THE WORK OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE CHURCH AND IN OUR SOULS
BY THE REV. ARTHUR DEVINE, C.P.
But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring all things to your mind whatsoever I shall have said to you.–JOHN xiv. 26.
MEANING OF THE FEAST OF PENTECOST
On this day, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, so called because it is the fiftieth day after the Resurrection or Paschal Feast. The Feast reminds us of the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost, to whom our thoughts and our devotions should be in a special manner directed. He is the Paraclete; that is, the Advocate or Comforter whom the Father sent and who came to teach us all truth and to sanctify us. He was promised not only to the Apostles but to their successors, and when He came it was that He might “abide with us forever.”
The remarkable event which we today commemorate is narrated in chapter ii. of the Acts of the Apostles as follows: “When the days of Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak” (Acts ii. 1-4).
I shall give only a short explanation of the mystery which is here presented to us. The Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles, and upon those who were with them at the time, in the form of tongues of fire. Before that time, the Holy Ghost had appeared at the baptism of Christ in the form of a dove, the emblem of purity. He had also appeared at the Transfiguration in the form of a bright cloud which was emblematic of the Divine Majesty. Now He appears in the form of tongues of fire. Fire is the symbol of the Divinity, and God had already by this sign manifested His glory according to the words of Exodus, “And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like a burning fire upon the top of the mount, in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Ex. xxiv. 17). And the ancient lawgiver of the Jews reminded them on a solemn occasion that the Lord their God was a consuming fire (Deut. iv. 24). Fire may be said to signify in a special manner the Holy Ghost and His work in our souls. He is Himself the Love of the Father and the Son, and to Him is attributed the grace which sanctifies us and the charity which should incline our hearts toward God. It was in this sense, our Saviour spoke when He said, “I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I but that it be kindled” (St. Luke xii. 49). And it was this that St. Paul signified when he said, “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rom. v. 5).
Having considered the mystery which we this day commemorate, let us now proceed to reflect upon the work of the Holy Ghost. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and He came into the world to abide with us forever. The purpose of His coming and of His abiding with us is manifested (1) in the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church, and (2) in the work of the Holy Ghost in the souls of the just.
THE WORK OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE CHURCH
Though all external works of God are common to the three Divine Persons, yet certain works are attributed in a special sense to each of these Divine Persons; thus: creation is attributed to the Father, redemption to the Son, and sanctification to the Holy Ghost. In this sense the Holy Ghost is said to give to the Church perfection, sanctity, and fortitude. He enlightens and guides the Church in her teaching and preserves her from error. “The Paraclete,” says our Saviour, “the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” The Church was founded indeed by Christ, but it may be said to have been vivified and perfected by the Holy Ghost. As in the first creation, after the production of the universe, we are told that the Spirit of God moved over the waters to bring things to their perfection, so the Holy Spirit of God came upon the infant and newly-formed Church to vivify it, to preserve it, and to perfect it. Christ, speaking to His Apostles, had said, “It is expedient to you that I go; for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment” (St. John xvi. 7, 8).
It is in the teaching of all truth and in its preservation against error that we may witness the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church. The Holy Ghost’s action in the Church is effected in a threefold manner, namely, (1) by revelation, (2) by inspiration, and (3) by assistance.
THE HOLY GHOST’S ACTION BY REVELATION
I take revelation here in its strict sense; that is, as the manifestation of an unknown truth, or the clearer manifestation of a truth already known. According to this meaning of the word, revelation is confined to the prophecies and mysteries of religion. The revelation of all these truths of Christianity that make known to us the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Trinity is attributed to the Holy Ghost. This Holy Spirit was the Teacher of the Prophets and Apostles. When, under the old dispensation, the just prayed and sighed for the day of redemption and for the coming of Him who was called the Expected of nations, it was the Holy Ghost who revealed the exact time of His coming to a Daniel, a Jacob, a Malachy, and an Isaias. He made known to the Prophets not only the time of the coming of the Messiah, but also the family in which He was to be born, the circumstances of His birth, and all the minute details of His life, His sufferings, and His death. When at length the Messiah came on earth and appeared amongst men, the Holy Ghost bore testimony to Him, and when Christ ascended into heaven, the Holy Ghost, through the Apostles, promulgated the New Law of the Gospel and all the great truths of Christianity, especially the mysteries of faith, of grace, and of the Sacraments of the New Law.
