By Kari Bergmann
With Pentecost Sunday here it seems appropriate to try to better understand the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Paraclete. The Holy Spirt has always been for me a source of mystery and at times confusion. In some ways it’s easier to think about and pray to God the Father and God the Son because Christ himself taught us how to do so. He gave us the ‘Our Father’ and told us that the only way to the Father is through him (John 14:6). The person of Christ and his teachings offer some insight into the first two persons of the Holy Trinity, even though the Trinity will always remain a great mystery to us in this life. The person of Christ took on a solid, physical form. He interacted with world as a human person (fully human/fully divine) and had we lived during those times we could have seen him, spoken too him, even reached out to touch the hem of his garment. In contrast, throughout Scripture the Holy Spirit comes in a multitude of ways and takes on various forms: fire, wind, a dove, water, cloud and light, etc. How can we understand and interact with the Holy Spirit as not just a force but as a distinct person of the Trinity?
The Catechism explains that “to believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son: with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.” In the New Testament we see the Spirit revealed in a new and special way. Christ promises us after his ascension, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” In some ways the Holy Spirit is both gift and giver. The Holy Spirit is promised to us and through the Holy Spirit we can have faith, for “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” We can only have faith, knowledge in Christ, if the Spirit has first awakened faith in us.
The Holy Spirit is with us and gives us faith through the sacraments, firstly in Baptism, the first sacrament of faith. Through Baptism, and the faith it instils, we are able to learn to develop a deep a personal relationship with Christ for “it is impossible to see God’s Son without the Spirit, and no one can approach the Father without the Son.” Through the other sacraments the Holy Spirit puts us into Communion with Christ. The Holy Spirit also inspired the Scriptures, guides Tradition and the Magisterium, speaks through the prophets, intercedes in prayer, and works through the life of the Church and her saints.
I think that it is important that we learn to speak to and pray to the Holy Spirit because he was given to us to be our helper and our advocate and we must first have the gift of the Spirit before we can approach Christ. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help guide us and give us wisdom, to help us to love Christ and to know his heart. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and allowed the disciples to speak in foreign tongues, we too should turn to the Spirit when we don’t have the words to say. He gave martyrs the strength to endure suffering and death out love for Christ and we too can ask for help when we’re feeling tempted to sin. We can ask the Spirit to help us grow in his Gifts. Christ promised that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to us when we ask: “if you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). So, we must not forget this immense gift, this essential person. The Catholic Church has a number of beautiful prayers and devotions to the Holy Spirit and I suggest that you try to incorporate them into your daily prayers.