The Holy Spirit is the artist who fashions our humanity

By Rev Terrance Klein, 22 May 2021
Details of the 'Virgin from Gosol', circa 12th Century. Image: Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona/Supplied


A Reflection for Pentecost Sunday

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 15:26-27; 16: 12-15

Our problem with the Holy Spirit is our inability to form a proper image. That is, if one can even speak of having trouble with one of the three divine persons, who together form the Holy Trinity. Of course, that difficulty is not unique to the Holy Spirit; it is only more pronounced. God the Father is not an old man with a long, white beard, and God the Son, who once walked among us, was no doubt darker in his features than many of us imagine.

In trying to picture the Holy Spirit we cannot summon to mind, even inaccurately, someone who corresponds to our own humanity. Maybe that is the point. Perhaps in making the Paraclete known to us, Jesus deliberately blocked our attempts to create a picture. Pictures, as the great philosopher once noted, can hold us captive. Perhaps, in speaking only of “the Holy Spirit” the Good Lord intended to spare us one more misleading image of God.

In her newest novel Payback (2020), Mary Gordon does not draw a picture of the Holy Spirit, but there is a passage that might indeed circumscribe the Spirit. While living for many years in Italy, Agnes Vaughan becomes a licensed restorer of artistic masterpieces. When an entire country is one large treasure chest, it is an essential profession. Agnes prefers working on medieval statues: “The objects to be repaired nearly always sacred…nearly always the object of prayer…the sense that they contained in them the urgencies and needs of people year after year, asking for help.”

Those are the contours of the Holy Spirit, the place where the human—our cares and concerns—reaches up to the divine. Better put, it is the place within the divine wherein the human nestles. Of course, God cannot be divided, even conceptually. We can only sketch the outline of the Holy Spirit by looking at the edges of our own humanity.

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Rev. Terrance W. Klein is a priest of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, and author of Vanity Faith.

With thanks to America Magazine and Rev Terrance W. Klein, where this article originally appeared.


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