Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Friendliest Ghost

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"Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur. Et renovabis faciem terrae."

What would you do if you knew that a ghost was knocking at your door?  Because one is... and it's not the door to your house.  It is the door to your heart.  Would you let it in?  Would you actually call for it to come in?  Seems a  bit crazy, but that is exactly what the above Latin prayer is doing.

This familiar prayer is very old and is invoked by people all around the world, in the vernacular, of course.  Father Dominic Serra, professor of liturgical studies at The Catholic University of America, has researched portions of the prayer and found it to date prior to the ninth century.  It evolved mainly in the Pentecost liturgies, as well as the antiphons and hymns of every liturgical tradition.

On "Whit Sunday"-- aka the Feast of Pentecost (Greek for "fifty"- as in fifty days after Passover/Easter... today!)-- we hear it: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love” in the Gospel acclamation at Sunday Mass.  The second part of the prayer comes from Psalm 104, verse 30: “When you send forth your breath [spirit], they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”

This prayer is a profound and personal way for us to ask God to be with us-- to be re-created in Him in order to make our hearts burn with His Love.  He accomplishes this by "sending forth" His Holy Spirit.  So, it seems a good time to spend a few minutes discussing this wonder of wonders.  God's Spirit has been appeared in the likeness of a dove (Luke, 3: 22) and of "tongues of fire" (Acts of the Apostles, 2: 3).  In all cases, the Spirit descends upon the faithful and begins immediately to make profound improvements.

~~  "The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer. He is the artisan of the living tradition of prayer."  --Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2672  ~~

The "Holy Ghost" (old-school) is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity-- and the Blessed Trinity is, of course, the very center of Christian belief.  It is a deep and powerful mystery that compels the intellect and sends shivers of excitement up the spine.  It is also very hard to understand and, therefore, to teach effectively.  St. Augustine said of the Trinity:  "In no other subject is the danger of erring so great, or the progress so difficult, or the fruit of a careful study so appreciable."

Indeed!  Great things come from the Trinity... because the Trinity is the essence of all that is, was, and ever will be.  Unfortunately, because of the depth of the mystery, there have been many heresies regarding the Trinity and the Holy Spirit over the centuries.  "Christianity" can be defined as belief in the full divinity of the Holy Trinity-- that is "Three Persons in one God."  Three equal Persons.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that, although the Holy Ghost is truly distinct from the Father and the Son as a Person, He is consubstantial (Latin: "of the same substance") with Them.  He is God like Them, and He possesses with Them one and the same Divine Nature/Essence.  The Son proceeds from the Father; the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son.  He proceeds not by some generational process, but "by way of spiration, from the Father and the Son together, as from a single principle."  Imagine the “breath” of God, the breath that gives life to all creation. In the Gospel of John, the resurrected Jesus breathed on the disciples, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John, 20: 22)

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” -Acts of the Apostles, 1: 8

It is easy to see why believers have been in awe of the Holy Spirit for thousands of years.  Praying to God's Spirit is as old as prayer itself, and this Ghost is known by many titles: the Advocate;  Paraclete (Latin and Greek);  the Comforter; the Counselor; the  Author of Scripture; Guide; Intercessor; Teacher; Witness; Gift-giver; and more.  He is the force that moves and inspires (literally).

Most people have felt Him working inside their hearts and minds, even if they do not know it is Him in there.  Fun fact about the Holy Spirit: He does not just pay attention to believers.  In fact, anyone who has ever "converted" to Christianity did so because of the Holy Spirit.  No person can "convert" the heart of another-- we can only be instruments that He uses in the process.  How important is the Holy Spirit for our salvation?  Indispensable, actually.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." -John, 3: 5

Back to the question of the Ghost knocking at your door.  What if you knew that He was knocking in order to offer you a wonderful basket of assorted fruit?  That is precisely what is happening, by the way.  This most friendly Ghost bestows so many sublimities upon mankind that it boggles the mind and overwhelms the heart.  Consider that St Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit's fruits are "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control." (Galatians, 5: 22-23)

From that, we see that Virtue pours forth from the Holy Spirit like a fountain.  These "fruits" are, according to Aquinas, actions that God would smile upon.  Whatever we have inside of us that is virtuous and not worldly is the work of the Third Person of the Trinity.

