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The Spirit is the source of holiness

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 12 December 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The Second Vatican Council stressed the close relationship which exists in the Church between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the faithful's call and aspiration to holiness: "Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as 'uniquely holy,' loved the Church as his bride, delivering himself up for her. He did this that he might sanctify her (cf. Eph 5:25-26). He united her to himself as his own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God's glory. Therefore in the Church called to holiness.... This holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification others..." (LG 39). Being the source of holiness is another basic aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

2. The holiness of the Church,
as seen in the conciliar text just cited, has its beginning in Jesus Christ, Son of God who became man by the work of the Holy Spirit and was born of the most holy Virgin Mary. The holiness of Jesus in his conception and birth by the power of the Holy Spirit is in deep communion with the holiness of her whom God chose as his mother. As the Council again notes, "It is no wonder therefore that the usage prevailed among the Fathers whereby they called the Mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature" (LG 56). Hers is the first and the highest realization of holiness in the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit who is the Holy One and the Sanctifier. Mary's holiness is entirely directed toward the supreme holiness of the humanity of Christ, whom the Holy Spirit consecrated and filled with grace from the start of his earthly life until its glorious conclusion when Jesus revealed himself as the "established Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through the resurrection of the dead" (Rom 1:4).

3. This ecclesial holiness,
on the day of Pentecost, shone forth not only in Mary but also in the apostles and in the disciples who with her "were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). From that time until the end of time, that holiness, the fullness of which is always Christ from whom we receive all grace (cf. Jn 1:16) is bestowed on all those who open themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit through the apostles' teaching, as the Apostle Peter said in his Pentecost discourse: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

That day was the beginning of the history of Christian holiness to which both the Israelites and the pagans are called. As St. Paul writes, both can "have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph 2:18). All are called to become, according to the text already referred to in the previous catechesis, "fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the become God's dwelling place in the Spirit" (Eph 2:19-22). This concept of the temple is dear to the Apostle, who asks in another passage: "Are you not aware that you are God's temple and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Cor 3:16). And in another place: "Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 6:19).

It is clear that in the context of the Letters to the Corinthians and to the Ephesians the temple is not just an architectural space. It is the representative image of holiness which is brought about by the Holy Spirit in people alive in Christ and united to the Church. And the Church is the "place" for this holiness.

4. The Apostle Peter too in his first letter uses the same vocabulary and gives us the same teaching. Speaking to the "faithful dispersed" (among the pagans), he reminds them that they have been "chosen in the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification by the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:1-2). By strength of this sanctification in the Holy Spirit all are "like living stones built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 2:5).

This is a significant special link which the Apostle drew between sanctification and the offering of "spiritual sacrifices," which is really a sharing in the very sacrifice of Christ and in his priesthood. It is one of the basic themes of the Letter to the Hebrews. But also in the Letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul speaks of the "oblation acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit"; people (pagans) become that offering through the Gospel (cf. Rom 15:16). And in the Second Letter to the Thessalonians he urges readers to give thanks to God because "he has chosen you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth" (cf. 2 Thess 2:13). All these are signs of the first Christians' common awareness of the action of the Holy Spirit as the author of holiness within themselves and in the Church. They knew that the Spirit which had been granted to them made them temples of God.

5. St. Paul insists on this in repeating that the Holy Spirit brings about human sanctification and forms ecclesial communion among believers, as sharers in his very holiness. People who have been "washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" become holy "in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6:11). "Whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him" (1 Cor 6:17). And this holiness becomes true worship of the living God: "worship in God's Spirit" (Phil 3:3).

This Pauline teaching goes together with the words of Christ referred to in John's Gospel about "true worshippers" who "worship the Father in spirit and in truth.... The Father seeks such people to worship him" (Jn 4:23-24). This "worship in spirit and in truth" has its roots in Christ who carries out the entire program which was brought to life by him in the Holy Spirit, as Jesus himself said at the Last Supper: "He [the Holy Spirit] will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and reveal it to you" (Jn 16:14). The entire opus laudis in the Holy Spirit is the "true worship" paid to the Father by the Son, the Incarnate Word, in which believers share through the Holy Sprit. Therefore it is also the glorification of the Son himself in the Father.

