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The Revelation of the Person of the Spirit

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 22 August 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Up to now we have devoted a series of reflections to the action of the Holy Spirit, considering it first of all in the light of the Old Testament and then in different times in Christ's life. Now we turn to examine the mystery of the Person of the Holy Spirit who lives in communion with the Father and the Son in the unity of the divine Trinity. We are in the loftiest phase of that which we have several times referred to as God's self-revelation: the manifestation of his own intimate essence and plan on the part of the God whom Jesus taught us to recognize and invoke as Father. This infinitely true and good God has always kept to a kind of transcendent pedagogy to teach us and draw us to himself. This also happened in the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

2. St. Gregory Nazianzen recalls this in a beautiful text which explains the main theme of God's progressive action in salvation history in relation to the mystery of the Trinity of the divine Persons in the unity of the divine substance. "In effect," says the great Father of the Church, "the Old Testament expressly told us about the Father, and less clearly, about the Son; the New Testament manifested the Son and suggested the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells in us and manifests himself more clearly. It was not prudent to speak openly about the Son when the divinity of the Father was not yet confessed and to impose upon us even more—here I am speaking quite boldly—the Holy Spirit, before the Son's divinity was recognized" (Orat. XXXI, Theol. V, 26: PG 36, 161). Therefore, according to Nazianzen, it was difficult for people to accept the revelation of God as one in nature and three in person because it was greater than human intellectual concepts as they are generally understood. It is difficult, and has always remained so for many people, even those who are sincerely religious, as the history of Judaism and Islam shows us.

3. In the previous catecheses we saw that in many ways and many places, beginning with the opening of the Book of Genesis (cf. Gen 1:2), the Old Testament speaks of the Spirit of God. This pedagogical progress has taken place in divine revelation. However, we always noted that we were dealing with pre-announcements and foretastes, as it were, of the Holy Spirit's activity in human history, and not yet with his Person, at least not directly or explicitly. In the vast range of the Old Testament one can speak of a discovery, a "taste," a progressive understanding of the Spirit's activity. However, it always remains in obscurity about the distinction of persons in the unity of God. Even the most ancient texts show that certain phenomena of the physical, psychological and spiritual world come from the Spirit of God. They speak of "God's breath" which gives life to the universe from the moment of creation, or of a superhuman force given to persons called to special tasks in guiding and defending the People of God, such as Samson's physical strength (cf. Jgs 14:6), Gideon's investiture (cf. Jgs 6:34) and Jephthah's victory in battle against the Ammonites (cf. Jgs 11:29). In other instances we find that the Spirit of God not only "invests" but also "seizes" the person (for example, Elijah: cf. 1 Kgs 18:12), effects prophetic transports and ecstasy, or gives the ability to interpret dreams (Joseph in Egypt: cf. Gen 41:38). In all these cases it is a matter of an action of an immediate and transitory nature - we could say a charismatic one - for the good of the people of God.

4. On the other hand, the same Old Testament gives us many instances of a constant action by the Spirit of God which, according to Biblical language, "rested upon" a person, as happened to Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah and Elisha. The prophets were especially the bearers of the Spirit of God. The connection between the prophetic word and God's Spirit was already affirmed in the story of Balaam (Num 24:2-3) and was emphasized in an episode from the First Book of Kings (1 Kgs 22:24). After the exile, Ezekiel showed that he was fully aware of the origin of his inspiration: "The Spirit of the Lord came upon me and said to me: 'Speak...'" (Ez 11:5). Zechariah recalls that God had spoken to his people "by his Spirit through the former prophets" (Zech 7:12).

In this period effects of a moral nature were also attributed most of all to the Spirit of God and his action (for example, in Psalms 51 and 143, and in the Book of Wisdom). We have referred to these passages and analyzed them in turn.

5. However, the most significant and important texts are those which the prophets dedicated to the Spirit of the Lord which would rest upon the Messiah, on the messianic community and its members. The texts of Isaiah's messianic prophecies are especially important. Here is the revelation that the Spirit of the Lord would first be upon the "shoot of Jesse," David's descendant and successor (Is 11:1-2), then upon the "servant of the Lord" (Is 42:1), who will be a "covenant of the people and light for the nations" (Is 42:6), and lastly upon the evangelizer of the nations (Is 61:1; cf. Lk 4:18).