~~  "Every virtuous act which man performs with pleasure is a fruit of the Holy Spirit."  
--Thomas Aquinas  ~~

There is that knocking again!  It turns out that the Ghost has not only brought fruits for you, He also offers seven amazing gifts; and we will reap the fruits by employing these gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The bible (Isaiah 11: 1-5)  tells us that the gifts are:
  1. The gift of Wisdom: which helps us detach from the world and learn, relish, and love the real truth and what really matters.  Aquinas said that the mind of man is not moved by the Holy Ghost, except to unite it to Him.  So, all of these worldly thoughts of mine are the work of my temporal and corruptible mind, and not of His (and my) Spirit.
  2. The gift of Understanding: which helps us to use wisdom and knowledge to grasp the real "big picture" truths.  Pontius Pilate asked "What is truth?" when Truth was standing right before him (John, 18: 38).  Clearly, he did not understand because his heart was hardened.
  3. The gift of Counsel: which comes from supernatural Prudence, and allows us to see and choose correctly what will most glorify God and ensure our own salvation.
  4. The gift of Fortitude: which is the courage we receive to overcome all of the travails and obstacles that will always be in our way-- and which will actually increase at times, the closer we get to Christ.
  5. The gift of Knowledge: which fills our mind with that which will show us the right path to follow, as well as identifying the bad things we must avoid on our path to heaven.
  6. The gift of Piety: which inspires us to have childlike confidence in our Father; and to fully and joyfully embrace Him, all His instructions, and the service that He demands of us.  
  7. The gift of Fear of the Lord: which makes us dread the notion of offending God because of the awe and respect that overwhelms us when we think of Him.  The term "God fearing person" is so often misunderstood and used by those opposed to God to paint a false picture of a non-loving God.  Quite the opposite.  It is precisely because He loves us to such a sublime degree that we cannot bear the prospect that we might be a cause of offense to Him.
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” -Luke, 11: 13

When I think of these amazing gifts, I am reminded of how Bishop Ratko Peric said "the truth both frees us and binds us."  That is a simply profound message.  Once we see the real truth of who God is and who we are supposed to be, we are bound in that direction.  St Paul told the Ephesians (3: 1) that he was a "prisoner of Christ for the sake of you..."  Once we see the Truth, then we are all prisoners of it, and must follow it to where it leads us... which is, ultimately, to Truth Himself.  The fruits and the seven gifts are what we have in our backpacks for the journey.

"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." -John, 14:26

The Holy Ghost works inside us in so many ways.  One way is to inspire us ("inspire" and "spirit" are related from the Latin for "to breathe").  I have felt His touch and breath inside me many, many times.  In fact, it was He who inspired me to write this essay (and so many others).  It was He who inspired me to write "Guardian Dear."  I don't see Him so much as a "muse," per se... rather, a conductor or director.  I am hardly alone in this.

 ~~  "One night, I just woke up and I went, 'Killing Jesus.' And I believe, because I'm a Catholic, that comes from the Holy Spirit. My inspiration comes from that. And so I wrote 'Killing Jesus' because I think I was directed to write that."  --Bill O'Reilly  ~~

Whether or not Mr. O'Reilly believes that the source of inspiration was the Holy Spirit is, of course, irrelevant.  If, indeed, it was divine inspiration, then it would not matter one bit it he believed it.  The Holy Spirit is definitely in the business of directing human beings in endeavors such as writing.  In fact, the scriptures are all inspired writings.  This is why the Holy Ghost is known as the "author of scripture."

This ultimate friendly presence inside of us is exactly how God interacts with us and it is the manifestation of his "Agape" Love-- that which wills the best for the loved one.  The real point is that the Holy Spirit pushes us from inside.  Moving within us-- very much like our lungs-- to bring us to the right way.  How humbling and exciting that concept is!  How can I, once I know it, not want to share it?

~~  "It's easy to write for God and about God, because what a thrill to remind the church that the Holy Spirit of God is in you. What a rush! What an amazing blessing!"  --Francis Chan  ~~

This holy "respiration" happening deep inside of us is what can bring our hearts to the level of "burning," as happened to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus in Luke's gospel (chapter 24).  While walking, they were joined by the Resurrected Christ, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.  As they walked, He instructed them on holy scripture, and they later described how their hearts were "burning" as He opened the bible to them in a way they had never before understood.  We can ask for His help in similar ways.  In Romans (8: 26) St Paul tells us that we do not know how to pray as we should, and so the Holy Spirit will help us by interceding for us with "groanings too deep for words."