6. The participation in the Holy Spirit by believers and by the Church occurs also in all the other aspects of sanctification: purification from sin (cf. 1 Pet 4:8), enlightenment of the mind (cf. Jn 14:26), observance of the commandments (cf. Jn 14:23), perseverance in the journey toward eternal life (cf. Eph 1:13-14; Rom 8:14-16), and listening to what the Spirit himself "has to say to the Churches" (cf. Rev 2:7). In considering this work of sanctification in his catechesis on the Apostles' Creed, St. Thomas Aquinas finds it easy to pass from the affirmation about the Holy Spirit to the one about the "holy Catholic Church." He writes: "As we see that in a person there is a body and a soul, and still there are various members, so too the Catholic Church is one body made up of various members. The soul which gives life to this body is the Holy Spirit. And therefore, after our profession of faith in the Holy Spirit, we are commanded to believe in the holy Catholic Church, as the creed says. Now 'Church' means assembly; and therefore the Church is the assembly of the faithful, and every Christian is a member of the Church which is holy...through washing in the blood of Christ, through anointing with the grace of the Holy Spirit, through the indwelling of the Trinity and through the invocation of the name of God in the temple of the soul, which must never be violated (cf. 1 Cor 3:17)" [1] .

7. The logic of this explanation is based on the fact that holiness, the source of which is the Holy Spirit, must accompany the Church and her members in the course of their whole pilgrimage toward the eternal dwelling place. Therefore in the creed the articles on the Holy Spirit, the Church and the communion of saints are all connected: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints." The perfecting of this union - or the communion of saints - will be the eschatological result of holiness which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit on this earth to the Church in her sons and daughters, in every person, in every generation throughout the course of history. Even though during this history the sons and daughters of the Church often "sadden the Holy Spirit" (Eph 4:30), faith tells us that, "marked" by this Spirit "for the day of redemption" (Eph 4:30), they can advance along the paths of holiness, despite their weakness and sins, as far as the journey's end. The ways are many, and great are the various types of saints within the Church. "Star differs from star in brightness" (1 Cor 15:41). But "there is one Spirit" who in his own way and divine fashion brings about holiness in each person. Therefore we can accept with faith and hope the exhortation made by the Apostle Paul: "Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor 15:58).

[1]   In Symb. Apost., a. 10

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je salue très cordialement tous les pèlerins de langue française présents à cette audience. En ce temps de préparation à Noël, je reprends volontiers l’exhortation de saint Paul: “Restez fermes et inébranlables dans le Seigneur!”. A chacun d’entre vous, j’accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to welcome the young people from Australia taking part in an exchange programme sponsored by the International Association of Lions Clubs, and the students from the International Centre for Advanced Technical Training in Turin. My greetings also go to the choir from Saint Peter’s Church in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai gruppi di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Euch, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim sowie den über Rundfunk und Fernsehen mit uns Verbundenen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Junto con este mensaje de esperanza deseo saludar muy cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España.

En particular, al grupo de Misioneros Javerianos, de México, que se han unido a nosotros en este día, fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. En vosotros quiero dirigir un entrañable saludo a todo el querido pueblo mexicano y a todos los amados pueblos de América Latina, que ven en la Virgen del Tepeyac su Madre amorosa, abogada y protectora.

Saludo igualmente al grupo de Religiosas de la Compañía de Santa Teresa de Jesús y a los integrantes del “Coro Vivaldi” de la Arquidiócesis de Guadalajara, México.

A todos bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Saúdo afectuosamente os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, desejando a todos uma abundância de graças nos caminhos da vossa vida, e concedo de muito bom grado a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ad un gruppo di pellegrini giapponesi

Al dilettissimo popolo giapponese,

In occasione del Natale e del Capodanno - ricorrenze particolarmente care a voi giapponesi - tramite la televisione auguro di cuore serena prosperità e pace, e soprattutto una grande felicità spirituale.

Buon Natale e Capodanno!

Ai suoi connazionali polacchi

Maryja . . . pierwsza "uwierzyła" - i tą własnie wiarą Oblu bienicy i Matki pragnie oddziaływać na wszystkich, którzy Jej po synowsku zawierzają . . . Ten maryjny wymiar życia chrześcijańskiego znajduje szczególny wyraz w odniesieniu do kobiety i Jej pozycji społecznej Kobiecość istotnie stanowi szczególną więź z Matką Odkupiciela . . . Bóg w tym wzniosłym wydarzeniu Wcielenia Syna (Przedwiecznego) zawierzył się wolnej i czynnej posłudze kobiety. Można zatem stwierdzić, że kobieta, patrząc na Maryję, odkrywa w Niej sekret godnego przeżywania swej kobiecości i prawdziwego realizowania siebie”.

