Essential Features of the Holy Spirit / Birth of "Pneuma" in Humans

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Session 1 & 2 of "New Life in the Holy Spirit"

Talk 1: Essential Features of the Holy Spirit: Breath, Light, Responsive Love

Talk 2: irth of "Pneuma" in Humans: Life in the Spirit

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AI Summary: 






Shall we begin with a prayer? Yeah, it's on the sheet, but I can't see it. You just follow. So since it's a retreat on the Holy Spirit, so we would like to invoke the Holy Spirit to be our real preacher, real retreat master. Master, come, O 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. Let us pray. O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gifts of the same spirit, we may be always truly wise


and ever rejoice in his consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen. So welcome. Welcome to this weekend preacher retreat, the last of a series of this year. Our topic is the Holy Spirit and Christian life. As you know, the Holy Spirit is usually called the forgotten spirit. But thanks to the charismatic renewal in the Christian churches and to the teaching of Vatican II, the Holy Spirit has been gradually restored to a rightful place in the church and in our Christian life. But there is still a long way to go before the Holy Spirit will really take possession of that most important position, which is his jewel, both in the church


and in our spiritual life. Our present retreat is a small effort towards this goal. And I pray that the Holy Spirit himself will enlighten us and be our guide. This will be the topics of the four talks of our retreat. First, the essential features of the Holy Spirit. We are going to deal with it tonight. Second, the birth of pneuma in humans, or life in the spirit. Pneuma is the Greek word for spirit. And third, the spirit of affiliation or adoption and prayer. Fourth, the spirit of mission and charisms. The talks will last for about 45 minutes. And at the end of each talk, we shall have some time for questions and discussion, if possible. Now let us begin with the topic of our first talk


this evening, namely the essential features of the Holy Spirit. I have chosen three aspects for our reflection. First, the Holy Spirit as life-giving breath. Secondly, as illuminating light. And finally, as responsive love. There's a sort of scheme on the board, so you can every now and then have a look at it. I believe that these choices represent the most important characteristics or roles of the Holy Spirit as found in scripture and tradition. And as you'll notice, my choice is also inspired by the prayer, come, O Holy Spirit, which we have just recited. First of all, the Holy Spirit is the life-giving breath of God. The English word spirit is derived from the Latin word


spiritus, which in turn is a translation of the Greek word pneuma or pneuma. The word spirit may suggest that the idea of something non-substantial. But the Hebrew word in the Old Testament for the spirit is vrua, which has a different connotation. And by the way, it is a feminine word. Vrua means wind in motion or air or breath. It indicates something active, a life force, or a vital energy. Above all, it stands for the creative power of God. So we read from the opening of the book of Genesis, In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep,


while the Spirit of God, namely a breath of God, swept over the face of the waters. The sacred writer tells us that the Spirit of God was at work as a creative force when God first created heaven and earth. The breath of God as a creative force is also expressed in the Psalms. When you send forth your breath, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. This verse of Psalm 104 is part of the prayer which we said at the beginning. Send forth your spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. The book of Genesis continues, narrating the story of the creation of human beings.


After forming the body of Adam from the dust of the earth, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being. Here, the Spirit is presented as life-giving breath at the very creation of human being. But the breath of God is not only at work during creation. It is also a vital force for recreation, for restoring life to the dead. For example, in the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, the prophet Ezekiel was ordered by God to prophesy to the breath, to come from the four winds, and to breathe upon the dead. With this, the dead were revived, symbolizing the revival of the people of Israel.


And later, in the letter to the Romans, Paul tells us explicitly that the Holy Spirit is the principle of our bodily resurrection. He says, if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his spirit that dwells in you. Romans chapter 8, verse 11. The idea of Ruah as life-giving breath of vital energy has great significance in inter-religious dialogue. Central to Oriental thought, for example, is a similar concept, which means breath or vital energy. In Sanskrit, prana, in Chinese, qi, and in Japanese, ki.


