“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)
“If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
Saint Pope John Paul II‘s encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dominum et Vivificantem, contains wonderful insights into the nature and mission of the Holy Spirit. In this short note, I will discuss the concept or revelation of the Holy Spirit as “Person-Gift” as developed by John Paul II in the encyclical.
You get married. What an incredible gift you have been given by God: the gift of another person. Truly, excepting God and grace, it is hard to fathom a greater gift than this – your spouse. Marital love then blossoms into the gift of another person: a child destined to praise God for all eternity! These are amazing gifts. These are persons made in the image and likeness of God.
In Dominum et Vivificantem Pope John Paul II points out that in the Old Testament “the personality of the Holy Spirit is completely hidden” (17). But in the New Testament the “Holy Spirit is revealed in a new and fuller way,” not only as a gift from Jesus but as a “Person-Gift” (22). Just as Jesus Christ in His Incarnation is a Person-gift from the Father, so too is the Holy Spirit a Person-gift from God the Father and Jesus. This giving of the Holy Spirit as a gift to us is truly the greatest of all possible gifts, for the Holy Spirit is the “personal love” proceeding from the Father and the Son, which John Paul II calls “uncreated Love-Gift.” It is “through the Holy Spirit [that] God exists in a mode of gift” (10).The Holy Spirit is “Person-Love” and “Person-Gift” (10).
In light of the above insights of Pope John Paul II, we can begin to understand why Jesus was so anxious to leave the apostles and return to the Father (“If I go, I will send him [the Holy Spirit] to you,” John 16:7): Jesus wanted the apostles – and us – to receive the ultimate gift of His love – the “Person-Gift” and the “Person-Love” of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord and giver of life”; he is the “Infinite Spirit” of love and the “inexhaustible source” of eternal life. Our Lord’s death, Resurrection and Ascension therefore converge to bring forth a most incredible gift: “The Holy Spirit as a Person who is the gift” (23).
The “eternal love” of the Father and the Son is a Person-Gift: this Person-Gift is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the final gift, the gift of God’s own life within us, justifying us, sanctifying us, filling our hearts with love, a love “welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). And so we say, with renewed fervor, in the words of that ancient hymn of the church, “Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest.”
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
P.S. Mary’s life began (as the Immaculate Conception) in profound union with the Holy Spirit, and the angel greets her accordingly as “full of grace.” The progress of the spiritual life is to draw ever closer to the Holy Spirit. It is thus that Saint Louis DeMontfort has such high regard for the prayer,Veni Creator Spiritus. The basic or fundamental truth is that we are made whole, or become our true selves, when united to God. Mary was given this gift of union with God from the very beginning. Mary is our model in the spiritual life.
Image: The Baptism of Christ by Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior, 1895, Public Domain, U.S.A.
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