Most Christians hold to the idea of a trinitarian God, a God made up of three distinct persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is common for Christians to know a lot about the Father and the Son, but the Holy Spirit is also very important in the life of the Church.
C.S. Lewis writes something really great about this third person of the trinity in his book ‘Mere Christianity’. He writes that, ‘'God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons’ and that Christians, ‘believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else.’ This something else is the Holy Spirit, the manifestation of the love between the Father and the Son being so strong that it is its own person. Lewis uses the analogy of strong friendship groups who, ‘talk about its ‘spirit’ because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving ... It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence.'
But how do we see this Spirit, how do we detect him? Lewis too struggled with this and says that it is difficult to see the spirit sometimes because, ‘If you think of the Father as something ‘out there’, in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side … then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you.’
This idea of the Holy Spirit dwelling in Jesus’s Church goes back again to his own teaching. As he leaves his disciples, he tells them:
‘The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again, it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ (Romans 8:15). ‘And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.’ (Romans 8:17).
Here, Jesus is actually telling the early Church that it is better for him to leave them so that the Holy Spirit can lead them! Jesus clearly thought very highly of the Spirit, and entrusts the Church to it. The Catechism says that ‘when the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church.’ (CCC: 767). This is what we see gives the Early Church the confidence to stand up to the oppression of the Roman Empire, it starts with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Clearly, the Spirit is a strong force.
So today, the Church is still experiencing the Holy Spirit within it, in many ways and it is this Spirit that we still receive in baptism. It is through this baptism that we become part of the Church and the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us that ‘no one can enter into the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit’ (John 3:5). This is what the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the Church, even today. It is through him, the manifestation of the love of Father and Son, that we are adopted into this familial relationship, and it is this love that still sustains the Church.
‘Still, I must tell you the truth;
it is for your own good
that I am going
because unless I go,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I do go,
I will send him to you.’
'The power that can make a way out of no way.'
Dr Martin Luther King Jr