“Without the Holy Spirit, God is distant, Christ is merely an historical figure, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is just an organization, authority is domination, mission is propaganda, liturgy is only nostalgia, and the work of Christians is slave labor.
But with the Holy Spirit, Christ is risen and present, the Gospel is a living force, the Church is a communion in the life of the Trinity, authority is a service that sets people free, mission is Pentecost, the liturgy is memory and anticipation, and the labor of Christians is divinized.” Although I whole-heartedly agree with them, these are not my words, but were said by Ignatius of Laodicea (Orthodox Metropolitan, at the third assembly of the World Council of Churches at Uppsala in 1968).
The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. The feast of Pentecost is an annual invitation to the Church to look into itself and discover its soul. It is tempted, like all of us, to keep looking the other way.
In one sense, it is more natural to forget about one’s inner life and to get on with one’s work. If you are always worrying about your heart or your liver, etc., you will not take risks or do a lot of work. A healthy person just goes to it. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, and there is a sense in which that Spirit likes to work unseen, undeclared. “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Adapting Jesus’ words we could say, it is not those who say ‘Holy Spirit’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is those who live by the Spirit. Something tells us that talking about the Spirit is not the same thing as living by the Spirit.
However, we do have to pay attention to that inner place, to see by what spirit we are being driven. If you never paid any attention to your health you would be asking for trouble. Today’s feast is a reminder.
But obviously there is much more to it than this.
Traditional images of the Holy Spirit are: Fire, Wind, Water, Cloud, Dove…..Why such strange images? All of them (except ‘dove’) have indeterminate boundaries or no boundaries at all. They are reminders that we should not dare to restrict the activity of the Spirit to a few things we can understand.
The Holy Spirit lives in us and works through us, but it is not confined in us. Human beings are able to reach vastly beyond themselves and touch the depths of everything. This capacity is enlarged infinitely by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so that we can touch even the depths of God.