You have the three words, at least the two words on the board. All these words point to a certain cosmic energy or vital force which causes, through the entire universe, linking all things together. It also circulates through the human body when it is healthy. In this concept, the special abode for qi, a vital energy in the human body, is not the head or the heart, but the belly. To be precise, it is the region about an inch below the navel. In Chinese, it is called tanden. And in Japanese, ki-kai, which means, literally, the sea of energy. By the way, in the practice of Zen meditation or of martial arts, like kung fu, karate, or judo,


or even in the fine arts, like the tea ceremony or the flower arrangements, the center of gravity is the tanden or ki-kai. Accordingly, at the time of meditation, one breathes deeply from the abdomen or tanden, letting the qi fill the whole body. This qi is an element which reflections, nourishes, and gives energy to the human person. Qi is also a healing power. One can actually heal the injury of another person by laying hands on the injured area to impart qi for healing. It is also an Oriental conviction that there is one single qi which permeates all beings and the entire universe,


uniting all things together in interconnectedness. Through a regular rhythm of breathing in and letting out the qi, one is in contact and in harmony with the universe. So one can easily perceive the similarity between rule and this vivifying and unifying element called qi. The idea of the tanden as the center of qi reminds me of the sign of Jonah given by Jesus. Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights, the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. Jesus uses the expression, the heart of the earth. After his death, Jesus was buried in the tomb


and descended into Sheol, or the region of the dead, to liberate the patriarchs, prophets, and all the just ones who had died before him. So Jesus found himself at the heart of the earth. And from there, he rose again from the dead. Perhaps we might connect this sign of Jonah with a sentence from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where he compares the resurrection of Jesus to the creation of the first man, Adam. Paul states, thus it is written, the first man, Adam, became a living being. The last Adam, Jesus, became a life-giving spirit. First Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 45. Just as God breathed on the face of the first Adam


and he became a living being, so at the time of the resurrection, God the Father also breathed on the face of the last Adam, Jesus, so that he might rise, not only as a living being, but as a life-giving spirit. The reason Jesus is so filled with the breath of God that he himself becomes the source of this life-giving breath or spirit to the world. In this way, the whole creation becomes the cosmic body of the risen Christ. If we connect this Pauline text with the sign of Jonah, namely with the images of the belly of the sea monster and the heart of the earth, can we say that the risen Jesus is not only


the head of the body, the world, but he is the very center, the heart, or the tendon of his cosmic body from which he continuously sends forth the life-giving breath of the spirit to animate, renew, and transform the whole universe? And so the creative breath of God becomes also the life-giving breath of the risen Christ to the whole universe. Let us now consider the second characteristic of the Holy Spirit, namely the spirit as illuminating light. In our prayer to the Holy Spirit, we say, O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gifts of the same Spirit


we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. We pray for the light of the Spirit so that we may be truly wise, or in Latin, recta sapere, which means to savor, to experience what is true and right, namely to savor the things of God. We shall return to this idea of savoring or experience, which is of greatest importance. But some may have an objection to the image of light as applied to the Holy Spirit. For in the prologue of the gospel, St. John tells us that the word of God is the true light which enlightens everyone, and he is coming into the world. Later on, Jesus himself declares that he


is the light of the world. Then why should we apply the image of light to the Holy Spirit? In Psalm 36, we come across a special verse which says, for with you is the fountain of life. In your light, we see light. Psalm 36, verse 9. What does this mean, in your light, we see light? The same word, light, appears twice in this verse. St. Basil the Great, one of the Cappadocian fathers, gives the following interpretation to this particular verse. He says, it is in the light of the Holy Spirit that we see the light of Christ. Christ is the true light of the world, but in order to perceive this light,


in order to know Christ, we need the light of the Spirit, his inner illumination. Both Christ and the Spirit are called light, but they have different functions. Christ is the image of the Father. He is the word of God made flesh in order to reveal the face of God through a human face and to reveal the hidden mysteries of God through the events of human life. Christ is the human face of God. But in order to see the image of God hidden in the human face of Jesus, we need the illuminating light of the Spirit. If Jesus is the human face of the hidden God, the Spirit is the light shining on the face of Jesus.


