Holy spirit

Lent invites us to the Holy Spirit, master of the interior life

As we continue our journey through Lent, our task is to keep our attention on the paschal mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ, namely his passion, death and resurrection. We are called to direct all that we do towards this singular and moving mystery. As we try to understand this mystery, we are guided by the Holy Spirit and we receive the help of grace.

In the paschal mystery, Jesus Christ reconciled humanity with the Father. In this saving action, he opened to us the life of grace.

Grace is the unmerited kindness of God. She saves us from sin, regenerates us and makes us one of her children. Grace is the very life of God dwelling in us. It is the source and nourishment of our supernatural life. It is the power of God within us that moves us to seek holiness by doing good and avoiding evil.

In the life of the Church, the reality of grace is understood in a complex theological web of terms and explanations. Ascetic theology rightly divides grace into different types, so that we can understand what God is specifically doing in us and how we are called to respond to it. Rather than confusing, the theological explanation of grace is designed to give us both clarity and precision in thought and action.

What then is the theological explanation of grace? Where does it start?

The teaching on grace begins with the Holy Spirit, since as Saint Paul teaches us: “no one understands what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God”. It is the Holy Spirit — the Third Person of the Holy Trinity and the Love between the Father and the Son — who shows us the face of the Father and who does the saving work of our Redeemer.

The Holy Spirit takes the merits of the paschal mystery of Our Lord and applies them to our hearts and to the whole body and work of the Church throughout time. He is the one who dwells in us. He is the source of all grace. The supernatural life cannot be understood or lived without his presence and help.

The Holy Spirit is the master of the inner life. By giving birth to the “inner man”, justification entails the sanctification of the whole being of the person.

Surely many people today could echo the early Christians in Ephesus, who said, “We haven’t even heard of there being a Holy Spirit.

This is true in part because the Holy Spirit does not speak for himself, as the Lord Jesus taught us: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will shew you things to come. The lack of knowledge of the Holy Spirit is also true, however, due to a widespread neglect of our supernatural lives and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in popular preaching and teaching today.

It is the Holy Spirit who moves in the heart of every man and woman, calling them into fellowship with the one true God. He calls us all to divine sonship. In his work of sanctification, the Holy Spirit moves where his divine action is needed. There is no control or calculation of his activity among us.

The Lord Jesus refers to this movement of the Holy Spirit when he told us: “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. It is the same with all who are born of the Spirit. As children of God, we can therefore trust that the Holy Spirit will always be present when he is sought, and that grace will come to us whenever we need it.

As the Lord Jesus taught us: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I have told you.

As we go through Lent and work to keep our attention and penitential practices focused on the paschal mystery, we should also try to better understand the Holy Spirit and the works of grace in our lives.

Portions of today’s column are from my new book, Glory Unto Glory: An Introduction to Ascetic Theology. Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby