“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you… Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” John 14: 15-23
I want to begin by thanking Fr. Dan, all the clergy and the great parishioners of All Saints for your love and support over the last few years as Ann and I attempted to care for my aging mother at long distance. My mother was 97 years old and she lived a big life to the very end and she did so as a Christian. I miss her already but I am happy today because she is happy and she is exactly where she wants to be: with Jesus and many, many loved ones who were waiting for her:
One family we dwell in him,
One Church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream of death.
You and I both have loved ones and friends who are waiting for us and praying for our well being with a depth of both knowledge and love that is far beyond our present horizon. And of course Ascension Day and Ascension Sunday, last Sunday, we commemorated the event in which our Lord bodily entered into the heavenly reality we have been studying. And as you can see the text for Whitsunday take us back to John 14 and Jesus’ promise that his Father would send the Holy Spirit to the Church when he ascended to the heavenly kingdom.
The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity and therefore very God of very God or as the proper preface for Trinity Sunday puts it:
“For that which we believe of thy glory, O. Father, the same we believe of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, without any difference of inequality.”
First we need to speak of the Son before we can speak of the Holy Spirit, and of course you cannot have a “Son” without first having a “Father.” And you cannot have a “Father” without having an offspring and this offspring is the Son. So there was never a time when God was not Father with mean there was never a time when the Son was not. You already know this from the Preface of The Fourth Gospel. The Son came from the Father with a mission and that mission was fulfilled in his Incarnation and the work the Son did in this world of space and time. His mission involved the creation of a state of being that did not exist before his Incarnation and that state of being is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church — also named The People of God, The Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, The Temple of the Holy Spirit:
Jesus the Messiah… “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:14
The giving of himself refers to the mission of the Son of God which began with his Incarnation and includes his many miracles, his healing the sick, his taking charge of and casting out evil spirits, his teaching, his consent and intentional offering up of his life on the Cross for our sins, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into Heaven, his promise of the sending of the Holy Spirit, as well as his promise to return for us — all that, in accordance with the will of God the Father. The Son of the Father we know to be the Logos, the Word of the Father made flesh. And you can be sure that when the Father sends his Word, he sends his Holy Spirit as well. What I want you to see is that the Son and the Holy Spirit share one, joint mission in their procession from the Father into creation. It is the Son Incarnate, Jesus the Messiah, that the disciples saw with their eyes, heard with their ears, felt as he touched their bodies and it was God’s own body of flesh that they themselves touched with their own hands of flesh — the visible, palpable image of the invisible God. But it was and is the Holy Spirit who effects, who executes, who actually brings about the work of Christ in us. I say, “The Holy Spirit who” because Christ plainly taught his disciples that the Holy Spirit was a Person and not a force, a power, an energy, a quality of God, but a center of consciousness, what we call a Person. The joint mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit is obvious from the beginning of the Incarnation – it was the Holy Spirit who hovered over Mary, the Mother of God, and effected the virginal conception of Jesus; it was the Holy Spirit who lighted upon the beautiful head of Jesus after his baptism; it is the Holy Spirit through the instrument of water baptism who regenerates the Christians, ingrafts us into the human nature of Christ, ingrafts us into the Church, infuses us with the heavenly virtues and it is the Holy Spirit who comes to dwell in our interiority — our hearts. Please keep in mind that Jesus the Messiah and the Holy Spirit are not on separate missions — they share one mission from the Father. But how does the Holy Spirit accomplish his work?
Let me suggest that you think of the work of the Holy Spirit in terms of inspiration (as in breathing into) or infusion — in a manner of speaking the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God. This is an analogy. Recall the beginning:
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7
What God breathed into man, not only the “breath of life,” but also the way of life that God intended for his creature man. And recall that our first parent and his spouse had a mission from God, a mission appropriate to the Image of God, which was to care for creation in such a way as to bring it to full blossom. This way of life is what we would call today a virtuous life, but it was a life virtuous both natural and supernatural. I need to say a word about virtues. Virtues are the good habits of the intellect and the will; they are convictions, the well grounded dispositions of a person that enable us to order our passions and to practice self-mastery. Thus virtues in general guide the activities of a virtuous man. There are many virtues, but all of what we might call the natural or terrestrial virtues fall into four categories that we also know as the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice. We learn these virtues from our families, our teachers, and our communities and they become a part of our life by practice. A person’s character takes form as he or she deliberately practices these virtues in our communities. In a sense these are public virtues or we might say they are social virtues since they have to do with the way we relate to others. But because of the wounds of the Fall it has become very difficult for us to make progress in our life as virtuous people. Our interior life, our way of relating to the world, is not only wounded, but pitifully disordered and we would surely die if we only had the cardinal virtues as our medicine.
