Jesus ascends into heaven and sends the Holy Spirit. Does the Holy Spirit bring unneeded complexity to God’s work? Even as we try to grasp who Jesus is and what he has done, we are told the Spirit comes.
The reality is that God is a mystery, and we must respect the mystery of the Trinity as it is revealed: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus himself promises that the Holy Spirit will remain with us to “complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace.”
The great Trinitarian controversies in the early church were about reconciling the roles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and they still echo in us today.
I like this description of the Holy Spirit St. Cyril of Jerusalem gives in his catechetical homilies. Masterful catechist that he is, he adopts concrete language to approach mystery. Like Jesus, he uses two things we know: water and light.
“The water I shall give will become a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy.
“But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things depend on water; plants and animals originate in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and always the same, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on through all of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
“In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each one as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance makes it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, its effects, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are many and marvellous.
“The Spirit makes one a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. The Spirit’s action is different in different people, but the Spirit is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.
“ The Spirit comes gently, known by his fragrance, not a burden, but light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge mark his approach. With the tenderness of a true friend, the Spirit comes, and as a protector saves, heals, teaches, counsels, strengthens, and consoles. The Spirit comes first to enlighten the mind of one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.
“As light strikes the eyes of those coming out of darkness into sunlight enabling them to see what they could not see before, so light floods the soul of those called worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables them to see things beyond human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.”
Come, Holy Spirit.