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Anointing: biblical sign of the Spirit

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II in his series on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 24 October 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In his discourse at the Nazareth synagogue at the start of his public life, Jesus applied to himself an Isaian text which says: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me" (Is 61:1; cf. Lk 4:18).

It is another symbol which passed from the Old to the New Testament with a more precise and new meaning. This also happened with the symbols of wind, the dove and fire; in recent catecheses we saw that these refer to the activity and the Person of the Holy Spirit. Anointing with oil, too, belongs to the Old Testament tradition. Kings above all others received anointing, but so did priests and sometimes prophets. The symbol of anointing with oil was to express the strength needed to exercise authority.

The text cited from Isaiah about "consecration through anointing" refers to the spiritual strength needed to carry out the mission God gives to a person he has chosen and sent.

Jesus tells us that this chosen one of God is he himself, the Messiah. The fullness of strength conferred on him - the fullness of the Holy Spirit - belongs to him as Messiah (that is, the Lord's Anointed, the Christ).

2. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter refers similarly to the anointing received by Jesus when he recalls "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power; he went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil" (Acts 10:38). Just as oil penetrates wood or other materials, so the Holy Spirit pervades the entire being of the Messiah-Jesus, conferring on him the saving power for caring for bodies and souls. Through this anointing with the Holy Spirit, the Father has carried out the messianic consecration of the Son.

3. Participation in the anointing of Christ's humanity
in the Holy Spirit is transmitted to all those who accept him in faith and love. This happens on the sacramental level in the anointings with oil, a rite which is part of the Church's liturgy, especially in Baptism and Confirmation. As St. John writes in his First Letter, they have "the anointing which comes from the Holy One," and it "remains" in them (1 Jn 2:20, 27).
This anointing constitutes the source of knowledge: "You have the anointing which comes from the Holy One and you have all knowledge" (1 Jn 2:20), so that "you do not need anyone to teach you...his anointing teaches you about everything" (1 Jn 2:27).

In this way the promise made by Jesus to the Apostles is fulfilled: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8).

The source of knowledge and of understanding is found in the Spirit, as is the strength needed to bear witness to divine truth. The Spirit is also the source of that supernatural "sense of the faith" which, according to the Second Vatican Council (LG 12), is the inheritance of the People of God, as St. John says: "All of you have knowledge" (1 Jn 2:20).

4. The symbol of water also appears often in the Old Testament. Taken in a very general way, water symbolizes the life lavished freely by God upon nature and human beings. We read in Isaiah: "I will open up rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the broad valleys; I will turn the desert into a marshland and the dry ground into springs of water" (Is 41:18). This is a reference to the life-giving property of water. The prophet applies this symbol to God's Spirit, putting water and God's Spirit in a parallel relationship when he proclaims this oracle: "I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground and streams upon the dry land; I will pour out my Spirit upon your offspring...they shall spring up amid the verdure beside the flowing waters..." (Is 44:3-4). The life-giving property of water symbolizes the life-giving property of the Spirit.

Further, water liberates the land from drought (cf. 1 Kgs 18:41-45). Water also serves to satisfy the thirst of man and of animals (cf. Is 43:20). The thirst for water is likened to the thirst for God, as we read in the Psalms: "As the deer yearns for running streams, so my soul yearns for you, my God. My soul is thirsting for God, the living God; when shall I see him face-to-face?" (Ps 42:2-3; another no less explicit text is Ps 63:2).

Finally, water is a symbol of purification, as we read in Ezekiel: "I will sprinkle clean water on you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you" (Ez 36:25). The same prophet announced the life-giving power of water in a stirring vision: "Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east.... He said to me: 'This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the water flows, every sort of living-creature that can multiply shall live..." (Ez 47:1, 8-9).

5. In the New Testament the purifying and life-giving power of water serves for the rite of baptism already practiced by John, who administered a baptism of repentance in the Jordan (cf. Jn 1:33). But it was Jesus who presented water as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, when on a feastday he exclaimed to the crowds: "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.'" And the evangelist gives a commentary: "He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive; there was, of course, no Spirit yet because Jesus had not yet been glorified" (Jn 7:37-39).

