As some of you may know, I grew up Pentecostal. In regards to the Holy Spirit, I’ve noticed that there are two extremes among many Christians. The first how Luther described the Moravians: “They’ve swallowed the dove, feathers and all.” These are those obsessed with the Holy Spirit, or at least certain miraculous gifts of the Spirit.
Then there is the other extreme. These are the folks like the converts to Christ in Acts who were disciples of John, were baptized by John–but who did not receive water baptism in Christ and who said, “we did not even know there was a Holy Spirit.” This, I think, is where the majority of Christians are.
What I believe is needed is a renewal in the Holy Spirit. Rather than ‘swallowing the dove,’ we have ‘caged’ the dove. Either we limit (yes limit) him to certain gifts, music or dramatics, or we pretend that the Christian life has no mystical or experiential dimension at all.
The failure of ‘charismatic renewal,’ in my opinion, was not the desire to go deeper in the Holy Spirit, it was that we did not go deep enough. When the penultimate Christian experience is speaking in tongues (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and once to do you’ve ‘arrived,’ then the riches of Christian spirituality get stuck somewhere in the 1970s, or whenever one experienced the gift for the first time.
There are many ways that the Holy Spirit has come with ‘fire’ over the centuries. Let’s not ‘cage’ the dove by limiting him to a certain era or gift. I believe there is much to be discovered for those who wish to be empowered for ministry and mission in this world. There is much to be discovered for those who wish to grow in holiness. What we need to do is ‘set the dove free’ so that we can accomplish the work of Christ’s Kingdom.
In the words of the medieval hymn:
Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.
9 thoughts on “The Paraclete”
Now we’re talking. I have some experience of the power of the Holy Spirit, not in glossolalia, but in following the leading of the Holy Spirit in my own ministry. It is a great burden to feel called to ministry and feel incompetent or impeded in it due to your limitations. It is blissful in the extreme to feel the leading of the Holy Spirit, the certainty of direction and next steps, the confidence in success when following His leading. It is a comfort.
I also know something about how this shows up in a church, since I’m in one which is experiencing His leading right now. It is enlivening our church and moving us forward by using us and inspiring us. It is real, it is present, it is tangible. The Holy Spirit seems to us to be helping and supporting us.
Recently I read about an “enlivening” at the chapel of Asbury College and seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. It started with a decision by the students to pray intensively. In the report I read, it is now common for students to spend over 40 hours in the chapel each week, where the tangible spiritual power enlivens all present. I want to research this more, and will, but I can understand it as an example of the type of enlivening I am seeing in our church.
I think you are right Neo. Are we following with enough courage and zeal? Do we need to raise the bar on our own weak efforts to comply with the spirit and see what happens?
In Acts 3, though Peter doesn’t speak of the Holy Spirit, he is emboldened with John to heal a man at the Beautiful Gate (!). The intensity of Peter and John’s interaction with the man at the gate is because they are about to heal someone without Jesus direction, presence or mentoring. They’re on their own, but they find the courage in the Holy Spirit. In Acts II, the Holy Spirit blew into their lives and the result was a great sermon from Peter and a huge “catch” of new Christians. Now Peter and John are showing in Acts III the presence and support and enlivening of the Holy Spirit in a new way.
Come Holy Spirit. Kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we will be created, in Christ, to act in His kingdom to His glory.
P.S. In case I lost you in the changing number forms in the above passage, it’s all about Acts 2 and 3.
Sorry. When I get excited, I stutter in Roman Numerals!
Many make the mistake of thinking that “the” evidence of the Holy Spirit is tongues…but is there a primary evidence? Is it different corporately vs. individually?
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Or as the Jesuit priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, put it: “The child is father to the man.”
Hopkins was no stranger to the Holy Spirit, was he.
In the last line of his poem “The Grandeur of God” he writes:
“…and the Holy Ghost, over the bent world broods, with warm breast and … Ah, bright wings!”
Very well said, Fr. Neo, especially the part about being obsessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, thinking we’ve arrived and getting stuck in the 1970’s. Very well said.
“Hopkins was no stranger to the Holy Spirit, was he.”
I suppose so. He sure wrote beautifully at any rate. I’ll say that much.
Holy Ghost. I prefer the noun Ghost over Spirit. I think it represents His nature more accurately.
Count me in with Luther.
Why Ghost and not Spirit?
Fr. Neo, Great thoughts. There is so much more than what we think and know in this. We certainly need more of the work of the Holy Spirit. COME HOLY SPIRIT! Amen.