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The Holy Spirit: our Inner Guide and Spiritual Companion

WORD FROM THE FOUNDER

Deacon Georges Bonneval


“The Holy Spirit, very gentle guest of our souls”


This beautiful invocation is taken from the “Sequence for the Solemnity of Pentecost”, a liturgical hymn that invokes the Holy Spirit, calling on Him to “visit thou these hearts of thine, and our inmost being fill”. He is our True and First Spiritual Companion! It is to Him, above all, that our soul is entrusted. But He is so discreet that we risk trivializing His Presence! We see how, under His guidance, every spiritual companion must be discreet, letting Him pass before them at each moment of accompanying and directing souls.


“But the Lord was not in the fire; and after

the fire there was a sound of sheer silence.”

(1 Kings 19: 12)


The Holy Spirit: Rua’h in Hebrew, Pneuma in Greek, Spiritus in Latin. He is the Breath, the Wind which “blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it” (Jn 3: 8). He carries the Word and, in it, the world, the visible and the invisible.


As the orthodox theologian Olivier Clément (1921-2009) writes: “The winged God, so represented through symbols of movement and flight: the wind, a bird, the living water, yet not earth but rather He who makes the earth into a sacrament.”


Many of our contemporaries are tempted to look outside themselves for what they must seek within. But this interior seeking is often complicated! There are many things with which we can confuse this ‘interior’. It is not a question of seeking the ‘psychological self ’, which is already demanding so much of our attention and is inclined to a carnal and idolatrous life.


This ‘inner self ’ is incompatible with the Christian faith because it is closed in on and centered on ourself and on our passionate tendencies. It is, therefore, a question of pondering the interior of the soul in its most noble, spiritual and deepest part: the true center of our soul where God resides, the ‘noble point of our soul.’


“The bottom of our existence is no longer death,

but the Spirit of ‘interior Pentecost’.” 1


Discover the One who accompanies you: the hidden Spirit, the secret God in your soul


St. Thomas specifies that there are two “dwellings of God” in us:

One, in that He is Creator. God intimately lives in each of His creatures. This dwelling is

not necessarily felt but is very real and metaphysical.

The other dwelling of God, by His grace, is proper to both man and angels: It is a relationship of reciprocal charity. It is this second relationship that theologians and mystics call the “indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in our souls.”


St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, a French Carmelite who lived from 1880-1906, contemplated this mystery of the Presence of the Holy Trinity in us in a particular way. It is from her name “Elizabeth,” which in Hebrew means “House of God,” that she discovered what would become the mystery and center of her spirituality. Shortly before her death, she writes:


“I confide to you a secret which has made my life on

earth an anticipated Heaven: the belief that a Being

Whose name is Love is dwelling within us at every

moment of the day and night, and that He asks us to

live in His company.”


The Holy Spirit is indeed present and active in all that is alive, from each biological cell of the living, to the mystical union of God and man which directs us towards Agape Love.


Each morning at the beginning of the day, as at various times throughout the day and before any work or decisions, we should invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit, whom we received at our baptism. Our brothers of the Eastern Church call upon Him with the following prayer – which originated in the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 – and thus proclaim, together with the Creed born of this Council, how the Spirit is the “Giver of Life”:


“O Heavenly King, the Comforter,

The Spirit of Truth,

Who art in all places

And fillest all things,

Treasury of blessings and Giver of life:

Come and dwell in us,

Cleanse us from every stain,

And save our souls, You who are goodness.”


“You who are goodness”... In the Book of Genesis, at the end of each symbolic day of the process of creation, it is written: “And God saw that it was good”. In Hebrew, the word used here for 'good' ('tob') means both 'beautiful' and 'good'. The Greek version of the Septuagint uses only the term 'kalon' which translates into the Hebrew tob, meaning beautiful', instead of using the Greek word 'agathon', which means 'good'.


The person of the Holy Spirit is goodness, for He is the mutual love of the Father and the Son. This same Spirit of goodness and charity plays a fundamental role in our lives, accompanied by divine grace. It is Christ Himself who promised to send us the Holy Spirit. It is therefore undeniable in the Christian faith that both the Son and the Holy Spirit are sent. They are the two Divine Persons who are sent into the world.


