Descent of the Holy Spirit

“I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you…He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:7,13)

The disciples were unwilling to realize that our Lord Jesus was explaining to them His departure. Love wanted Him to stay, but Truth was speaking wisdom, and it caused them great grief. “Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart” (16:6). Such overwhelming sorrow that it could lead to a state of deep depression. Who of us when told of impending death of a loved one does not know that feeling? The distraught disciples had known a rollercoaster of emotions ever since Jesus “set His face to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) Change is often traumatic. When Jesus set His mind to go up to Jerusalem, those with Him “were amazed, and as they followed they were afraid” (Mark 10:12), because they were leaving familiar Galilee to confront His enemies in Jerusalem. How, they wondered, could it be to their advantage for Him to leave them?

Our Lord Jesus was preparing them for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter to be sent from the Father to supplement whatever they would need in fulfilling Christ’s ministry through their own preaching, teaching and baptizing any and all who are searching for meaning to their lives and salvation for the Kingdom of God. They would become leaders of the Church begun on the first Pentecost. On that day when they were all in one place, “they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). The Spirit breathed life into the Church – and with the Spirit the Church came about in the persons of the holy apostles. We believe in the Church as a precious dogma so self-evident that it requires no justification other than the clear witness of the actions of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles. He comes as Comforter instilling divine energy that fulfills whatever is lacking by mere human nature. Grace is the precious element that transports the disciples from mere followers and students of the Lord Jesus to men equipped with a newfound self-confidence and clear understanding of all that they had been imbibing from the Teacher.

It’s odd but significant that we do not know more about Who He is. It’s enough to know That He is, and how He operates. The Spirit and the Father remain unknown. Clearly from the first Commandment “You shall not make for yourself any graven image…” (Deuteronomy 5:8), the key demand of the Old Testament and Islam as well is to forbid all statues or depictions of divinity, because only the God-Man Jesus Christ became flesh, and His image we worship and adore. And the Holy Spirit? His image is revealed in the faces of the saints through the ages, those Spirit-filled human beings who manifest in a special way the Comforter who “present everywhere and fills all things” shines through the minds, souls and countenances of those who prove it possible that it is “no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is comparable in a way to the humility (kenosis) of Christ, in the sense that what St. Paul wrote of the latter: “Christ Jesus…humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:8), can be said of the humility of the Holy Spirit who provides us sinners with grace by coming into us via the sacrament of Chrismation, offering divine grace to implement whatever is lacking so that through prayer, fasting, contemplation and service to the needs of life on earth, one can accept the invitation of Christ Jesus to fulfill His will, which is also the will of the heavenly Father’s, to convert this world into its original intention by the plan and desire of the Holy Trinity.