According to the ancient prophecies, the Spirit of the Lord will also renew the spiritual face of the "remnant of Israel," of the messianic community which remains faithful to the divine call. We are told this not only by the passages from Isaiah (cf. 44:3; 59:21), but also in Ezekiel (cf. 36:27; 37:14), Joel (cf. 3:1-2) and Zechariah (cf. 12:10).

6. In such a way the Old Testament, with its abundant references to the action of the Spirit of God, prepared our understanding for what would be given in the New Testament's revelation concerning the Holy Spirit as a Person in his unity with the Father and the Son. All this developed along the line of the divine pedagogy which led people to the knowledge and recognition of the greatest of mysteries: the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Word, the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament everything was concentrated on the truth of monotheism entrusted to Israel. It always had to be defended and consolidated in the face of the temptations to polytheism which came from all directions.

7. In the new covenant we reach a new phase: greater awareness of the person in regard to man has given us a context in which the revelation of the Holy Spirit as a Person can find fertile ground. The Holy Spirit is he who dwells in the person and living there, sanctifies him or her especially with the power of love which he himself is. In this way the revelation of the Spirit-Person also reveals the interior depth of the human person. And through this more profound exploration of the human spirit, we are more aware that the Holy Spirit becomes the source of communion between humanity and God, as well as of interpersonal communion among people. This is the synthesis of the new revelation of the Person of the Holy Spirit which we shall reflect on in the next catechesis."

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

Ai gruppi di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Gruß gilt der Pilgergruppe aus Deutschkreuz im Burgenland mit ihrem weit bekannten Musikverein. Euch allen und Euren liebe Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan verbundenen Hörern erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai connazionali polacchi

Na święto matki Bożej Jasnogórskiej czytamy ewangelię o zaślubinach w Kanie. W lekcji Paweł Apostoł przypomina: “niejesteś już niewolnikiem, lecz synem”.

“Nasze Boże synostwo niesie w sobie dziedzictwo wolności. . . . Chrystus obecny wraz ze swą Matką w polskiej Kanie stawia przed nami z pokolenia na pokolenie wielką sprawę wolności. Wolność jest dana człowiekowi od Boga jako miara jego godności. Jednakże jest mu ona równocześnie zadana. . . . Ta jasnogórska ewangelizacja do życia w wolności godnej synów Bożych ma swą długą, sześciowiekową historię. . . . Jak wiele o tym mogłaby powiedzieć kaplica jasnogórskiego obrazu? Jak wiele mogłyby powiedzieć konfesjonały całej bazyliki? . . . Olbrzymi rozdział historii ludzkich dusz! To jest chyba też najbardziej podstawowy wymiar jasnogórskiego sześćsetlecia”.

Powtarzam dzisiaj te zdania wyjęte z homilii na uroczystość tego właśnie sześćsetlecia w roku 1983.

A dalej: “Jasnogórska ewangelizacja wolności ma jeszcze inny wymiar. Jest to wymiar wolności Narodu, wymiar wolnej Ojczyzny . . . Państwo jest istotnie suwerenne, jeśli rządzi społeczeństwem i zarazem służy dobru wspólnemu społeczeństwa i jeśli pozwala Narodowi realizować właściwą mu podmiotowość, właściwą mu tożsamość”.

Przypominam tę homilię, gdy zbliża się tegoroczne święto Matki Jasnogórskiej.

Sobór pouczył nas, że Bogarodzica jest stale obecna w życiu Chrystusa i Kościoła - przez Kościół w życiu ludów i narodów. W ich historii. W ich cierpieniach i zmaganiach. W ich dojrzewaniu duchowym i społecznym.

Matko Boga i ludzi! Na Twoje święto w roku 1990 zapraszamy Cię w nowy rozdział naszego pielgrzymowania. Zapraszamy przez Ciebie Chrystusa. Tak jak w Kanie Galilejskiej.

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je salue très cordialememt tous les pèlerins de langue française qui sont présents ce matin. Je tiens à dire, en particulier, toute mon affection et mon union de prière aux pèlerins venus du Liban, cette terre si cruellement éprouvée. Je salue les pèlerins d’Athènes, héritiers d’une longue et belle histoire, témoins de la foi au lieu même où saint Paul l’avait annoncée. Je salue les pèlerins de l’Ile de La Réunion, ceux de Montpellier, de Pontoise, ainsi que le groupe des jeunes de France qui se sont mis sur les pas du Christ à la suite de saint François d’Assise. A chacun d’entre vous, mes chers amis, j’accorde ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My special greeting goes to the "Little Flowers of Taiwan" dance group. Your proud witness to an ancient tradition reminds us all of the beauty and diversity of human cultures and of the need for greater understanding among peoples everywhere. To you and to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims at today’s audience I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai numerosi visitatori di espressione spagnola

Saludo ahora muy cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española. En particular, a las Religiosas Misioneras de Acción Parroquial; igualmente, al grupo juvenil “Pueblo de Dios en Marcha” a quienes aliento vivamente en su empeño por seguir siempre a Cristo, Camino, Verdad y Vida. Es ésta una invitación que hago extensiva a los numerosos jóvenes españoles y latinoamericanos aquí presentes.

