trustfulness…..’ as in Paul’s letter to the Galatians and elsewhere, the Holy Spirit continues to form creation, humanity, our universe, in the Creator’s image.
Paul often contrasts the work of the Spirit with those of the absence of the Spirit, ‘the flesh,’ the product of fake humanity. Vatican II attempted to recover an understanding of humanity that had been lost. True humanity had been taken over by a humanism that fell short. This said that to be human was to be, in one way or another, something that ultimately led to self-indulgence (Gal 5:16-25, Rom 1:29-31, 1 Cor 6:9-10).
Jesus came with the good news that to be genuinely human was to be like him, the living and human form through whom flowed the full relationship of the Son to the Father. That’s a relationship of eternal loving and adoring self-giving in the form of a human being, albeit a divine human being. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’ said Jesus. As believers, we are called to enter into that way of living; to become humanity at its best. A ‘contemplative’ kind of humanity.
To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to the whole fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our lives through the Spirit of truth. ‘When the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth’ (John 16:13).
Involved in getting there is hanging in (despite many failures) with love and generosity, compassion, mercy and forgiveness, kindness, goodness and self-control… That’s where the Spirit is at work, leading us into the divine dynamism that is ‘translated’ into human terms in Jesus the Christ.
The Carmelite Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (the philosopher Edith Stein) said that we begin to understand when we see God as the first or ‘Primal Theologian,’ the first to speak about the reality of divine life. ‘All speaking about God presupposes God’s own speaking’ – LISTENING TO EDITH STEIN: Wisdom for a New Century, p.158.
This feast of Pentecost celebrates the depths and heights of reality and truth to which our whole humanity is called.