These words also explain all that Jesus said to the Samaritan woman about living water, water which he himself will give. In a person this water becomes "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4:10, 14).

6. These are all expressions of the truth which Jesus revealed about the Holy Spirit, of whom "living water" is a symbol. In the sacrament of Baptism this is translated into the reality of being born of the Holy Spirit. Here many other Old Testament passages also come together, such as the one about the water which, upon God's orders, Moses made to flow from the rock (cf. Ex 17:5-7; Ps 78:16), and the other about the spring made available to the house of David for washing away sins and impurities (cf. Zech 13:1; 14:8). The crowning text of all is found in the words of the Book of Revelation concerning the crystal clear rivers of living water which will flow forth from the throne of God and the Lamb. In the midst of the city square and on either side of the river there is a tree of life; this tree's leaves serve to heal the nations (cf. Rev 22:1-2). According to the exegetes, the living and life-giving waters symbolize the Spirit, as John himself states several times in his Gospel (cf. Jn 4:10-14; 7:37-38). In this vision from the Book of Revelation one catches a glimpse of the Trinity itself. The reference to the healing of the nations is also significant. This healing comes through the leaves of the tree, which is nourished by the living and salubrious water of the Spirit.

If God's people "drink this spiritual drink," according to St. Paul, it is like Israel in the desert, which drew "from the rock which was Christ" (1 Cor 10:1-4). From his side pierced on the cross "flowed blood and water" (Jn 19:34), as a sign of the redemptive end of his death which he underwent for the salvation of the world. The result of this redemptive death is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which he gave abundantly to his Church.

Truly "springs of living water flowed from within" the paschal mystery of Christ by becoming in people's souls "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4:14) as a gift from the Holy Spirit. This gift comes from a Giver who is quite easily identified in the words of Christ and of his Apostles: the third Person of the Trinity.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

A 4.000 pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Grugilt einer Gruppe österreichischer Offiziere der Bundesgendarmerie aus Salzburg und Wien, die sich zusammen mit ihren Gemahlinnen zu ihrer Jubiläumswallfahrt in Rom aufhalten. Ich danke Euch für die Verbundenheit mit dem Nachfolger des Heiligen Petrus. Außerdem begrüße ich die Teilnehmer an der Wallfahrt des Souveränen Malteserordens aus der Republik Österreich mit einer zahlreichen Gruppe von behinderten und kranken Mitchristen. Der Malteserorden gibt dadurch ein beredtes Zeugnis seines Dienstes an den kranken und leidenden Mitmenschen, die unserer besonderen Achtung und Zuneigung bedürfen. Unser aller Gebet möge Euch helfen, in Euren körperlichen und seelischen Leiden das Gefühl der Nutzlosigkeit zu überwinden, das Euch bisweilen erfassen mag.

Az osztràk lovagok vendégeként jelen van ma itt a Magyar Màltai Lovagok egy csoportja is, akik magukkal hoztàk a budapesti huszonharmadik Jànos Pàpa szeretethàz néhàny lakòjàt. Isten hozta öket az Örök Vàrosban és àldàsomat küldöm a Szeretethàz összes lakòinak és a szeretett magyar nemzetnek.

Ferner begrüße ich sehr herzlich eine Gruppe von österreichischen Schwestern des Säkularinstituts ”Dienerinnen Christi des Königs“, die von Herrn Altbischof Bruno Wechner aus Feldkirch begleitet werden, sowie eine Gruppe von Angestellten des österreichischen Parlaments.

Ein weiterer Gruß gilt den Pilgern aus der Stadtpfarrei Sankt Blasius in Fulda, die gekommen sind, um mit unserem lieben Mons. Lucian Lamza von der Kongregation für die Orientalischen Kirchen sein silbernes Priesterjubiläum zu feiern.