There is no work of the Holy Spirit that is separate from Christ and the Church. For even when the Holy Spirit is at work outside of the Catholic Church, the Spirit always acts through Christ, and brings people to a relationship with Christ. There is no salvation outside of Christ: Christ is the only Savior (Cf. Acts 4: 12). All who are saved are saved by virtue of Christ and through Him. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus and can never be separated from Him. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are always at work together.


“When the Holy Spirit filled the Lord’s disciples on

the day of Pentecost, this was not the first exercise

of his role but an extension of his bounty, because

the patriarchs, prophets, priests, and all the holy

people of the previous ages were nourished by the

same sanctifying Spirit… although the measure of

the gifts was not the same.” 2


Never again say you are alone, because the Spirit of the Lord is with you!


During one of his catechesis teachings, Benedict XVI said:


“Those who speak to God are not alone. We are

within the great prayer of the Church, we are part

of a great symphony that the Christian community

in all the parts of the earth and in all epochs, raises

to God. Naturally, the musicians and instruments

differ — and this is an element of enrichment —

but the melody of praise is one and in harmony.

Every time, then, that we shout or say: ‘Abba!

Father!’ it is the Church, the whole communion of

people in prayer that supports our invocation and

our invocation is an invocation of the Church.” 3


Pope Francis, speaking of young people, declared:


“We need only to accompany and encourage them,

trusting a little more in the genius of the Holy Spirit,

who acts as he wills.” 4


It is the Holy Spirit in us who invites us to prayer


“When Moses entered the tent, the pillar

of cloud would descend and stand at the

entrance of the tent, and the Lord would

speak with Moses. When all the people saw

the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance

of the tent, all the people would rise and bow

down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent.

Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to

face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Ex 33: 9-11)


The Holy Spirit is Divine Love. He is the true ‘Inner Guide’; the ‘Very Gentle Guest of our Souls’. He comes from the Heart of Christ. The Apostle Paul sees Him as the ‘spiritual Rock’ that accompanied the Israelites and the people of God in the wilderness (Cf. 1 Cor 10: 4). Anyone who drinks His living water quenches their thirst along the way, “he will drink from the stream by the path; therefore, he will lift up his head” (Ps 110: 7). The Apostle also states that the Holy Spirit acts in various ways in our individual lives and in the life of the Church.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God

who activates all of them in everyone.” (1 Cor 12: 4-6)


Benedict XVI specifies that:


“Since he came into existence, man has always been

in search of God and endeavours to speak with God

because God has engraved himself in our hearts.

The first initiative therefore comes from God and

with Baptism, once again God acts in us, the

Holy Spirit acts in us; he is the prime initiator

of prayer so that we may really converse with

God and say ‘Abba’ to God. Hence his presence

opens our prayers and our lives, it opens onto the

horizons of the Trinity and of the Church.” 5


Being accompanied by the Spirit of Christ is not only the consequence of an individual act or the fruit of a poor isolated prayer. It becomes the fruit of the prayer of the whole Church. As we pray, our hearts open; we enter into communion not only with God, but also with all the children of God, because in Him we are one.


When we address ourselves to the Father in intimacy, silence and recollection, we are never alone; the Holy Spirit comes to inspire our prayer, and it is He who even gives us the desire to pray. Immediately, we are in communion with our brothers and sisters of the faith, around the whole world and at all times:


“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness;

for we do not know how to pray as we ought,

but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too

deep for words. And God, who searches the heart,

knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the

Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will

of God. We know that all things work together for

good for those who love God, who are called

according to his purpose.” (Rom 8: 26-28)


In the first century, St. Ignatius of Antioch describes the following experience: “I hear a murmur of living water that whispers within me, ‘Come to the Father’.”


The heart, this most profound and essential center of a person in their entirety (intelligence, memory, passion, desire...) is called to be united to God, to grow in Him. This heart must be purified not only of ‘bad thoughts’, but also in its conscience, until it becomes pure and welcoming, just as an offered chalice. May our hearts represent this humble chalice, where the called-upon fire of the Spirit may descend and recreate us.


