When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
This past semester, I took a course in Catechetics which required me to read and summarize the entirety of the Catechism’s teaching on Christian prayer. I won’t tell you how long I procrastinated on the assignment, but I will tell you that, though strenuous, there is a great richness of knowledge to be obtained by this manner of study. One of the most spiritually beneficial things I gained from it, however, was being reminded of just how integral and foundational the working of the Holy Spirit is in our life of personal prayer, and indeed our life as Christians on the whole.
The Holy Spirit has always been, to me, the most beguiling figure of the Holy Trinity. Often we hear or read the Father’s words to us in Scripture, and the innate human tendency is to imagine a face to go with this voice, even if it’s nothing more than the stereotypical majestic and humongous old guy in a cloud. Christ Himself took on human form when He descended from heaven to proclaim the Kingdom to us. But the Holy Spirit? I rarely imagine Him as human. The imagery the Church has inherited falls more along the lines of a dove, the wind, tongues of fire, an invisible, silent, but no less powerful or divine Spirit on whose behalf the Father speaks (Matthew 3:16-17). Not the kind of being we easily imagine ourselves having a relationship with.
But the Holy Spirit is, nonetheless, clearly important to our life of prayer, as St. Paul reminds us, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). And, as we hear in the readings for this Sunday, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” Paul asks us (1 Corinthians 6:19). This Holy Spirit is not some cosmic force we have to go wrangle or summon by some elaborate means every time we want to pray. The Spirit quite literally dwells within us, every moment of every day. This means, for one, that we ought to act like temples of the Holy Spirit. But it also means that we need never fear that God doesn’t hear our prayers. If He is within us, His ear is inclined much closer to our supplications than the Tempter might want us to believe.
If ever we need a reminder of just how powerful the Holy Spirit is in the life of the Church, we need only look back to the day on which it first received this Spirit and came into existence. This Spirit which dwells within us is the same Spirit which caused the believers in Jerusalem to speak in tongues. And not just in a couple different languages, but a pretty substantial bunch. This is the same Spirit that Christ promised would guide the Church “into all truth” (John 16:13). And it is the same Spirit we receive in Baptism, the Spirit who brings each new believer into life in Christ. It’s a lot to wrap one’s head around, but God does tend to be supremely generous in His goodness, so far beyond our wildest dreams, so far beyond our understanding, but still absolutely true.
Take a moment to thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit which guides you in prayer this day.
Lectionary readings for Pentecost Sunday:
Acts 2:1-11 | 1 Cor. 3b-7, 12-13 | Jn. 20:19-33
You can find these all in one place here. Pax vobiscum. 🙂