Bookmark and Share

The Spirit of unity

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 5 December 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. As we saw in our preceding catechesis, the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, according to the Christian Tradition founded on the teaching of Christ and the apostles. But we must immediately add that St. Paul, in drawing his analogy of the Church as a human body, emphasizes for us that "in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, ...and we were all given to drink of one Spirit" (2 Cor 12:13). If the Church is like a body, the Holy Spirit is like her soul, that is, the principle of her divine life. If, on the other hand, on the day of Pentecost the Spirit established the Church by descending on the primitive community in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 1:13), from that day on and for all other generations that enter the Church, he cannot fail to be the principle and the source of unity, as the soul is for the human body.

2. Let us say that, according to the texts of the Gospel and St. Paul, this is a matter of a unity in multiplicity. The Apostle expresses this explicitly in his First Letter to the Corinthians: "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also is Christ" (1 Cor 12:12).

Once this premise of the ontological order on the unity of the Body of Christ has been posited, the exhortation which we find in the Letter to the Ephesians is explained: "Strive to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3). It is apparent that this is not a question of a mechanical unity, nor of a merely organic one (like that of every living being), but rather of a spiritual unity which entails an ethical involvement. According to Paul, peace is the result of reconciliation through the cross of Christ, "for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph 2:18). In this text "both" refers to converts from Judaism and from paganism. The Apostle asserts and describes at length their reconciliation with God, who makes of everyone one people, one body in one Spirit (cf. Eph 2:11-18). However, this argument holds true for all peoples, nations and cultures from which those who believe in Christ come. With St. Paul we can say about all of them what we find in the next part of the text: "So, then, you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you [converts from paganism] also [in addition to converts from Judaism] are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Eph 2:19-22).

3. "In him [Christ] every construction grows." There is therefore a dynamism in the unity of the Church, which tends toward an ever fuller participation in the trinitarian unity of God himself. The unity of the ecclesial communion is an image of the communion of the Trinity, the summit of infinite height, to which it looks at all times. It is the greeting and wish which is addressed to the faithful at the beginning of the Mass in the renewed liturgy of Vatican II, using the words of Paul himself: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2 Cor 13:13). They contain the truth about the unity in the Holy Spirit as the unity of the Church, which St. Augustine commented upon as follows: "The communion of the Church's as it were a work of the Holy Spirit himself, with the participation of the Father and the Son, because in a way the Spirit himself is the communion of the Father and the Son.... The Father and the Son have the Spirit in common, because he is the Spirit of both of them" (Sermon 71, 28, 33: PL 38, 463-464).

4. This concept of trinitarian unity in the Holy Spirit as the source of the Church's unity in the form of "communion" is one of the main points of ecclesiology. The Second Vatican Council repeatedly affirms this. We can cite the closing words of the fourth paragraph of the Constitution Lumen Gentium, dedicated to the Spirit who sanctifies the Church, which quotes a famous text of St. Cyprian of Carthage [1] : "Thus the Church has been seen as 'a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (LG 4; see also LG 9; GS 24; UR 2).

5. We should also note that, according to Paul's recommendation which we have just heard, ecclesial communion is expressed in the readiness to remain in unity and in constancy, regardless of the multi-faceted plurality and differences among individuals, ethnic groups, nations and cultures. As the source of this unity the Holy Spirit teaches mutual understanding and indulgence (or at least tolerance), showing each person the spiritual wealth of the others. He teaches how to share spiritual gifts with one another in order to unite people and not divide them. As the Apostle says: "One body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4:4-5). On the spiritual and ethical level, yet having profound repercussions on the psychological and social planes, the force which unites is most of all love which is shared and practiced according to Christ's commandment: "Love one another, as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34; 15:12). According to St. Paul, this love is the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).

6. Unfortunately, this unity of and in the Holy Spirit, which is proper to the Body of Christ, runs up against sin. Thus it came about that during the course of the centuries, Christians have experienced quite a few divisions, some of which were greater and enduring. These divisions are explained—but not justified—by the weakness and limitation which are part of our fallen human nature. These remain and are also expressed in the members of the Church and in her leaders too. However, we must also proclaim our conviction, based on the certainty of faith and the experience of history, that the Holy Spirit is working tirelessly to build up unity and communion, despite our human weakness. This is the conviction which the Second Vatican Council expressed in the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio on ecumenism, when it acknowledged that "today, in many parts of the world, under the inspiring grace of the Holy Spirit, many efforts are being made in prayer, word and action to attain that fullness of unity which Jesus Christ desires" (UR 4), Unum corpus, unus Spiritus . This sincere tending toward unity in the Body of Christ comes from the Holy Spirit, and it is only through his work that the ideal of unity can be fully realized.