In a similar way, in the Gospel of John, Jesus is presented as the truth. And likewise, the Spirit is also presented as the Spirit of truth, yet they have different functions. Jesus is the truth that reveals God and teaches the truth of God, while the Spirit is called the Spirit of truth because he introduces us into the truth of Christ. He reminds the disciples of the words of Jesus, helping them to understand their meaning. And that is why we say, in your light, we see light. Namely, in the illuminating light of the Spirit, we perceive the true light, which is Christ. In Christian tradition, the Spirit


is normally related to the idea of love, especially the love which unites the Father and the Son. But one of the early Latin fathers of the Church, Marius Victorinus, presents a somehow different picture of the Holy Trinity. Following the Neoplatonic philosophy of his time, he indicates the Father as being or existence, the Son as life, and the Spirit as knowledge. This particular model of the Trinity has much to recommend itself. If we examine the scripture, we shall find many references connecting the Spirit to the idea of knowledge and consciousness. For example, he is the Spirit of prophecy, who enlightens and inspires the prophets to announce the hidden things of God.


He is the Spirit, who, as Paul says, searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human, except the human spirit that is within? So also, no one comprehends what is truly God's, except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2, verses 10 to 11. And he is also called the Spirit of revelation and of wisdom and knowledge. Moreover, the Spirit is also a Spirit of consciousness. The role of the Spirit is not only to introduce Christians into a special relationship with Jesus and with God. He also renders us conscious of, aware of,


this intimate relationship. Paul tells us that we become children of God because we have received the Spirit of adoption. This Spirit, who accomplishes our adoption, also makes us aware of this relationship and enables us to respond with filial disposition. For as Paul says, the Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God, and he inspires us to call God our Father. Romans, chapter 8, verses 15 to 16. In a similar way, it is the Spirit who makes us aware of the presence of God within us. During the Last Supper, Jesus assures the disciples, saying, Those who love me will keep my words,


and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14, 23. Jesus promises that he and the Father will make their abode in those who love them. But it is the Spirit who makes us aware of the indwelling of God in us, as John writes later in his first letter. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John, chapter 4, verse 13. The Spirit not only accomplishes our filial adoption and bestows the life of grace on us, he is also the light which enables us to perceive and experience these hidden realities.


The term experience is of greatest importance, particularly in this present age when people are seeking experience above all in religion. The charismatic renewal movement in the Christian churches, in a special way, reminds us that experience is indispensable for the life of faith. Without religious experience, our life of faith would be greatly hampered and would be difficult to sustain. In his book entitled A New Pentecost, Cardinal Schoenens repeatedly points out the importance of the mutual support between faith and experience. Faith should introduce us into religious experience and in turn experience deepens our faith. The significance of religious experience


for our Christian life is also very much stressed in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. St. Simeon the New Theologian a Byzantine saint probably you would say a Byzantine saint of the 10th century puts strong emphasis upon conscious, personal awareness of Christ and of the Spirit. He is passionately convinced that Christianity involves much more than a formal dogmatic orthodoxy or an outward observance of moral rules. He says no one can be a Christian at a distance or at second hand so to speak. The tradition has to be lived by each one of us without exception and each should experience the indwelling presence


of the Holy Spirit in a conscious, almost palpable manner. Simeon writes in one of his hymns Do not say it is impossible to receive the Holy Spirit. Do not say it is possible to be saved without him. Do not say then that one can possess him without knowing it. The accent is on knowing because the reality itself should become transparent through the light of the Holy Spirit. And as we know, most of the Oriental practices of meditation seek to attain a deeper level of consciousness and enlightenment. As Christians, we believe that the Holy Spirit through his inner illumination will introduce us into a deeper consciousness


of our Christian existence and lead us to the true enlightenment regarding the mysteries of God and the ultimate meaning of reality. So we have reflected on two of the basic features of the Holy Spirit. Namely, the Spirit as life-giving breath and as illuminating light. It remains for us to deal with the third essential characteristic of the Spirit namely, Spirit as responsive love. Our prayer to the Holy Spirit opens with the following words Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. According to the Western Latin tradition the Spirit is usually identified with the love of God.


This is based mainly on the so-called psychological model of the Trinity as proposed by Saint Augustine. In contemplating the Holy Trinity Augustine sees the human person as an image of the Trinity He views the three divine persons as reflected in the faculties of the human person comparing the Father to the memory the Son to the intellect and the Spirit to the will. Augustine designates the Spirit as the bond of love nexus amoris between the Father and the Son. The Spirit is the love of the Father for the Son and the love of the Son for the Father is their mutual love. The idea of mutuality is important.