Mi cordial bienvenida a las peregrinaciones de Albaida, Manises y Parroquia Santa Cecilia de Valencia.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Saúdo agora todos os peregrinos e visitantes de língua portuguesa.

Em particular as Irmãs Reparadoras de Nossa Senhora das Dores, de Fátima, o grupo da diocese de Viseu e de Fátima e o grupo de Nossa Senhora do Sameiro, de Braga.

Saúdo igualmente o grupo de peregrinos vindos de São Paulo e do Rio de Janeiro.

Sede bem-vindos!

Que este encontro com o Papa vos sirva de estímulo para abraçardes cada vez mais a Cristo na vida de cada dia.

A todos vós e às vossas famílias concedo de todo o coração a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ad un gruppo di visitatori provenienti dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Dilettissimi voi giovani qui giunti come delegati per commemorare una visita compiuta 400 anni fa da altri giovani del Giappone, e voi buddisti che avete partecipato al 40° convegno, trattando dell’ecologia. Oggi ci riunisce in preghiera il pericolo di una guerra che minaccia la desiderata pace nel mondo. Il Signore, per intercessione della Beata Maria Vergine, esaudisca le nostre invocazioni. Con questo augurio vi benedico tutti di cuore. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai pellegrini di lingua italiana

Desidero rivolgere un particolare saluto ad alcuni gruppi di pellegrini di lingua italiana, ed in primo luogo ai Seminaristi di Bergamo, che, accompagnati dai loro Superiori e Assistenti, nonché da un buon gruppo di familiari, stanno visitando la Città di Roma, per rivivere le testimonianze degli apostoli Pietro e Paolo, e dei martiri. A tutti loro l’augurio per un buon proseguimento del cammino vocazionale verso il sacerdozio.

Saluto poi le Capitolari della Congregazione delle Suore di Santa Anna, guidate dalla loro Madre Generale; auspico per la loro Famiglia religiosa, sempre bene impegnata nella educazione della gioventù femminile, il dono di numerose vocazioni e la costante assistenza dello Spirito Santo.

Il mio pensiero va poi al gruppo dell’Unitalsi di Macerata, di ritorno da un Pellegrinaggio a Lourdes. Benedico volentieri l’immagine della Vergine che essi desiderano collocare nel reparto “dialisi” dell’Ospedale di Tolentino.

Saluto, anche, al gruppo dell’Oratorio Maschile della parrocchia S. Maria Nascente in Garbagnate (Milano), giunto qui in bicicletta per far benedire la prima pietra di una nuova chiesa, tratta dalle rocce del Sacro Speco di Subiaco.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Il mio pensiero va ora, com’è consuetudine, ai giovani, ai malati ed alle coppie di sposi novelli qui presenti. Oggi la Chiesa fa memoria della Beata Vergine Maria Regina; questa gioiosa circostanza ci suggerisce una parola di esortazione per ciascuno di voi, cari fratelli e sorelle.

A voi, giovani, auguro che Maria sia la Regina dei vostri cuori. Ella vi insegni la purezza degli affetti, lo slancio nelle imprese generose, la sincerità nella ricerca della verità e della giustizia, il senso della vera libertà che sta nell’obbedienza responsabile alla legge di Dio. La regalità di Maria è un richiamo a prendere sempre più coscienza della dignità di figli di Dio.

La festa della Regalità di Maria, carissimi malati, vi faccia comprendere il senso cristiano della sofferenza. Maria è Regina che sta sotto la croce del Figlio incoronato di spine. Partecipe del vostro dolore, Ella vi mostra il valore redentivo della malattia, soffrendo con voi.

E voi, sposi novelli, offrite il vostro amore a Maria che è la Regina e la Maestra del bell’amore, la creatura che meglio di ogni altra conosce i segreti del cuore umano. Vi auguro che possiate elevare a tale altezza il vostro amore sponsale. A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione.

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