Holy spirit

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Josh Raymond recalled a story from before the pandemic, about three years ago, when he took his son Elijah to see the musical hamilton. As you might know if you’ve ever seen a live musical, many of the opening numbers are songs that introduce the main characters. One of those songs in hamilton features three sisters: Angelica, Eliza and Peggy. Angelica eventually becomes a prominent character that matches Hamilton throughout the play. Eliza marries Hamilton, so she obviously plays an important role.

But Peggy, the third sister, seems to be there only to complete the intro song. Audiences don’t learn much about her, and while she’s close to many of the main characters, you’d be forgiven for forgetting she was even there. John compared this mysterious and often forgotten third personage to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Too often we dwell on God the Father and God the Son but forget about the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? What role does he play?

Josh welcomed Father Joseph Ilo on inner life to discuss devotion to the Holy Spirit, why the Holy Spirit is important to our spiritual lives, and who the Holy Spirit should be for us.

Father Joseph began by focusing on a word Josh used to describe the Holy Spirit: “nebulous.” It comes from Latin nebula meaning cloud or mist. Literally and metaphorically, we can see clouds in our lives all the time and yet we choose to ignore them. But in the scriptures we see God’s chosen figures repeatedly recognize these “clouds”: the cloud that eclipsed Moses on Mount Sinai, the cloud that led the Israelites out of Egypt, the cloud that came to Our Lady at the Annunciation, the voice of the clouds at Baptism in the Jordan.

Clouds in our lives, although not so obvious, come in many forms. They can be bright and beautiful, signs of potentially good and hopeful news. They can be dark and ominous, indicative of skepticism and fear in our lives. But one thing remains constant in any given cloud: God the Holy Spirit will work through each of them.

The Holy Spirit has many titles, but two of the most popular are the Giver of Life and the Paraclete. He is called the Giver of Life because He inspires us. He gives us life and energy. We cannot see or feel the Spirit, but it animates us and gives us vitality. The Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete, which means advocate, because it is he whom Jesus sent to guide us after his ascension.

Satan is the prosecutor, and he accuses us of the sins of which we are guilty. He explains why he won our souls and we must pay for our sins. To be saved, Father Joseph says, we need the best defense attorney we have ever known. And that’s the Holy Spirit. “He will defend you. He will inspire you what to say at your trial, how to tell the truth… I often think of the Holy Spirit as my defense attorney who tells me what to say and what not to say, who gives me hope and consolation while I am accused by the Devil.

Father Joseph encouraged Josh’s listeners to learn the prayer of the Holy Spirit, especially in anticipation of the original novena: the nine days of prayer between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost. The Apostles and Mary remained hidden in this upper room, in ecstasy in prayer, awaiting the arrival of the one whom Jesus had promised them.

Josh asked Father Joseph how we should view and approach the Holy Spirit in our spiritual lives. It is very difficult for physical, material beings like us to wrap our minds around something so ethereal and mysterious. Often, without a way to concretely apprehend an idea, we abandon it. But in our search for growth with the Holy Spirit, what is the most effective way to think of Him?

Father Joseph said he liked to picture the Holy Spirit in several ways: as a fire, a dove or a cloud. Fire for him means the vitality he gives us as the Giver of Life. The dove represents a symbol of peace and tranquility. The symbol of the cloud particularly sticks to Father Joseph, however, because of the symbolism of the mass. At the epiclesis, when he holds his hands over the offerings, he can see the cloud of incense smoke rising to the sky. And then, pouring down on him is the light. It’s a very literal representation, but it evokes a strong message.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send your Spirit and they will be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have instructed the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit, help us to savor what is right and always rejoice in your comfort. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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