The following story appeared in the December 2 Idaho Catholic Register.
Marriage for Life
This year on the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe, Bishop Peter Christensen unveiled and blessed the new Holy Spirit window above the tabernacle in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The window depicts the Holy Spirt in the form of a dove with beams of light descending to earth.
I would like to ponder the significance of the Holy Spirt as we begin Advent in preparation for the birth of Jesus at Christmas. What role does the Holy Spirit play in helping us celebrate Advent with deeper meaning?
Traditionally, the liturgical readings of Advent focus first on the Second Coming of Jesus in glory as the Son of Man and then shift in the later days of Advent to the humble First Coming of Jesus at his birth into human poverty. This leads us into Christmas, the celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus.
During Advent, we often reflect on the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. However, this assumes, perhaps too much, that we have not fully considered the “first things” that become before the four last things: God’s creative power and mercy.
These two first things should help us to pause to consider the role of the Holy Spirit in our Advent journey.
By understanding the role of the Holy Spirit as the Lord and Giver of Life we will have a deeper appreciation of why Jesus was sent into the world as our Savior and why Jesus left us the Advocate of the Holy Spirit.
God’s creative power
Spend some time this Advent pondering the encyclical letter, Dominum et Vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World), by Pope Saint John Paul II. This is a deeply rich reflection on the Person of the Holy Spirit that will enlighten and encourage you during Advent.
Pope St. John Paul II offers this first key idea of the Holy Spirit as the “Lord and Giver of Life”:
“Here is what we read in the very first words of the Book of Genesis: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..., and the Spirit of God (ruah Elohim) was moving over the face of the waters.’ This biblical concept of creation includes not only the call to existence of the very being of the cosmos, that is to say the giving of existence, but also the presence of the Spirit of God in creation, that is to say the beginning of God’s salvific self-communication to the things He creates. This is true, first of all, concerning man, who has been created in the image and likeness of God: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’
“‘Let us make’: Can one hold that the plural which the Creator uses here in speaking of Himself already in some way suggests the Trinitarian mystery, the presence of the Trinity in the work of the creation of man? The Christian reader, who already knows the revelation of this mystery, can discern a re-flection of it also in these words. At any rate, the context of the Book of Genesis enables us to see in the creation of man the first beginning of God’s salvific self-giving commensurate with the ‘image and likeness’ of Himself which He has granted to man.” (DV 12)
The images of the creation of the universe and of humanity move us toward the Incarnation of the ‘new man’ Jesus Christ. Our minds should contemplate the Feast of the Annunciation, which we celebrate on March 25. With Mary’s “yes” (fiat) to be the handmaiden of the Lord, the Spirit of God ‘overshadows’ Mary, and she conceives Jesus (the God-Man) within her. Undoubtedly, this is the very same Holy Spirit that moved over the face of the waters at creation. It was absolutely necessary for our benefit that the Savior take on all of our humanity to fulfill and perfect that full “image and likeness” in each of us. He was like us in all things except sin. Jesus’ birth at Christmas is our hope that we can fully embrace our image and likeness by following Him in our baptism.
John Paul points out that the Holy Spirit is sent as well. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit has His own comings into the world. Jesus leaves us another
“Person-gift” who is the Advocate or Spirit.
“The Holy Spirit is first sent as a gift for the Son who was made man, in order to fulfill the messianic prophecies. After the ‘departure’ of Christ the Son, the Johannine text says that the Holy Spirit ‘will come’ directly (it is His new mission), to complete the work of the Son. Thus it will be He who brings to fulfillment the new era of the history of salvation.
“In the Gospel of Luke, this revelation of the Holy Spirit is confirmed and added to, as the intimate source of the life and messianic activity of Jesus Christ. In the light of what Jesus says in the farewell discourse in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit is revealed in a new and fuller way. He is not only the gift to the person (the person of the Messiah), but is a Person-gift. Jesus foretells His coming as that of ‘another Counselor’ who, being the Spirit of truth, will lead the Apostles and the Church ‘into all the truth.’” (DV 16)
The mystery of Christmas is that we are raised up to the level of divine life through Christ’s life and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in each person. St. John Paul II’s encyclical goes on to say:
“In this Spirit, who is the eternal gift, the Triune God opens himself to man, to the human spirit. The hidden breath of the divine Spirit enables the human spirit to open in its turn before the saving and sanctifying self-opening of God. Through the gift of grace, which comes from the Holy Spirit, man enters a ‘new life,’ is brought into the super-natural reality of the divine life itself and becomes a ‘dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit,’ a living temple of God. For through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to him and take up their abode with him. In the communion of grace with the Trinity, man’s ‘living area’ is broadened and raised up to the supernatural level of divine life. Man lives in God and by God: he lives ‘according to the Spirit,’ and ‘sets his mind on the things of the Spirit.’ ” (DV 58)
This Advent, remember the great gift of Jesus who gifts Himself to us, but who also gifts us the person of the Holy Spirit who recreates life in our hearts and testifies to the great mercy of God who sends His Son. Like the light streaming through the new window of the Cathedral, may the light of the Spirit indwell and shine out through each of us who are living temples of God.
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