Three Insights about the Holy Spirit
Saint Augustine’s experience of the love of God present in the Church led him to three particular insights about the Holy Spirit as the bond of unity within the Blessed Trinity; unity as communion, unity as abiding love, and unity as giving and gift. These three insights help explain how the Spirit works.
In a world where both individuals and communities often suffer from an absence of unity or cohesion, these insights help us remain attuned to the Spirit and to extend and clarify the scope of our witness. Augustine noted that the two words “Holy” and “Spirit” refer to what is divine about God; in other words, what is shared by the Father and the Son—their communion. So, if the distinguishing characteristic of the Holy Spirit is to be what is shared by the Father and the Son, Augustine concluded that the Spirit’s particular quality is unity. It is a unity of lived communion: a unity of persons in a relationship of constant giving, the Father and the Son giving themselves to each other…True unity could never be founded upon relationships which deny the equal dignity of other persons. Nor is unity simply the sum total of the groups through which we sometimes attempt to “define” ourselves. In fact, only in the life of communion is unity sustained and human identity fulfilled: we recognize the common need for God, we respond to the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit, and we give ourselves to one another in service.
Augustine’s second insight [is that of] the Holy Spirit as abiding love. Reflecting on the lasting nature of love—“whoever abides in love remains in God and God in him”—he wondered: is it love or the Holy Spirit which grants the abiding? This is the conclusion he reaches: “The Holy Spirit makes us remain in God and God in us; yet it is love that effects this. The Spirit therefore is God as love!”…God shares himself as love in the Holy Spirit…Love is the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit! Ideas or voices which lack love—even if they seem sophisticated or knowledgeable—cannot be “of the Spirit.” Furthermore, love has a particular trait: far from being indulgent or fickle, it has a task or purpose to fulfill: to abide. By its nature love is enduring. Again we catch a further glimpse of how much the Holy Spirit offers our world: love which dispels uncertainty; love which overcomes the fear of betrayal; love which carries eternity within; the true love which draws us into a unity that abides!
The third insight: the Holy Spirit as gift. The Spirit is “God’s gift” (John 4:10) the internal spring (cf John 4:14), who truly satisfies our deepest thirst and leads us to the Father. From this observation Augustine concludes that God sharing himself with us as gift is the Holy Spirit…Again we catch a glimpse of the Trinity at work: the Holy Spirit is God eternally giving himself; like a never-ending spring he pours forth nothing less than himself…We begin to understand why the quest for novelty leaves us unsatisfied and wanting. Are we not looking for an eternal gift? The spring that will never run dry?…
Inspired by the insights of Saint Augustine: let unifying love be your measure; abiding love your challenge; self-giving love your mission!