A reflection for Pentecost Sunday
Readings: Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13; John 15: 26-27; 16: 12-15
Our problem with the Holy Spirit is our inability to form a correct image. That is, if we can even speak of having problems with one of the three divine persons, who together form the Holy Trinity. Of course, this difficulty is not unique to the Holy Spirit; it’s just more pronounced. God the Father is not an old man with a long white beard, and God the Son, who once walked among us, was undoubtedly darker in features than many of us imagine.
In trying to imagine the Holy Spirit, we cannot even mistakenly conjure up someone who matches our own humanity. Perhaps that is the point. Perhaps by introducing us to the Paraclete, Jesus has deliberately blocked our attempts to create an image. Images, as the great philosopher once noted, can hold us captive. Perhaps, by speaking only of “the Holy Spirit”, the Good Lord intends to spare us one more misleading image of God.
In his latest novel Repayment (2020), Mary Gordon does not draw a picture of the Holy Spirit, but there is a passage that could indeed circumscribe the Spirit. While living for many years in Italy, Agnes Vaughan became a certified restorer of artistic masterpieces. When a whole country is one big treasure chest, it is an essential profession. Agnes prefers to work on medieval statues: “Objects to be repaired are almost always sacred… almost always the object of prayer… the feeling that they contained within them the urgencies and needs of people year after year, asking for help. .
These are the contours of the Holy Spirit, the place where the human – our cares and preoccupations – reach the divine. Better yet, it is the place in the divine where the human nestles. Of course, God cannot be divided, even conceptually. We can only sketch the outline of the Holy Spirit by looking at the edges of our own humanity.
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Reverend Terrance W. Klein is a priest in the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, and author of vanity faith.
With our thanks to America Magazine and Rev Terrance W. Klein, where this article originally appeared.