Odczytuję te słowa z encykliki związanej z przygotowaniem do początku trzeciego Tysiąclecia od narodzenia Chrystusa. Odczytuję je w liturgicznym okresie Adwentu, w którym postać Niepokalanej zajmuje miejsce szczególne.

Odczytuję je także, wspominając historyczną pielgrzymkę kobiet polskich na Jasną Górę. Pielgrzymka ta miała miejsce w dniu 3 maja 1982 r. - i była jakby szczególną odpowiedzią na stan wojenny wprowadzony 13 grudnia 1981 r. Przybyłe z całej Polski kobiety złożyły Ci wówczas, Matko Jasnogórska, szczególne wotum: kielich życia i przemiany narodu. Jakże wiele to wotum wyraża! Ile mówi ono o naszej przeszłości bliskiej i odległej! Jakie stanowi zobowiązanie na przyszłość!

“Moralna siła kobiety, jej duchowa moc, wiąże się ze swiadomością, że Bóg w jakiś szczególny sposób zawierza jej człowieka . . . kobieta jest mocna świadomością (tego) zawerzena . . . Ta świadomość i to zasadnicze powołanie mówią kobiecie o godności, jaką otrzymujeod samego Boga, a to czyni ją "dzielną" . . . . W taki . . . sposób . . . staje się (ona) . . . oparciem i źródłem duchowej siły dla innych . . . Zawdzięczają (kobietom) wiele ich rodziny, a niejednokrotnie całe narody”.

Czyż nie potwierdziło się to również w naszych dziejach? Zwłaszcza w czasach najtrudniejszych dla Ojczyzny! Czyż sami zaborcy i prześladowcy nie wydali takiego właśnie swiadectwa polskiej kobiecie?

Pani Jasnogórska! Matko Niepokalana, Virgo Paritura! “W naszej epoce . . . (gdy) postęp jednostronny może również oznaczać stopniowy zanik wrażliwości na człowieka” . . . nasza Ojczyzna i ludzkość cała “oczekują na objawienie się owego "geniuszu" kobiety, który zabezpieczy wrażliwość na człowieka w każdej sytuacji: dlatego, że jest człowiekiem! I dlatego, że "największa jest miłość"  ”.

Witam polskich pielgrzymów, w szczególności pielgrzymów z parafii Świętej Rodziny w Zakopanem, z Małego Cichego, Wiktorówek i Murzasichla; międzyparafialną pielgrzymkę z Włocławka; pielgrzymów z parafii Nawrócenia św. Pawła w Poznaniu; pielgrzymkę polonijną ze Stanów Zjednoczonych, z parafii św. Józefa w Północnej Karolinie; dziecięcy zespół wokalno-taneczny “Tuchliki” z Tucholi; grupę pielgrzymkowo-turystyczną “Quo vadis” z Krosna; grupę pielgrzymkowo-turystyczną z Bydgoszczy, przede wszystkim z parafii Matki Bożej Królowej Męczenników; zespół góralski Henia Krzeptowskiego z Zakopanego; uczestników grup turystycznych “Orbis” i PTTK z Warszawy.

Ai gruppi di fedeli di espressione italiana

Saluto con affetto i vari gruppi di lingua italiana. In particolare mi rivolgo al folto gruppo delle Focolarine, provenienti da diversi continenti, le quali hanno preso parte al loro ritiro annuale sul tema “Lo Spirito Santo, doni ed effetti della sua presenza fra noi”. Auguro di cuore che questo incontro spirituale serva a rinvigorire il vostro impegno di unità nella Chiesa e a rendere sempre più operante la carità che vi anima.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Ed ora rivolgo uno speciale saluto ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Questo tempo di Avvento, a mano a mano che ci avvicina alla celebrazione del Natale, ci dispone ad aprire lo spirito alla luce del Mistero di Betlemme. L’attesa del Salvatore spinga voi, giovani, ad essere sempre più decisi e generosi nel corrispondere a tutte le esigenze della vocazione cristiana; incoraggi voi, ammalati, oggi così numerosi per la presenza del gruppo dell’Associazione AMAMI di Napoli e di quello del Centro Diurno Handicappati di Frosinone; carissimi, fidatevi del provvidenziale piano divino che vi domanda partecipazione ed abbandono nei confronti della sua volontà. Il mistero del Natale sia di stimolo per voi, sposi novelli, perché facciate della vostra famiglia il tempio dell’accoglienza e del rispetto della vita. Contemplando con Maria il mistero di Dio che si fa Uomo, camminiamo verso il Signore che viene a salvarci. Sia per tutti di conforto la mia speciale Benedizione.

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