~~  "The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our teacher. That's why, in prayer, we can ask the Lord to open up Scripture and make it come alive to us, to open our understanding. He left his Spirit with us until we join him in Heaven."  --Michele Bachmann  ~~

His actions are not limited to helping us with writing and prayer.  Not by a long shot.  The power of the Holy Spirit is best seen in us as our inner counselor and adviser.  There is a very close, and very obvious, connection between our conscience and the Holy Spirit.  It is striking that our conscience is often "informed" when our conscious mind is not.  We have it on good authority that to disobey your conscience is always a sin-- even when it might be in error.  Our conscience is the very voice of God in our soul.  Dr. Peter Kreeft calls the conscience the knowledge of what is right and wrong-- literally "intellect applied to morality."  In fact, the "argument from conscience" is one of the proofs of God's existence (and St Paul teaches on it in Romans).

I don't know about you, but it makes me feel incredibly good (and awestruck) to know that God's actual voice is an actual part of me.  This is the Holy Spirit working, always working, inside of me.  Amazing!  Even more amazing is the knowledge that He is working inside of everyone on the planet.  If that is true, you may ask, then why do so many people not feel/hear/see the Holy Spirit at work in them?  I would say that is a function of choice-- free will.  We have to want His Love... that is what makes it so utterly sublime.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 7?  Ask.  Seek.  Knock.  Many have done so over the ages, and we should follow that lead.

~~  "O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams."  --Saint Augustine  ~~

It is true that all analogies limp at some point, but they can be useful to at least some extent.  A good way to analogize the communication links going on inside us is to think of radio frequencies.  Within the HF, VHF, and UHF frequency ranges, there are many, many "channels," if you will.  If I transmit on one channel, and that happens to be the channel that your receiver is set to, then you will hear (or see) my transmission.  If your receiver is not set to that channel, my signal will still reach your antenna, but it will stop there.  Because your receiver is not, at the moment, set to hear/see my transmission does not mean that I am not transmitting.

The Holy Spirit is transmitting-- all the time and to everyone.  Those who scan the frequency bands in search of His signal will find it.  Also finding it are those who are not consciously scanning for it, but would be willing and able to see/hear it if they happened upon it.  That actually happens all the time.  I find that it is only those who have hardened their hearts against the signal who do not ever seem to find it.

"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."  -Ephesians, 4: 30

They do find it, of course.  As we discussed above, their consciences are a big part of the transmission... but they either refute that by saying a conscience is just another biological function, or they deny and even attempt to ignore their conscience.  Such refutation and denial does not, of course, change reality one bit.  It only changes and retards their personal apprehension of reality.

The Holy Spirit's transmissions are not the only ones hitting our receivers.  There are plenty of unspoken messages flying around in the realm where human souls abide.  Many of these messages are positive ones and many are quite the opposite.  I think this is why God built our consciences in the way that He did.  Once we tinker with it positively with our free will, the conscience is fully capable of leading us to a happy and virtuous life.  The warning in the owner's manual, though, is quite clear: keep the conscience's receiver tuned to the channels that carry virtuous signals.

The Holy Spirit has done so much for so many for so long... how can we possibly quantify it?  Maybe it's best to just reflect on the single greatest example of inspiration in the history of creation.  Fifty days after the Resurrection, the disciples of Christ were huddled in a small room, hiding from persecutors, when "...there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the house they were in. 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." (Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11)

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These previously timid, frightened men, who had been hiding from the world for almost two months, suddenly were out in the streets of Jerusalem, speaking passionately and unabashedly to an international audience "in tongues" - which is to say that all of the foreign people in the city heard what they were saying in their own native language.  These formerly confused and frightened men became the greatest revolutionaries the world has ever seen.  Their courage, wisdom, and fortitude are legendary; and without their initial sowing of the faith with their toil and blood, Christianity would never have happened.

If we want real and true happiness of the eternal variety, we must be open to God's Spirit.  We need to humble our minds and soften our hearts if we are to have any hope of receiving the amazing lives that His Agape Love wants for us.  Once we're open and humble, we will find that our receiver suddenly defaults to His channels; and true Caritas (Charity) will become our regular mode of operation.  Not always an easy road, but in the end, it is the only road that we should ever be on.  Helps a lot to know that the friendliest Ghost is traveling with us... always.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him.  But you know Him, because He remains with you, and will be in you."  -John, 14: 15-18

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All together now:

"Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. 

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord.  Amen."

God bless!!


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