Euch allen, den deutschsprachigen Pilgern und Besuchern, Euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan verbundenen Hörerinnen und Hörern erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai connazionali polacchi

Drodzy Rodacy, dzisiaj pielgrzymuję wraz z wami do grobu św. Jana Kantego (Jana z Kęt). W krakowskiej kolegiacie św. Anny, związanej od wieków z Uniwersytetem Jagiellońskim - moją Alma Mater - znajduje się to miejsce. Piękny sarkofag, który kryje w sobie relikwie skromnego człowieka. Wtym roku minęło 600 lat od jego urodzin. W roku 1973 obchodziliśmy 500-lecie jego śmierci. Był to zarazem rok Mikołaja Kopernika. I on studiował w krakowskiej Akademii, pozostawiając po sobie wielkje, jedno z największych imion w powszechnej historii nauki.

Jan z Kęt takiego imienia nie zostawił. Wpisał się natomiast całym swym życiem w poczet świętych Kościoła. Rzec można, że wraz z nim zostało wpisane w dzieje świętości wszystko to, czym był i jest uniwersytet: szczególna wspólnota nauczycieli i uczniów, wspólnota prawie że rodzinna, alma mater, zjednoczona umiłowaniem prawdy. Zjednoczona umiłowaniem człowieka w prawdzie. Św. Jan z Kęt pozostaje przez wieki wyrazem tej szczególnej jedności.

Pani Jasnogórska! Przy grobie Jana Kantego modlę się dziś za wszystkie polskie uniwersytety, uczelnie i szkoły. Modlę się za przyszłość naszej kultury.

“Naród jest tą wielką wspólnotą ludzi, których łączą różne spoiwa, ale nade wszystko . . . kultura. Naród istnieje, z kultury, i "dla kultury" . . . Jestem synem narodu, który przetrzymał najstraszliwsze doświadczenia dziejów, który wielokrotnie sąsiedzi skazywali na śmierć - a on pozostał przy życiu i pozostał sobą. Zachował własną tożsamość i zachował pośród rozbiorów i okupacji własną suwerenność jako naród - nie w oparciu o jakiekolwiek inne środki fizycznej potęgi, ale tylko w oparciu o własną kulturę, która okazała się w tym wypadku potęgą większą od tamtych potęg”.

Słowa te wypowiedziałem przed dziesięciu laty wobec przedstawicieli wielu narodów świata w UNESCO w Paryżu. Te same słowa powtórzyłem w Warszawie - podczas ostatniej pielgrzymki do Ojczyzny - w czasie spotkania z przedstawicielami polskiej kultury w kościele Św. Krzyża, przy sercu Fryderyka Chopina.

Pani Jasnogórska! Dziś wracam do sarkofagu św. Jana Kantego i wspólnie z polskimi pielgrzymami w Rzymie modlę się za wszystkie uniwersytety, uczelnie i szkoły w naszej Ojczyźnie. Modlę się za przyszłość polskiej kultury.

Pytamy siebie samych o wkład tej kultury do wspólnego skarbca europejskiego.

Czyż to nie z jagiellońskiej właśnie akademii wyruszyli kiedyś do Konstancji, na Sobór, ludzie nauki z niezapomnianym rektorem Pawłem Włodkowicem, aby świadczyć o prawach ludzkiego sumienia, o wolności religii, która dlatego właśnie, że jest prawdą, nie może byćnarzucana mieczem, czyli przemocą. Po upływie więcej niż stulecia o to samo wołali uczeni hiszpańskiej szkoły w Salamance w związku z zagrożeniem tubylców na świeżo odkrytym kontynencie amerykańskim.

Dziękuję Ci, prastara jagiellońska Alma Materza ten pionierski wkład w historię prawa i moralności na naszym kontynencie.

Pani Jasnogórska! Klęcząc w pośrodku naszych dziejów, modlę się o przyszłość rodzimej kultury: za wszystkie uniwersytety, uczelnie, szkoły, za kulturę moralną rodaków.

Nie ma sprawy ważniejszej dla przyszłości ludzi i społeczeństw. Nie ma też środowiska, które ważniejsze jest dla przyszłości narodu.

Matko i Wychowawczyni! Spraw, aby w polskich uczelniach i szkołach pracowano dla przyszłości. Aby wiara w przyszłość była w nich silniejsza od pokus zwątpenia . . .