It means that the Spirit is the love which comes forth from the Father is received by the Son and returns to the Father So the Holy Spirit completes the cycle and for this reason is called responsive love a love coming from the Father and through the Son returning to the Father. The Holy Spirit is responsive love not only with regard to the interior life or relationship of the Holy Trinity namely between the Father and the Son He is also responsive love regarding the relationship between God and the world. Saint Irenaeus, an early father of the Church states that in the work of creation and redemption


God always works with two hands that is, the Word and the Holy Spirit. Based on this idea a contemporary theologian, Karl Rahner explains that God communicates himself to human persons and to the world in a truthful manner namely, through the Word and the Spirit. God communicates himself through the Word as truth and as offer at the same time he gives himself through the Spirit as love and acceptance in other words when God wishes to give himself as a gift to us the offer is made through the Word or the Son they both are the names given to the second person


the Word of God, the Son of God but in order that God may really become a gift he must be accepted by us this acceptance by us is made possible only through the Spirit of love who inspires our loving response to the offer of God this does not mean that the Spirit substitutes for our freedom of course, we are free to accept or refuse to say yes or no to the offering of God but our acceptance or yes to the gift of God is always made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for this reason, our acceptance is a grace just as much as the offer is a grace the idea that God communicates himself to us


through the Word and the Spirit is perhaps best exemplified in the mystery of the Incarnation which took place at the moment of the Annunciation that's why in the Basilica dedicated to the Annunciation in Nazareth at the place traditionally known as the House of Mary we see the inscription here the Word was made flesh the Word was made flesh in the womb of Mary Virgin Mary so God was offering his Word or the Son to the world Mary was the one to give her consent on behalf of the whole humanity the Spirit is the responsive love which empowered Mary to accept the offer of God


with total openness and availability when we are told that Mary conceived the Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit this statement has a twofold meaning on the spiritual level the Holy Spirit inspired Mary to say yes to the Word of God announced by the angel and on the physical level the Spirit enabled Mary to conceive the Word of God in her virginal womb hence St. Augustine says Mary first conceived the Word of God in her heart through faith even before she conceived the Word of God in her womb and the Holy Spirit is responsible for the twofold conception of Mary under the inspiration of the Spirit


Mary gave her consent to the Word of God without reserve Mary's answer is totally open and responsive to the Word of God addressed to her by the angel this total dependence can be better illustrated by using the two German words Wort and Wort you have the two words on the board Wort and Wort namely Word and Answer as you can see the answer is totally dependent on the Word the Word became the answer Wort and Wort the answer is really formed


by the addressing words just as the word addressed to Mary finally became her own answer be it done unto me according to your word and Mary's answer is given through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we may say that Wort or Word plus the Spirit became Antwort or Answer in Mary the dynamics between the Spirit and the Word in God's dealings with humanity and the world might also be compared to the two polar ideas in Chinese thought Yin and Yang Yang stands for the masculine for the definite, the author, the initiative in this it resembles the Word of God


which is God's offer in truth Yin, on the other hand stands for the feminine for what is subtle and gentle for response and availability and so it resembles the Spirit of God which signifies loving response for this reason the Spirit is interpreted by some theologians as the feminine face of God and according to some ancient tradition the Spirit is even called the Mother of Jesus in this view, the maternity of Mary is seen as the concrete expression of the Spirit's motherhood with regard to Jesus the Word made flesh just as Yin and Yang


are always working together in the world as complementary principles we also need the Word and the Spirit the offer and the response the masculine and the feminine in our life of grace and in all our relationship with God in this opening talk we have meditated on the three essential features of the Holy Spirit these three characteristics are closely related to one another as life-giving breath the Spirit imparts life to us introducing us into a filial relationship with God as illuminating light he makes us aware of this intimate relationship and as responsive love


he inspires us to turn to God as his loving children these basic features of the Spirit correspond to the following aspects of our life in the Spirit namely, the reality of the life of grace bestowed by the Spirit the experience of this reality and the response proper to this new life life of grace let me conclude with a text from the letter to the Romans God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us Romans 5 verse 5 commenting on this verse William of Sanctuary is full of wonder at the thought that God has poured