THE HOLY GHOST’S WORK IN THE CHURCH BY INSPIRATION
By inspiration, we mean that action of God relative to the sacred writer, which moved him to write, and continued to move and direct him in the act of writing so that the writing can be called the Word of God. When the Evangelists and other inspired writers took pen in hand, to write down those things which they had already taught by their preaching, the Holy Ghost watched over them so that they might write nothing but the true Word of God. He directed them in writing, and it was through this direction of the Holy Ghost that they expressed in writing certain things and omitted others. Besides being present to the sacred writers, we have also to bear in mind that the Holy Ghost was likewise present by inspiration to the Apostles in the transmission of truths by their preaching and teaching. He inspired them as to what they should say and hand down to the Church as Divine tradition; and He protected them from all error in delivering the full deposit of Christian doctrine to the Church. It is therefore by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost that we know of our Lord’s ascension into heaven, that He has left us seven sacraments as means of grace–the truths of faith in connection with these sacraments, especially all those marvelous truths in connection with the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrament of the Mass–the various dogmas in regard to the eternal truths, death, judgment, hell, and heaven. It is through this same inspiration of the Holy Ghost that we know the consoling doctrines that we have guardian angels to protect us, and that the saints in heaven, and especially the Blessed Mother of God, make intercession for us before the throne of God. It is by reflecting upon this doctrine that we may be able to understand and to estimate the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church from the beginning and in the days of the Apostles and of the first Christians.
THE ASSISTANCE OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE CHURCH
After the days of the Apostles and the death of St. John the Evangelist, revelations and inspirations ceased so far as the deposit of faith is concerned. No new dogma was to be revealed to the universal Church for the faith of Christians, as no new dogma would be needed. Christ, having founded His Church, perfected it through the operation of the Holy Ghost. The revelations and inspirations necessary for the perfection of His Church were, therefore, given to those men whom Christ placed as the pillars of His Church and to some few privileged disciples who lived and taught with them. Although revelations and inspiration ceased at the death of the last of these–St. John–the Holy Ghost did not cease His work in the Church. He was to abide with the Church always and to continue His work in her until the end of time. He continues to live and work in her by His special assistance. By this assistance, He enables the teaching Church to know and to define all truths that have been revealed or inspired, and protect her from error in her definitions as to faith and morals. It was by this assistance that the Holy Ghost guided and protected the Church when in the early age of Christianity she had to condemn the heresies of the Gnostics the Arians, the Eutychians, and the Nestorians, and when she had to define great truths in connection with the mystery of the Incarnation; as for example, that Christ is truly God, that in Him there is only one Person and two natures, and that the Blessed Virgin is truly the Mother of God. It was by virtue of this same assistance that in subsequent ages the Church condemned the errors of the Pelagians, of John Huss, of Wycliffe and of the Albigensians; and that in later times she condemned the errors of Luther and Calvin, and of all the so-called reformers. Against all these false and pernicious heresies, the Church had to teach and direct the faithful by the definitions of her councils and the decrees of her sovereign Pontiffs as to the true doctrine of Christ which was revealed and inspired by the Holy Ghost in the first constitution of the Christian religion, and this she did through the assistance of the same Holy Spirit who abides with her always. It was through this Divine assistance that the Council of Trent, like all the other Ecumenical councils, formed and issued its decrees; and it was by virtue of it that the Vatican Council defined the doctrine of the Papal Infallibility, which contains also the doctrine of the Divine assistance of which I am speaking. Its definition is “that it is a revealed dogma that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when performing the function of pastor and teacher of all Christians by virtue of his supreme and apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine of faith and morals to be held by the universal Church, has, through that Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, that infallibility with which our Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed, in defining a doctrine of faith and morals; and, therefore, that the definitions of the same Roman Pontiffs of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, are irreformable.” It is therefore an article or dogma of our faith that the teaching Church, that is the body of Pastors with the Pope at their head and the Pope alone are by the special assistance of the Holy Ghost preserved free from error in defining doctrines of faith and morals, and that their definitions are infallible. This is our faith. This is what we believe and teach. This is what we openly and fearlessly profess. There is no danger of error or deception. It is the Spirit of Truth that has spoken. He is the God of truth, the Inspirer of Prophets and Apostles, the Advocate, Guide, and Comforter of the Church and of the Pope, the head of the Church.
THE WORK OF THE HOLY GHOST IN OUR SOULS
Let us turn for a moment from the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church to consider His work and His presence in our own souls. In the first place, let me remind you that works of Sanctification are specially attributed to the Holy Ghost. Although these works come forth from the three Divine Persons, they have a special likeness to the personal character of the Holy Ghost, and they are therefore attributed to Him in order to manifest that personal character. Of this, we are reminded by the words of St. Paul, “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rom. v. 5). “But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience,” etc. (Gal. v. 22). “But all these things (charismata or spiritual gifts) one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will” (I Cor. xii. 11). “In whom also believing you were signed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. i. 13). The Catechism of the Council of Trent gives a clear exposition of this doctrine. “There are certain admirable effects and certain most ample gifts of the Holy Ghost which are said to originate and emanate from Him as from a perennial fountain of goodness; for, although the extrinsic works of the Most Holy Trinity are common to the three Persons, yet many of them are attributed especially to the Holy Ghost to give us to understand that they proceed from the boundless love of God toward us. For as the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Divine will inflamed as it were with love, we can comprehend that these effects, which are referred particularly to Him, arise from the extreme love of God toward us” (Part I. ch. ix., quest. 7).
