The Holy Spirit, the giver of life
Almost everyone, other than hard-line atheists, agrees that there is some sort of Spirit that creates and governs the universe.
The Judeo-Christian faith goes beyond this vague realisation by personalising this creative force, and calling it the Holy Spirit. Christ further revealed that the Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead, and is the third Person of a triune nature of God.
The Holy Spirit creates, gives and renews life. I like it when St Paul says that the Holy Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
It is through the Holy Spirit that humanity gets an idea of God’s plans in creation. Christ refers to the Holy Spirit by titles such as the Advocate, the Comforter, the Teacher, and so on. Not only that, it is the Holy Spirit that convinces us about the futility of sin; that is, how things can never work out outside God’s plan.
The Church gives special attention to the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. That feast has its origins in Judaism.
The Festival of Weeks, also known as the Day of First Fruits, was a festival of joy and thanksgiving, celebrating the completion of the harvest season. Known as Shavuot, it was the second major feast of the Shalosh Regalim, the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, for which all able-bodied Jewish males were required to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem (Passover is the first one, Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles, the third).
The Festival of Weeks was, and still is, celebrated as a Sabbath, a rest day from ordinary labours and the calling of a holy convocation.
The feast took its name from the Lord’s specific command to the sons of Jacob that they were to count seven sevens of weeks (49 days) from the second day after Passover, and then on the “morrow”, a feast was to be observed (Leviticus 23:16). That brings the total number of days between the feasts to fifty—hence “Pentecost”, which in Greek means “fiftieth day”. And that is what Hellenistic Jews called the feast: Pentecost.
On the occasion of the feast, the children of Israel would bring the first fruits of wheat to the Temple. They would wave sheaves back and forth, creating a loud noise like that of a mighty, rushing wind.
Jewish prophets, Jeremiah in particular, always promised that there would come a time when the Lord would give the people his Spirit to dwell in their hearts.
The Feast of Weeks, the Pentecost, of the Old Testament then is the festival which foreshadows the giving of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus rose from the grave as the First Fruits of all who die, the Holy Spirit is given.
At the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high—the Holy Spirit.
But we must not forget that every Divine Service is a Pentecost. Mass is a Divine Service instituted by Christ to share with us his divine nature, hence the Word of God is preached and the Holy Spirit is given. When the Body and Blood of Christ is distributed, the Holy Spirit is given. And in the giving of the Holy Spirit, you have been made one with the Father and the Son for all eternity.
The Holy Spirit is probably the most hidden, most ordinary, of God’s gifts to creation. We hardly recognise its working in our lives, choosing to talk about luck or coincidences.
The Holy Spirit is at the centre of everything: driving, directing, renewing and fulfilling all things according to the plan of God in Christ. This is why Christ could tell his followers that when the Holy Spirit would come, it would “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 4:26).
In his eternal wisdom God left a crack in everything for the Holy Spirit to get in and unite all according to the purpose of God in Christ.
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