his Spirit, who is the love of God in person into our hearts so that we may love God with his own love this love flowing forth from the Father coming through the Son is given to us in the Spirit once this love has reached us the Spirit himself initiates a return journey by leading us first through the Son and through him back to the Father the source and goal of all things we deal with the second topic of our retreat namely, birth of pneuma in humans life in the Spirit as I said yesterday pneuma is the Greek word for Spirit


the expression spiritual life reminds us of the spiritual dimension of the human person namely, his openness to the transcendent but according to Christian tradition spiritual life has a deeper meaning the word spiritual is derived above all from the Holy Spirit and hence, spiritual life means life in the Spirit consequently, a spiritual person is one who is led by the Spirit who lives and walks according to the Spirit in order to lead a life in the Spirit it is necessary for us to be born in the Spirit or to put it differently to have the Spirit born in us pneuma is the Greek word for Spirit in the Pauline letters


pneuma may mean the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of humans we have a similar case with the word Atman in Sanskrit which stands both for the universal Spirit and the Spirit of individual human being this means that the divine Spirit and the human Spirit though remaining distinct are intimately related to each other there is a strict unity in distinction in his book entitled The New Man Reflecting on the Myth of Prometheus Thomas Merton speaks of the Promethean mysticism Prometheus stole fire from the gods and was punished for it as a prophet foretelling modern times


Prometheus is a mystic without faith mystic, that is, in the facetious sense as Merton points out who believes neither in himself nor in God the tragedy of Prometheus consists in the fact that the fire which he snatched from the gods was his own, namely his own spirit in the words of Merton the fire he thinks he has to steal is after all his own fire God created this spiritual fire for his own children namely their spiritual nature more than that he gives them his own uncreated and sanctifying fire which is the Holy Spirit end of quote people of our own time have lost sight


of the spiritual dimension of their being and thus feel the lack of this fire within themselves at the same time they are unable to believe in the generosity of God who has not only created the spiritual nature of human beings but is ready to give them his own spirit as a free gift they are not aware that they already possess the seed of created fire within themselves waiting to be kindled by the uncreated fire of the Holy Spirit which can be received only as a gift any attempt at obtaining it by theft or through one's own effort will prove to be mere illusion in the book of Genesis


we read that God created human beings in his own image and according to his likeness different interpretations have been given to the meaning of image and likeness and the relation between the two terms while some fathers of the church consider image and likeness as synonyms Irenaeus distinguishes between image and likeness of God in humans for him the image of God is given at the time of creation and is inalienable it consists in human person's basic resemblance to the spiritual nature of God likeness on the other hand is something dynamic and progressive it can grow it is the result of a process


through which the image is perfected by a faithful correspondence to its original model while the image is given at the beginning the likeness is a vocation a task to be accomplished throughout one's life to put it in different words we may also say that image and likeness are the same reality seen from different perspectives likeness means the continuous growth of the image into full conformity with its original adopting the terminology of Paul Irenaeus considers the human person as consisting in body soul and spirit the soulman


psyche and human while soul and body constitute the image of God the spirit is the perfecting element which transforms an image into the likeness of God what is of particular importance in Irenaeus' teaching is that this perfecting element the spirit of humans is a participation in the divine spirit in the Holy Spirit of God hence the Holy Spirit is by no means something accidental to human beings on the contrary the Holy Spirit is an indispensable gift without which the human person would simply be incomplete or underdeveloped as has been shown


Paul uses the term spirit both for the spirit of God and for human spirit occasionally Paul mentions three elements in the human person a classical text can be cited from the first letter to the Thessalonians where Paul writes may the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of your Lord Jesus Christ chapter 5 verse 23 now commenting on this verse Jewett, a Pauline scholar says that the majority of commentators today have abandoned the idea that Paul in this text is presenting


a tripartite anthropology with three components of the human being in mind namely body, soul and spirit which is common in some Greek philosophy of his time Jewett points out that in using the term spirit with regard to human beings Paul is following the popular Jewish usage of the time rather than Greek philosophy here the word spirit does not indicate a third constituent of the human being rather it means the apportioned divine spirit or a share in the Holy Spirit given to the individual human persons hence both for Paul


and for Irenaeus human being is basically constituted by body and soul pneuma or spirit is a new element which perfects the whole person soul and body through a participation in the spirit of God Merton's understanding of human being is in harmony with that of Paul and Irenaeus but he also argues that if human being can participate in the divine spirit then there should be an inborn capacity in humans a receptivity for the divine spirit it is a potentiality given at the time of creation which is in need of being made actual by the coming of the spirit of God Merton identifies this potency


