by Lucinda M. Vardey
What do we receive when we receive the Holy Spirit?
The Spirit is often described as the Paraclete, which in the original Greek and Latin means comforter, consoler and advocate. St. Paul enhances our understanding by listing the diverse gifts and fruits that are usually bestowed. Then there are the signs which reveal the actual presence of the Spirit through tongues of fire or a descending white dove.
For most of us, though, the Holy Spirit is a purely subjective experience, a personal encounter with the presence of God in mostly intangible ways. We become more deeply aware of this powerful presence through the help of prayer, and the revealing evidence of God’s direction and providence as we go about our lives.
In a Pentecost novena composed by Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) she begins with a question, “Who are you, sweet light, that fills me, and illumines the darkness of my heart?”
The indwelling spirit is to her “The space that embraces my being and buries it in yourself…. nearer to me than I to myself, and more interior than my most interior.” To Edith, the Holy Spirit is the “sweet manna of eternal love” in the heart of Jesus that continually overflows into hers and creates anew by penetrating everything.
Another of our saints, Hildegard of Bingen, also evoked Edith’s revelation of the permeation of the Holy Spirit as a grace of integrity.
May we receive, on this important Feast, an opening of our hearts to welcome more fully the infinite love of Jesus poured through us and then towards others, making one our church community within the “eternal jubilation” (Stein) of Jesus’ universal Church.