Matko i Wychowawczyni! . . .

Alma Mater . . .

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je remercie tous les pèlerins de langue française pour leur aimable visite et je salue spécialement les Petits Chanteurs de Notre-Dame de Marvejols et les groupes de Suisse francophone. A tous, j’accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the Capuchin friars from different countries taking part in a programme of permanent formation and spiritual renewal near Rome. Dear Brothers: may these days of prayer and study enable you to bear ever more joyful witness to Christ in your religious life and your service of God’s People. To you and to all the English-speaking visitors I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ad alcuni pellegrini venuti dal Giappone

Carissimi giovani di Miyagi!

Sono molto lieto della vostra visita. Vi benedico perché possiate realizzare il fine del vostro viaggio approfondendo l’amicizia con i giovani del mondo nello spirito di Hasekura Tsunenaga. Deo gratias!

Ai presenti di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Tras estas reflexiones, saludo afectuosamente a todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España, a quienes doy mi más cordial bienvenida a esta Audiencia.

Me es grato saludar, en modo particular, a la peregrinación de la “Asociación Mexicana de Implantes Dentales”, así como a la “Peregrinación Mariana” de Panamá y a los miembros de la “Asociación de Promotores y Constructores de Edificios Urbanos” de Gijón (AsturiasA todos imparto complacido la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Saúdo cordialmente a todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, e em particular os integrantes do Centro Internacional de Aperfeiçoamento Profissional e Técnico de Turim, provenientes do Brasil, Angola, Moçambique, Cabo Verde e São Tomé. A vós e vossas famílias concedo de bom grado a minha mais ampla Bênção Apostólica.

Ai giovani dell’Unione Latina

Placet deinde Nobis inter adstantes hodie consalutare humaniter iuvenes linguae Latinae rerumque Romanarum studiosos qui his diebus Romae versantur velut participes Septimi Congressus “Unionis Latinae” pluribus quidem ex gentibus ac terris; quibus adulescentibus ex animo fructuosissimum studiorum curriculum exoptamus et iucundissimam Urbis Aeternae recordationem et augescentem posthac fervorem amoremque in sermonem Latinum ac Romanum orbem.

Ai gruppi provenienti da diverse Diocesi italiane

Rivolgo ora il mio saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, ed anzitutto ai numerosi fedeli dell’Arcidiocesi di Otranto, qui accompagnati dal loro Arcivescovo Monsignor Vincenzo Franco. Cari fedeli, sono lieto di questo incontro, che vuole essere la restituzione della visita pastorale che ebbi la gioia di compiere dieci anni fa nella vostra Comunità cristiana otrantina. Formulo cordiali voti che il cammino della vostra Chiesa particolare, che voi rappresentate, sia sempre confortato dalla grazia e dalla crescita della fede.

Il mio pensiero va poi ai marinai dell’Accademia Navale di Livorno, ai quali esprimo i miei auguri per il loro avvenire. Invoco su tutte le loro attività la protezione della Vergine Maria, invocata con il titolo di “Maris stella”.

Benedico volentieri la fiaccola che i fedeli di Sovico, in Arcidiocesi di Milano, hanno recato qui per l’annuale marcia della fede, in occasione delle feste patronali dei Santi Simone e Giuda. Benedico anche l’intera Comunità parrocchiale, invitando tutti ad essere luce del mondo con l’annuncio della parola di Cristo.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Mi è caro salutare i giovani, i malati e le coppie di sposi novelli. Carissimi, invito ciascuno di voi ad unirvi alla mia preghiera per la Chiesa e per la dilatazione del Regno di Dio. In questo mese di ottobre incrementate il vostro impegno missionario, che deve essere il segno distintivo di ogni cristiano. Spinti da questo ideale evangelico conducete una vita che sia di esempio a tutti. Misurate le vostre esigenze e quelle di chi vi è prossimo con il metro della stessa carità, con la quale il Redentore condivide e sostiene la speranza di voi giovani, la sofferenza di voi malati, l’amore casto e reciproco di voi sposi novelli. A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione.

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