with the highest faculty or the apex of the soul where human person is open to and in communion with the divine left to itself this spirit in humans is only a potency the human spirit becomes pneuma in the real sense only when it no longer remains in an isolated way but is awakened and transformed by the presence of the spirit of God for Merton pneuma attains its real meaning when the human spirit is in union with the spirit of God the two becoming one spirit at the beginning of creation God fashioned the body of Adam the first human being from dust


and breathed into his nostrils a life-giving breath according to some fathers of the church God has imparted to Adam through this breath not only a living soul but a share of his own spirit Adam was graced with the pneuma in the proper sense his spirit being united to the spirit of God as a result of this union says the late Father Pete Griffith in his book A New Vision of Reality in the garden of Eden humanity was in perfect unity with nature around there was unity between the man and the woman unity within the human person and unity with the spirit of God yet human beings respond to the Holy Spirit


they grow harmoniously body and soul grow together in harmony of the spirit in that original state they could open themselves to the spirit of God and allow the spirit to guide them but they could equally separate themselves from the spirit they could fall away from the spirit and center on themselves this falling away from the spirit into the ego the separated self through disobedience is the essence of original sin according to Father Pete in each person there is repeated the fall into the separate self as a consequence


humanity is now divided divided from nature from one another and from God when the self is separated from the spirit of God total disintegration takes place fallen humanity has lost the vision of the spirit beyond and everything focuses on the self the self becomes the center and as such a substitute for God whether it is power or wealth or pleasure or success what is happening is that one is focusing on substitutes for God creating a false ego substituted for the true self which should be open and submitted to the spirit of God


because of sin the human being has lost the sense of his spirituality according to Merton the human spirit which is given as a potentiality to human beings has become impotent and remains in a state of lethargy the important theme of divinization or deification in the early fathers of the church literally means becoming God in the present situation it means restoration of the original image in humans which has been disfigured by sin this is possible only through the coming of the second Adam, Jesus Christ just as the first Adam wanted to become like God and sinned


so now God himself took initiative to become human so that we might be made God this is how Saint Athanasius sums up the message of salvation in Christ by assuming or being united to our fallen human nature Christ, the original image of God was able to restore the injured image of God in humans through the incarnation and especially through his death and resurrection Christ became the cause of the reawakening of our new birth or the rebirth of the image of God in us this he accomplishes by sending his spirit into our spirit through the resurrection of Christ Merton writes this awakening of our new birth


may be called a new creation baptism is normally the moment of our spiritual rebirth our being born of water and the spirit it is a sacrament of reawakening in which the spirit of God awakens our dormant spirits saying awake you sleepers rise from death perhaps we might recall the story of the sleeping beauty the sleeping princess was awakened by the loving kiss of the prince in a similar way our dormant spirit is awakened by the Holy Spirit who is called the kiss between the father and the son Merton calls baptism


the sacrament of illumination in which the human spirit illuminated by the presence of the divine spirit becomes the new man in the proper sense Merton also offers another image for this illumination namely it enkindles the spark of the soul when the uncreated fire of the spirit descends upon the peak or apex of the soul to light up the fire which was given at creation but remains dormant after sin thus baptism understood as kindling the created fire of our spirit with the uncreated fire of the Holy Spirit signals for Merton the final overcoming of any mysticism of the Promethean type


rather than human effort baptism is a pure gift of God so Merton presents baptism as this enkindling of the created fire which was given to us at creation our human nature, our spirit with the uncreated fire which is the Holy Spirit coming at the time of baptism in a special way now let us reflect on the effect of this rebirth the rebirth of the spirit in us is described by Paul as having the spirit of Christ Romans 8, verse 9 or forming one spirit with Christ 1 Corinthians 6, verse 17 as a result of this unity


with the spirit of Christ one is able to lead a life in the spirit let us pause for a moment to consider the nature and effect of this union with the spirit in what consists this union this unity of spirit a union with the spirit first of all it's a union on the operative order it means that the spirit becomes a co-principle or a co-subject of our actions Merton indicates our regenerated spirit as formed by the coalescence of our spirit with the spirit of God in one principle of supernatural action I repeat he indicates our regenerated spirit


