THE SPIRIT AND THE CHURCH
It is not always so easy to come to terms with the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as Christians. Sometimes our understanding seems to be «lofty», to the point of being vague. In the following little meditation I will try to elucidate the role of the Spirit through three questions: Who is the Spirit? What does the Spirit do? What is the relation between the Spirit and the Church?
The Apostle Paul explains how the Spirit «searches everything, even the hidden depths of God’s purpose… only God’s Spirit knows all about God» (1 Cor. 2:10f). The Apostle Peter clarifies this further stating that «God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit» (Acts 10:38). However, in the history of salvation, the presence of the Holy Spirit is depicted, not in a personal way, but with the help of symbolic images. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit came down like a «dove» (Matt. 3:16, John 1:32). At Pentecost the Spirit was present like a «strong wind» and in form of «tongues of fire» (Acts 2:2f).
What does the Spirit for us?
These shifting metaphors help us to understand that the Spirit is not acting on its own. The Spirit remains somewhat «anonymous» as he comes to us pointing to Christ as the Saviour of all men. St. John quotes Jesus saying, «He does not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears» (John 16:13). In this way we can tell who the Spirit is by what he does. The Spirit is the light wherein Jesus is seen as the Son of the Father. The Spirit receives from the Father the authority and power to communicate the Son. Therefore, in the economy of salvation, the Spirit is at the same time God’s Spirit and the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9).
The Spirit and the Church
Serving our salvation, the Spirit comes to us as our Advocate proving the world wrong about sin and reminding us of what Christ taught the apostles (John 14:26, 16:7f). Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness interceding for us with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8:25). Moreover, the Spirit guides the Church in her ministry to the world (Acts 10:19f, 13:2).
As the Spirit works and prays for us, we are at the same time called to put ourselves in the service of the Spirit. St Paul instructs us bluntly: «Let the Spirit direct your lives» (Gal. 5:16). And elsewhere he admonishes us, that we, filled by the Spirit, are to sing to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and offer praise to the Lord (Eph.5:18f). If the «inexpressible groanings» of the Spirit are «too deep for words», he instead inspires us to speak for him. Thus, in her witness and praise the Church shall give voice to the Spirit.
Addressing the Lord
In the final words of the Bible the relationship between the Spirit and the Church is expressed as a dialogue, when the Spirit and the Church jointly address Christ in his glory: «The Spirit and the Bride say, Come» (Rev 22:17). At the end of our time the Spirit speaks words of comfort assuring us: «Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord» (Rev 14:13).