Over the last 31 issues of the WCR, these articles have attempted to give our readers more of a taste, a feel, for the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our Church.
Being a Christian means to live in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit renews us and enables us to do what is humanly impossible - live up to the precepts of God's Law. The Spirit enables us to go beyond the Law, to become holy ourselves as God is holy.
Likewise, the Holy Spirit "permits the Church to keep the freshness of youth. Constantly he renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse" (Vatican II, Constitution on the Church, 4). The Spirit leads the Church to truth and preserves her in the truth.
These articles have been but a general survey of what the Holy Spirit means. While they have covered a lot of ground, a lot has not been covered.
One emphasis has been the Spirit as not only the guarantor of unity in the Church, but as even the embodiment of that unity. But one topic not covered is how the doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been a source of disunity between East and West.
Perhaps the greatest dividing line in Church teaching between the Orthodox and Catholic churches has been over the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. The Orthodox maintain the original formulation of the Creed, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Catholic version of the Creed proclaims that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque).
Even an overview of this issue would lead into a dense region of theology. This issue is important, but I decided to forego a discussion of it in this series.
Other important topics did not receive attention. One major development instituted by the Second Vatican Council was a greater emphasis in the liturgy on the Spirit. Beginning in 2012, I plan to write a series of articles to mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. Treatment of the emphasis on the Spirit in the liturgy might be better handled there.
In this series, there was also little focus on the treatment of the Spirit in St. John's Gospel. I did write several articles on the understanding of the Spirit presented by St. Paul. John's Gospel has a different approach to the Holy Spirit. Some readers might well have appreciated an exploration of the Fourth Gospel. My judgment was that this series was already more than long enough to meet its intended purposes.
That purpose, as I stated in the first article, was to respond to Pope John Paul II's statement that faith in the Holy Spirit "needs to be constantly reawakened and deepened in the consciousness of the People of God." Thirty-one articles and more than 20,000 words in a diocesan newspaper is a substantial effort in that direction.
But enough about what this series has not done.
What it has attempted to do in several ways is to show that the Holy Spirit is not a "spirit" that pulls us away from the material world. Rather, not only does the Spirit pour divine life into our souls, he also renews and transforms that material world.
All of creation "has been groaning in labour pains," waiting "with eager longing" for its redemption. In the fullness of the Spirit, "creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8.19-23).
The so-called end of the world will not be its annihilation, but rather its fulfillment and transformation. Matter itself will be thoroughly imbued with the glory of God.
What this means is beyond our imagining. But it contains a call. Spirit-filled Christians are called not to run away from the concerns and problems of our world, but to embrace them. Our call is to be contemplatives rooted in the Word of God who bring healing, justice and love to this groaning world.
This call is directed to all the People of God, but particularly to the laity. It is the laity who move in the secular world. It is the laity who are empowered by Baptism and Confirmation to permeate the world with the spirit of the Gospel.
The world urgently awaits a new golden age of the Holy Spirit. Through their teaching and their celebration of the sacraments, the clergy serve the baptized by offering the means of empowerment. But it is the laity who have the primary responsibility to offer the Holy Spirit to a sometimes Spirit-less world.
Are we up to the challenge? Will we let ourselves be completely filled with the Spirit so that we can be the Spirit's agents of transformation?