as formed by the coalescence of our spirit with the spirit of God in one principle of supernatural action as a consequence of such coalescence the activity is strictly ours but at the same time it belongs to God but Merton also adds that the unity on the operative order is based on a unity of a deeper level namely on an essential unity of our spirit with the spirit of Christ this essential unity is a mystery and according to him is best illustrated by the allegory of the vine and the branches Christ compares himself to the vine


and the disciples to its branches the spirit of Christ is the one single principle of life which flows from the vine to the branches uniting us to Christ as branches to the vine thus the spirit is the principle of action precisely because he is the principle of new life in us in a similar way according to Saint John of the Cross the perfect union of the soul with God comprises a total transformation in God this union is compared to the activity of fire in the world the fire penetrates the world transforms it and unites it to itself while the world becomes totally incandescent and inflamed


John of the Cross goes on to say that such is the activity of the Holy Spirit the flame of love present in the soul the soul in this state of transformation is compared to the log of wood which is immersed in fire while remaining distinct the whole substance of the soul becomes fiery through union with the fire of the Holy Spirit the presence of the Holy Spirit in the substance of the human soul is the cause of a total transformation in God in the operative order all the faculties of human person intellect, will, memory and appetite are transformed and animated by a new principle the Spirit of God in the words of St. John of the Cross


finally, all the movements operations and inclinations the soul had previously from the principle and strength of its natural life are now in this union dead to what they formerly were changed into divine movements and alive to God for the soul, like a true daughter of God is moved in all by the Spirit of God as St. Paul teaches in saying that those who are moved by the Spirit of God are children of God himself quoting Romans 8 14 but to say that the actions of the spiritual person are moved by the Spirit of God does not mean that they cease to be vital acts the human person does not become a mechanical instrument of the Holy Spirit


rather, it means that the Spirit acts together with the human person giving him the initial impulse accompanying him in carrying out the act and directing him towards God as the final goal of his action in such a union the action of the Holy Spirit does not substitute for that of the human person but elevates and transforms it thoroughly with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love as a consequence, the operations belong at the same time to the human person and to the Holy Spirit in other words, the Holy Spirit becomes the co-principle or co-subject of the actions of the human person this is the deepest meaning


of our life in the Spirit or being led by the Spirit we must be careful not to understand our life in the Spirit in a dualistic sense of an opposition between body and soul the Jewish and hence biblical tradition does not recognize in human beings a Greek type of dualism of two conflicting substances the body being the primary prison of the soul hence the soul should be liberated from the body this is a kind of Greek dualism strictly speaking human being does not have a body and a soul rather, he is a body animated by the soul


there is a strict unity in the human person Paul Epdokimov an orthodox theologian of our time adopts the anthropology of Paul and observes that Spirit as we have seen, is not a third component in the makeup of a human being as a religious concept it is a principle which affects the corporeal as well as the psychical dimension of human beings by rendering them spiritual just as the human soul vivifies the body making it a living body so the Spirit spiritualizes the whole person body and soul rendering him a spiritual person namely, one led by the Spirit far from indicating liberation of the soul


from the body or suppression of the corporeal dimension of human being the process of spiritualization according to Epdokimov means making the whole person spiritual by submitting body and soul fully under the sway of the Spirit of God nothing is to be left out the Spirit wants the whole rather than an opposition between body and soul the conflict in humans is to be seen on a different level namely, the opposition between the natural or earthly person and the spiritual or heavenly person to use another pair of Pauline terminology it is the opposition between the flesh and the spirit the term flesh in Greek


is used by Paul with a twofold meaning in its neutral meaning flesh indicates human being in its weak, fragile and mortal condition but when flesh is used in a pejorative sense then it stands for everything in the human person which is opposed to the Spirit of God hence flesh is not to be identified with the body in its pejorative sense as opposing the spirit flesh means above all self-centeredness, pride and disobedience Paul rebukes the Christians in Corinth calling them carnal persons especially because there exists in the community pride, jealousy, division


and lack of love in the letter to the Romans Paul sharply contrasts living according to the flesh with living according to the spirit he says for those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit to set the mind on the flesh is death but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace and in the letter to the Galatians Paul again presents the conflict between the flesh and the spirit saying for what the flesh desires is opposed to the spirit and what the spirit desires is opposed