But we are not left to the cardinal virtues because the center of our moral life as Christians are the heavenly virtues or the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The theological virtues rightly order and give meaning to the cardinal virtues. The heavenly virtues are not acquired by human efforts, nor do we acquire them through Christian education, but rather they are, like our very existence, gifts from God that enable us to know God through the virtue of faith, and we learn to desire God and await his finality by the virtue of hope, and we learn to love God for his own sake through the virtue of charity. Faith, hope, and charity predispose us, enable us to relate specifically to the Blessed Trinity. They are entirely focused upon God. In fact the Holy Trinity, the God who is God, is the very source and the very object of the theological virtues.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Keeping Jesus’ commandments is not just a matter of keeping a new or a revised list of moral precepts, but rather, as you well know, it is a matter of life, a way of life, a state of being in loving union with Jesus. Being in loving union with Jesus is another way of saying that we are already participating in the divine nature and the theological virtues are evidences — imperfect, incomplete, in process though they be. But of course the theological virtues are not merely evidences of our deification. These supernatural virtues, heavenly virtues, are infused into our hearts by the Holy Spirit when we were baptized and it is our duty to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in nurturing the virtues so that they spring up and flourish in our lives corporately and individually. What I am saying is that, our participation in the divine nature, our deification shows up before the end of time, before the final judgment, in a life of Christian virtue by which I mean specifically the theological virtues that were infused into each of us when we were baptized into Jesus. Our participation in the divine nature enables us to exercise the theological virtues. In turn the theological virtues “habituate, align, orient, and dispose man’s faculty for participation in the divine nature.” In other words the theological virtues renew & change our will, our volitional faculty.
The reception of the Holy Spirit effects complete separation from the world:
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
Up until Pentecost it was correct to say that the disciples had the Holy Spirit with them throughout Christ’s ministry right up to his ascension. And then on Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Church in the Upper Room and Jesus’ promise that the Spirit of truth would take up his abode in his disciples came to pass. The one-hundred-and-ten souls in the Upper Room were all born again as children of God and filled with the Holy Spirit that morning. That great action of the Father was personalized and effectually applied to your life when you were baptized. You were personally integrated into God’s plan of the ages at that moment and we are folded into God’s corporate action that will culminate at the end of history. It was the joint mission of Jesus the Messiah and the Holy Spirit to bring to pass this new reality in creation, that is the reality of the Spirit filled Church and the means of fulfilling the Father’s mission was the Incarnation and joint work of the Holy Spirit.
The reality of the Incarnation is made really real in our life by the work of the Holy Spirit, first on Pentecost and now repeatedly in the Church through the sacraments. Through the heavenly virtue of faith we believe that Jesus is true God of true God and true man of his Mother Mary. By the virtue of hope our desires are fixed upon the Incarnation whose whole meaning will be revealed in the final judgment. And through the virtue of charity we love our Incarnate God of Flesh for his own sake as the most perfect of all final causes. This is reality: by the power of the Holy Spirit, our very human nature, body and all that once hung upon the Cross, this day participates in the interior life of God the blessed Trinity. Human nature, body and all, has been assumed into the life of God, taken up into the life of the God who is God, without annihilating or harming in any way that human nature. Our participation in the divine nature enables us to exercise the theological virtues. In turn the theological virtues “habituate, align, orient, and dispose man’s faculty for participation in the divine nature.” Next week we will look at Jesus’ teaching in John 15 that is aimed at teaching his disciples about the meaning of abiding in his perfect humanity and divinity.