Secondly, we have to consider the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the souls of the just. This reminds us of the invisible mission of this Divine Person. On the day of Pentecost His mission was visible; that is, He was sent to and came down upon the Apostles in a visible manner. But He is sent and comes to the souls of the just continually in an invisible manner and dwells in all souls which are justified and sanctified by His grace. By this invisible mission the Holy Ghost is given in such a manner that He is said to dwell in us and to make us His temples. “Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Cor. iii. 16). “Or know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (I Cor. vi. 19). “For you are the temple of the living God, as God saith: I will dwell in them, and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. vi. 16). The Holy Ghost dwelling in us, vivifies us, impels us to good, excites us to filial confidence, gives testimony that we are the children of God, helps our weakness and asketh for us “with unspeakable groanings” and “according to God,” for “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the spirit desireth.” By all these expressions, St. Paul would have us understand that he does not mean any created or accidental gift, but the very Person of the Holy Ghost, who comes to us and dwells in us not alone by Himself, but together with the Father and the Son; although the indwelling and the sanctifying work which is effected is rightly attributed and appropriated to the Holy Ghost.
Thirdly, let us consider that at three particular times the Holy Ghost is given to the soul in a very special manner, and His corning each time is marked by an indelible character; that is, when the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders are administered. In Baptism, as you know, He is given to make us children of God and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. In Holy Orders He is given to priests to sanctify them for the duties of their office, and to confer upon them the power of consecrating and of binding and loosing in the tribunal of penance. In Confirmation we receive the Holy Ghost in order to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ. The graces of these three Sacraments and sacramental grace in general are privileges of the children of God under the New Law, and show the special excellence of the manner in which we are now endowed with the Holy Spirit in contrast to those who lived under the Old Law and to those who are outside the Catholic Church and deprived of her Sacraments. “We who are born again,” says Cardinal Manning, “and are members of the mystical Body of Christ, are under a dispensation of the Holy Ghost, so full and of such manifold grace that there is no state of man which is not embraced by it, and in which there is not given an abundance of grace exceeding all measure that we can conceive, and meted out according to the necessities of each individual soul.” Our Lord intended this when He said, “I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (St. John x. 10). The same author reminds us that “the state of grace in which we are by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in our hearts and by the exuberant assistance of grace in every state of the Christian life, lifts and elevates us to a supernatural order, higher than all the world has ever known from the beginning. This elevation of man was specially reserved to these last times, that is, until the Incarnation of the Son of God. The state of a Christian child transcends in supernatural grace and dignity all that God has ever before bestowed upon His creatures” (Internal Mission of the Holy Ghost, pp. 18-20).
CONCLUSION–DEVOTION TO THE HOLY GHOST
Enough, I hope, has been said to show us the claims which the Holy Ghost has to our service, to our love, and to our special devotion. We have considered His work in the Church and in our souls and all that He has done and continues to do for our salvation. Before concluding, let me exhort you in the words of St. Paul, addressed to the people of Thessalonica, “Extinguish not the spirit” (I Thess. v. 19). A pious writer (Senescalchi), commenting on this sentence, tells us that in three ways a flame or light can be extinguished. I. By the wind blowing it out. 2. By smothering or covering it. 3. By withdrawing the supply of oil or other material. In a similar manner, the fire of Divine love may be extinguished in the heart. First, by keeping the senses open to every impulse or wind of passion, or to the temptations of the devil. Second, by suffocating or smothering it under human interests and worldly affairs. And, third, by withdrawing the supply of spiritual and heavenly nourishment, namely, the memory of the Divine favors and the motives of the love of God and the means of grace. In order, therefore, not to extinguish the Spirit, it is necessary to guard our souls against temptations and incitements to passion, by the mortification of our senses; it is necessary to avoid worldliness and too great solicitude for temporal affairs, and it is also necessary to keep up the supply of spiritual aids by the reception of the Sacraments, by meditating on heavenly truths and the maxims of eternity. In this way, our souls will continue always enlightened by the light of faith and inflamed by Divine charity as the consecrated temples of the Holy Ghost.
1. Ps. 1. 12, 13. 2. Wis. ix. 17. 3. Eccles. i. 9. 4. Matt. xxviii. 19.
5. Matt. i. 20; Luke i. 35. 5. John i. 33.
7. Acts v. 3, 4. 8. I Cor. xii. 6, II. 9. Isaias vi. 8-10. 10. Acts xxviii. 25
11. I Cor. i. 13. 12. I John v. 7.
13. I Cor. vi. 19. 14. 2 Cor. iii. 6; I Cor. ii. 10.
15. 2 Petr. i. 21 16. Wis. i. 7. 17. Matt. xxviii. 19.
18. 2Cor.xiii. 13. 19. Hel. i. 14. 20. John xvi. 14. 21. John xiv. 26.
22. John xv. 26. 23. Rom. viii. 9. 24. Gal. iv. 6. 25. Matt. x. 20.
26. John xv. 26. 27. John xiv. 26.
28. I Cor. iv. 7. 29. Ezech. xxxvii. 6. 30. Isaias xi. 3.
31. Aug. lib. 15, de Trinit. cap. xviii. 19. 32. Eph. i. 13.
33. I John iii. 1; 2 Peter i, 4. 34. Council of Trent, Sess. 6,