to the flesh for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from doing what you want Galatians 5.17 then he gives a list of the works of the flesh in the same passage in addition to fornication impurity and licentiousness Paul especially mentions enmities, strife, jealousy anger, quarrels, dissensions factions and envy from the list of the works of the flesh it is quite clear that Paul is more concerned with sins against unity and fraternal charity than sins of carnal passions by contrast the fruit of the spirit


mentioned by Paul is almost all related to charity the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace patience, kindness, generosity faithfulness, gentleness and self-control we may rightly say that the fruit of the spirit is love in its manifold manifestations in the same passage Paul also says but if you are led by the spirit you are not subject to the law here Paul deals with the problem of our freedom from the law in the letter to the Romans Paul states more explicitly that the law of the spirit has set us free from the old law


Romans 8.2 this means that those who are led by the spirit are being freed from the law of Moses not in order to indulge in a lawless state but to follow the new law of the spirit which leads to true freedom this is a difficult topic in Paul which requires a more attentive examination and we shall do so by having recourse to Paul himself and to St. Augustine one of the most authoritative interpreters of Paul on this subject thus in the second letter to the Corinthians confronting his own ministry to that of the old covenant Paul says the new covenant is not of letter but of spirit for the letter kills


but the spirit gives life 2 Corinthians 3.6 earlier Paul refers to the prophecy of Jeremiah that God will make a new covenant with Israel he will put his law within them and will write it on their heart the new law is one which is written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts in a certain way the law of Moses was a law imposed from outside it tells the people of Israel what to do but it does not confer the power


necessary for keeping it owing to the fall of humanity the people of Israel were not able to observe the law with their own strength as a result the old law did not lead to life but only produced fear despair and death for this reason Paul says that the letter kills on the contrary the new law of the spirit sets free and gives life it is a law written on human hearts in reality it is the human pneuma awakened and regenerated by the coming of the Holy Spirit the new law is identical with the new life in the spirit bestowed by the sacrament of rebirth


through this rebirth law and life are one the spirit is at once the norm and the life principle which enables us to live in accordance with our new life according to Augustine the new law of the spirit is none other than the spirit himself present in our hearts guiding and moving us towards justice and holiness while the old law is impotent and inspires us with fear and anxiety the spirit himself attracts and draws us to the good with love and delight it is the special merit of the doctor of grace Augustine to point out delight


as the secret of the working of the spirit in us the delight and love inspired by the spirit for what is good and just overcome our natural inclination and pleasure for what is evil and sinful it is this delight and love of the spirit which set us free according to the teaching of Augustine later followed by St. Thomas of Aquinas love and spontaneity are the hallmarks of freedom if one avoids evil merely out of fear or simply because there is a law forbidding it one is not really free but is acting as a slave he observes the law but not as a really free person


it is only when one shuns evil or does good out of love and delight for the good itself that one is truly free in this way genuine love dispels fear and the spirit sets us free through interior joy and delight before concluding this talk I would like to clarify one particular point I said that baptism is normally the moment of our spiritual rebirth however as Vatican II teaches the Holy Spirit is present and at work in the whole world both before the coming of Christ and even today outside the visible body or the visible confines of the Church


hence life in the Spirit in the real sense is possible also in other religious traditions of the world I shall come back to this topic tomorrow when I shall deal with the Spirit and the mission of the Church as for now I would like to present as an example what the ancient Taoist philosopher of China Zhuangfu describes to be the ideal spiritual person he says the perfect person is a spiritual being even if great oceans burned up he would not feel hot even if the great rivers are frozen he would not feel cold and even if terrific thunder were to break up mountains


and the wind were to upset the sea he would not be afraid being such he mounts upon the clouds and forces of heaven rides on the sun and the moon and roams beyond the four seas neither life nor death affects him how much less can such matters as benefit and harm from equality of things in a poetical language Zhuangfu describes the perfect human person as enjoying inner freedom and being in perfect harmony with the universe around him he calls such person a spiritual being can we say that here Zhuangfu presents us with an


enlightening picture of what we understand as spiritual person or life in the spirit certainly his description of inner freedom is very close to the freedom of one being led by the spirit