The Holy Spirit in the Church

Benjamin Being Catholic

Pope Benedict celebrated Mass this Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemnity of Pentecost. The Holy Father noted in his homily that, for the Jewish people, the feast of Passover recalled the exodus from Egypt, and the feast of Pentecost fifty days later was the celebration of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. For the Christians, it marks the outpouring of God’s love into our hearts, which is the new commandment placed inside of us, to direct us according to God’s will.

Here is a little Biblical catechesis on the Holy Spririt.

It was the power of the Holy Spirit who came upon Mary and brought about the conception of the Word of God in her womb, without in any way harming her perfect virginity (Luke 1:34). It was also the Holy Spirit who came upon Jesus, after His baptism in the Jordan, to begin His time of mission (Matthew 3:13-17). The Holy Spirit guided, directed, and gave power to all that Jesus did.

Pentecost is the moment when the Holy Spirit came upon the community of disciples, bringing about the union of the Word of God with the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, in a way analogous to the Incarnation. Jesus Christ is the head of this body, and the fullness of Divinity in Christ flows to each of His members, as branches on a vine, each receiving a sharing in the life of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who directs this Divine life flowing from Christ to the members of the Church, strengthening the members in their weaknesses, teaching them to pray, uniting the members into a community, and guiding them towards greater union with Christ.

From the moment of Pentecost, the Church has also shared in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, an anointing of power that is directed to mission, so that the Church can continue throughout the ages the saving mission of Jesus Christ. The Church is like “another Christ”, made up of all the nations of the world. It is the Holy Spirit who guides, directs, and gives power to the ministry of the Church, so that the Church can proclaim the truth about God and about human life.

It is the Spirit who gives the Church the power to administer the sacraments, and so the Church invokes the Holy Spirit each time the priest is administering a sacrament. The Spirit not only lives in the Church as a whole, but dwells individually in each of the hearts of the faithful, so each Christian as well as the whole Church is called a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is most associated with Confirmation, which the Church gives to her members, and through this sacrament each Christian shares personally in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

This presence of the Spirit gives each individual Christian his or her own vocation, which is a sharing in the life and mission of Jesus. Whether in married life or consecrated life, as parents, as teachers, as people of prayer and sacrifice, as priests, as nuns, as bishops, all this incredible variety of gifts flows from the fullness of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit, who gives to each Christian as He wills.
Veni Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit!