Tag Archives: Pentecost

What is the relation the Holy Spirit to the Church

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Post Pentecost some of our study and prayer ought to work on what it means to live by the Holy Spirit and how does the Church relate to the Spirit. We need to be serious about the Holy Spirit and not leave such questions to the dust bin or the happy-clappy Christians who claim to be slain in the Spirit alone. Sometimes I get the sense that we Catholics go to extremes when it comes to Holy Spirit: either we pay no attention to the Spirit or we ascribe to much to the Spirit. We even forget that the Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity: the Bible reveals the Holy Spirit to be God.


There is nothing to fear in coming to understand the what and who the Holy Spirit is for the Catholic.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church (797) teaches:


What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church. To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members. The Holy Spirit makes the Church the temple of the living God:


Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the “Gift of God” has been entrusted. In it is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent go God. For where the Church is, there also is God’s Spirit; where God’s Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace. (Saint Irenaeus)

Only the Spirit can awaken diversity

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Pentecost is a difficult feast for some people. The Holy Spirit is sometimes called forgotten member of the Godhead. It  takes a lot of time to understand what it means to live by the Spirit, to be sustained by the Spirit, to be set in motion by the Spirit for the good of all. There is a creative tension with the Holy Spirit: a genuine freedom for something and being in harmony, in unity with all others, even when it rubs me the wrong way. Here, let’s agree that freedom means something along the lines as adhering to what God wants for us, that is, seeking out our destiny. It certainly doesn’t mean licentiousness. As the Pope points out in the paragraph I cited below, the Holy Spirit is awakens in me the reality of unity and not uniformity. And there is the rub for many: how do I live with unity and not get consumed by an ideology of uniformity?  Many can’t fathom living with a diversity of belief and practice of the faith. Here I am thinking how the gospel has been inculturated in the East and the West. For example, the rule of law in Eastern Christianity is different on many levels than it is in the Western form of Christianity. When we live parallel lives to that of the Church, or a life that dismisses the diversity of gifts, we can say with confidence that we are not living with the Spirit’s guidance.


…the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony“Ipse harmonia est”. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselve be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?


Pope Francis

Homily for Pentecost, excerpt

19 May 2013

The Spirit writes on your heart, and not on tablets of stone

English: Derivative work. Original image was t...

Think of the difference between what happened at Pentecost and what happened at Sinai. There, the people stood at a distance. The mood was one of fear rather than love…Scripture tells us that God came down in the form of fire, and while the people stood in terror at a distance he wrote with his finger on tablets of stone…But when the Holy Spirit came, the believers were all together in one place. Instead of terrifying them by descending on a mountain top, he came into the house. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a strong, driving wind. In spite of the noise, no one was afraid…On the mountain there was also smoke, whereas in the upper room there were only clear, steady flames. These came to rest on each one of them, and they began to speak in other tongues…Listen to a person speaking an unknown tongue: it must be evident to you that the Spirit is writing on the heart, and no longer on tablets of stone. So then, it is not on stone, but in your hearts, that the life-giving law of the Spirit has been written. In Christ Jesus, in whom the true Passover has been perfectly celebrated, this law has set you free from the law of sin and death.


Saint Augustine


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Responding to the mystery of the living God as beggars of faith

A person with certitude in someone or something is going to propose that you consider making an inquiry into what is the cause of your certainty and hope. Naturally we will want to share with others and to deepen within ourselves a reality that blossoms as a beautiful new flower. The draw of that flower is no mere superficial thing: there is hope, beauty, expectation, communication, an essentiality that is unique. This is the role of the Pope who gives good example and daily tells us the cause of his joy and hope in being a friend of Jesus Christ. He encourages to look deeper into our faith in Christ and not to settle for less than what has been offered, that is, everything.

“Being Christian is not just obeying orders but means being in Christ, thinking like Him, acting like Him, loving like Him; it means letting Him take possession of our life and change it, transform it and free it from the darkness of evil and sin” (Pope Francis, General Audience, April 10, 2013).

The head of the ecclesial movement, Communion and Liberation, Father Julián Carrón reflects on what it means to be a Christian today with the help of the new pope in L’Osservatore Romano (18 May 2013), in “As Beggars of Faith.” It is a brief reflection on what he sees going on with Pope Francis leading the Church as he meets with the Church’s many ecclesial movements.

The text of Father Carrón’s reflection is here: JCarrón As Beggars of Faith.pdf


The Holy Spirit makes us sons and daughters of God

This weekend we are celebrating the Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus; the Spirit is what creates and sustains us. In 2006 Pope Benedict met with members of the ecclesial movements. What follows the points he made on the Holy Spirit that I thought would be good to meditate on today. Our study and prayer to and in the Spirit is not well known in the Church so I think this material appropriate for formation and evangelization. As part of the Year of Faith observances the ecclesial movements are meeting with Pope Francis today and tomorrow. Come, Holy Spirit!


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The Holy Spirit, in giving life and freedom, also gives unity. These are three gifts that are inseparable from one another. I have already gone on too long; but let me say a brief word about unity.


To understand it, we might find a sentence useful which at first seems rather to distance us from it. Jesus said to Nicodemus, who came to him with his questions by night:  “The wind blows where it wills” (Jn 3: 8). But the Spirit’s will is not arbitrary. It is the will of truth and goodness. 


Therefore, he does not blow from anywhere, now from one place and then from another; his breath is not wasted but brings us together because the truth unites and love unites.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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