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The Holy Spirit and the Church II

by Archbishop Jason Gordon

Today, we speak of the Holy Spirit as if the Spirit relates only to individuals, people who are gifted and anointed for ministry in the Church. I invite you to think with the Church about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit and the Church have a special relationship.

If we are to move the Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago forward, we need to understand this special relationship. In his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Divinum Illud Munus, which ushered in the age of the Holy Spirit at the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII wrote:

The Church which, already conceived, came forth from the side of the second Adam in His sleep on the Cross, first showed herself before the eyes of men on the great day of Pentecost. On that day the Holy Ghost began to manifest His gifts in the mystic body of Christ, by that miraculous outpouring already foreseen by the prophet Joel (2:28–29), for the Paraclete “sat upon the apostles as though new spiritual crowns were placed upon their heads in tongues of fire” (St Cyril Hier. Catech, 17), 5.

Just as the Holy Spirit is prior to the Church, the Church is prior to the gifts, charisms and ministries of those who possess the Holy Spirit. These gifts, charisms and ministries are given for the sake of the Church and ultimately are only useful if they are useful for the Church.

Quoting St Augustine, Pope Leo wrote: Let it suffice to state that, as Christ is the Head of the Church, so is the Holy Ghost her soul. “What the soul is in our body, that is the Holy Ghost in Christ’s body, the Church” (St Augustine, Sermon 187, de Temp), 6.

I would like you to read a passage from the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, Light of the Nations. In it the Church Fathers spell out the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Church in a wonderful and precise way:

When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father. He is the Spirit of Life, a fountain of water springing up to life eternal. To men, dead in sin, the Father gives life through Him, until, in Christ, He brings to life their mortal bodies. The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple. In them He prays on their behalf and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons. The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits. By the power of the Gospel He makes the Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly He renews it and leads it to perfect union with its Spouse. The Spirit and the Bride both say to Jesus, the Lord, “Come”, 4.

Thus, the Church has been seen as “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.

This passage is filled with many pearls. It is worth a meditation. It lays out in a very simple way everything we need to know about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Church.

The Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost to sanctify the Church continually. Thus, wherever the Church is we must believe that the Holy Spirit is continually sanctifying her. Right here in Trinidad and Tobago, we need to believe and to see the ways that the Holy Spirit is continually sanctifying the Church—making her holy and through this action calling all of us to holiness.

In this way all have access through Christ in the one Holy Spirit to the Father. Here the Spirit is Spirit of Life, and fountain of water springing up to eternal life. The spirit rejuvenates and brings back to life all who are dead to sin. This is the action of the Triune God in the soul of those who are open to faith. Through Jesus in the one Holy Spirit they are brought to the Father, and thus brought back to life.

It is important to see that Father, Son and Spirit are inseparable. This diversity of action has an essential unity of purpose renewing all creation. The unity in diversity in the Godhead is now reflected in the unity in diversity in the Church. You will see here a number of both/and statements. The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple. It is important that we understand that the Spirit dwells in the Church and in the faithful.

We are inclined to think in a binary manner. Things are black or white: one and not the other. The essential nature of the Church is paradox. A paradox is holding together that which seems impossible. Are we justified by faith without works (Rom 3:28) or is faith without works dead (James 2: 26)?

Here is a major paradox. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit has both hierarchical and charismatic gifts. Both are necessary; both have to hold the Church in unity, while renewing her and keeping her ever young. It is through the charismatic and hierarchical gifts working in union that the Spirit works and renews the Church.

Charism needs hierarchy or it will splinter into fragments; hierarchy needs charism or it will become stale, dead and impotent. This union of charism and hierarchy is reflected in the passage in the union of the Spirit and the Bride—the Church.

The end of the passage is the real focus. The Church is a people made one with the unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This unity is the real work of the Spirit. God is love so if we are in God we must be in love and in unity.

To move towards the ongoing renewal of the Church in Trinidad and Tobago today, we need to see that all the gifts are necessary and work together to bring all the gifts into unity which is an essential action of the Holy Spirit.

Key Message: If we are animated by the Holy Spirit, we will work tirelessly for unity.

Action Step: Notice in your thoughts, language and actions the ways you promote disunity. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring you to conversion of heart, that you may promote unity in all things. Meditate on the passage of Lumen Gentium, 4, above.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12–31