The Holy Spirit, a guide


During their long walk in the desert, the people of Israel were led by God's Presence, symbolized by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night:


“The Lord went in front of them in a pillar

of cloud by day, to lead them along the way,

and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them

light, so that they might travel by day and by

night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor

the pillar of fire by night left its place in front

of the people.” (Ex 13: 21-22)

“When Moses entered the tent, the pillar

of cloud would descend and stand at the

entrance of the tent, and the Lord would

speak with Moses. When all the people saw

the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance

of the tent, all the people would rise and

bow down, all of them, at the entrance of

their tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to

Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”

(Ex 33: 9-11)


This image, like other biblical images of the Holy Spirit, is meaningful to us who have experienced Baptism in the Spirit. For it is not only a matter of experiencing His presence in a prayer group or in the chapel, but of allowing ourselves to be accompanied by His Presence and His inspirations in our day to day and missionary life. May we do this not only in a personal way, but also with others and with our community, in communion with the Church and with our Pastors.


“This was why the Lord had promised to send the

Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to

God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump

of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we

who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus

without the water that comes down from heaven.

And like parched ground, which yields no harvest

unless it receives moisture, we who were once like

a waterless tree could never have lived and borne

fruit without this abundant rainfall from above.

Through the baptism that liberates us from change

and decay we have become one in body; through the

Spirit we have become one in soul.” 6


The Holy Spirit becomes our guide, yes, from the moment that we seek to listen to Him in prayer and with docility, paying attention to the sometimes-surprising human encounters that His Providence places on our path.


We are often too natural and quick to trust in our own wisdom or in the opinions of those around us, forgetting to follow God’s Counsel. If we are not attentive, we can very easily take this ‘shortcut’ – which we sometimes wrongly call ‘common sense’ – to make major decisions.


We mistakenly think that our common good sense is enough, seeing it as the most practical means. Jesus tells us, “Watch and pray” (Mt 26: 41). Even in the Old Testament, God warns Israel through His prophets and reprimands them for not taking His Counsel.


“Although I told you, you would not listen.

You rebelled against the command of the

Lord and presumptuously went up into

the hill country. The Amorites who lived in

that hill country then came out against you

and chased you as bees do. They beat you...”

(Deut 1: 43-44)


“We did not listen to the voice of the Lord

our God in all the words of the prophets

whom he sent to us, but all of us followed

the intent of our own wicked hearts by

serving other gods and doing what is

evil in the sight of the Lord our God.”

(Bar 1: 21-22)


When the Spirit intervenes, it is often when our natural abilities are covered in obscurity. Sometimes it’s when we are exhausted of ourselves, like Nicodemus, who finds Jesus in the night (Cf. Jn 3: 1), or it’s when we are faced with the impossible. These moments are always the ‘Hour of the Spirit’, because He will be able to guide us if we ask Him to.


Each morning, with faith, let us trust the Holy Spirit to guide our day. Jesus promised that after His death and resurrection, He would send us the promised Spirit: “I will not leave you orphaned; I will send you the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Jn 14: 16-18)


He is recognized by His fruits

“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love,

joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,

faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

There is no law against such things.”

(Gal 5: 22-23)


“Making every effort to maintain the unity

of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4: 3)

“To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to

set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

(Rm 8: 6)


Peace and joy are certainly two of the trademarks of the Spirit of Jesus. People alternate between times of consolation and times of anguish in their spiritual lives. The Spirit of Comfort is particularly present in times of consolation. To put it simply, consolation is the experience of being strengthened and of receiving assurance from the Lord. This is not the self-assurance of the proud, but the confidence of the poor in heart who surrender themselves to the Lord.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity declared: “Ah, I wish I could tell all souls what sources of strength, peace and happiness they would find if they consented to live in this intimacy with the Holy Spirit!”


Let us entrust our souls, our lives and our missions to the conduct of this Inner Guide. If we are docile to Him, He will lead us to the shores of Blessed Eternity. Let us never forget that all of our dialogues with our spiritual companion must always start with the invocation of the Holy Spirit. He is our First Spiritual Companion!


“Then the angel showed me the river of the

water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from

the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev 22: 1)

_________________

1 Olivier Clement.

2 St. Leo the Great, Second Sermon of Pentecost, sermon 76.

3 Benedict XVI, General Audience in Rome, May 23rd, 2012.

4 Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, No. 230.

5 Benedict XVI, General Audience in Rome, May 23rd, 2012.

6 St. Irenaeus


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