7. Yet in the Church, in addition to the unity of Christians, the Holy Spirit brings about a universal openness to the entire human family, and is the source of universal communion. On the religious plane the Church's missionary activity has emerged from this wonderful and deep source, from the age of the apostles to our own day. The tradition of the Fathers tells us that from the very first centuries the mission was carried out with attention to and understanding of those "seeds of the Word" (semina Verbi) contained in various cultures and non-Christian religions, to which the last Council dedicated a document (Nostra Aetate: see especially n. 2 in regard to the ancient Fathers, including the Apologia by St. Justin, 10. See also Ad Gentes, 15; Gaudium et Spes, 22). This is because the Spirit who "blows where he wills" (cf. Jn 3:8) is the source of inspiration for all that is true, good and beautiful, according to the magnificent phrase of an unknown author from the time of Pope Damasus (366-384) which states that: "Every truth, no matter who says it, comes from the Holy Spirit" [2] . St. Thomas repeated this text several times in his writings and commented upon it in this way in his Summa: "Every truth, no matter who says it, comes from the Holy Spirit who infuses the natural light [of intelligence] and moves the person to understand and express the truth." Then the Spirit, according to Aquinas, intervenes with the gift of grace added to nature, when it is a question of "knowing and expressing certain truths, and especially the truths of faith, to which the Apostle is referring when he affirms that 'no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Cor 12:3)" [3] . Discerning and bringing to light in all their richness the truths and values present in the fabric of cultures is a fundamental task of missionary activity, nourished in the Church by the Spirit of Truth, who as Love leads people to a more perfect knowledge in charity.

8. The Holy Spirit pours himself out into the Church as Love, the saving force which tends to draw together all people and all of creation. This energy of love ends up overcoming all resistance even though, as we know all too well from experience and history, it must continually struggle against sin and everything there is in the human being which is opposed to love, that is, selfishness, hatred and jealous and destructive rivalry. But the Apostle assures us that "love builds up" (1 Cor 8:1). The building up of the ever new and ever ancient unity will also depend on love.

[1]   De Orat. Dominica, 23: PL, 4, 536
[2]   cf. PL, 191, 1651
[3]   I-II, q. 109, a. 1, ad. 1

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

Ad un folto gruppo di pellegrini francesi 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je salue avec plaisir les personnes de langue française présentes. En particulier, j’adresse mes vœux chaleureux et mes encouragements aux Pères Blancs, Missionnaires d’Afrique. Que l’Esprit les guide et les soutienne dans leur ministère et leur vie personnelle de prêtres!

A tous, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique. 

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to welcome the members of the International Brotherhood of Communities on the occasion of their annual meeting near Rome. May your efforts always be inspired by a strong sense of communion with the Church’s pastors and of fidelity to her apostolic goals.  Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience I willingly invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A due gruppi musicali giapponesi 

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto voi, componenti del gruppo “Tenrikyo” e del gruppo “Koto” e vi ringrazio per la vostra visita annuale qui in Vaticano. Un ringraziamento particolare per la bella esibizione con l’arpa giapponese, il “Koto”. La buona musica rasserena il cuore e infonde pensieri di pace. Voi considerate il vostro strumento musicale come un simbolo di unità. Vi auguro, perciò, carissimi, di far crescere, mediante i vostri concerti, sentimenti di unità e di pace in mezzo alla gente.

Con questo augurio vi benedico di cuore.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! 

Ad un folto pellegrinaggio della diocesi tedesca di Bozen-Brixen

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Doch Paulus versichert uns, daß allein die Liebe die Kraft hat, stets neu aufzubauen.  Mit dieser Betrachtung grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Ein besonderer Willkommensgruß gilt der Pilgergruppe aus der Pfarrei ”Zur Erhöhung des Heiligen Kreuzes“ aus Verdins in der Diözese Bozen-Brixen.

Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, Euren liebe Angehörigen daheim sowie allen, die uns über Rundfunk und Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Me es muy grato saludar afectuosamente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, al grupo de Religiosos Capuchinos y a las Hermanas de María Inmaculada. Os aliento a ser siempre testigos del mensaje de amor cristiano en vuestra vida de consagración a Dios y en vuestras actividades apostólicas.

Agradezco vivamente la presencia del coro “Voces de Castilla”, de Segovia, mientras doy mi cordial bienvenida a los miembros del Consejo Superior de Relaciones Públicas de España y de la Asociación Cataluña Cristiana.

Con afecto imparto la Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai fedeli provenienti da Paesi di lingua portoghese 

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa saúdo afectuosamente e, como penhor de abundantes dons divinos, concedo de bom grado a minha Bênção Apostólica. 

Ai connazionali polacchi 

GŁos woŁającego na pustyni: Przygotujcie drogę Panu, prostujcie scieżki dla Niego! Każda dolina niech będzie wypełniona, każda góra i pagórek zrównane, drogi kręte niech staną się prostymi, a wyboiste drogami gładkimi! I wszyscy ludzie ujrzą zbawienie Boże”.

Przez wieki idzie to wołanie Izajasza proroka. Wyłania się z głębi Starego Przymierza. Odzywa się z kolei nad Jordanem, gdzie Jan udziela chrztu pokuty. Powraca corocznie w Adwencie, gdy wraz z całym Kościołem przygotowujemy się na przyjście Boga w ludzkim ciele.

“Gotujcie drogę Panu”.

Wspólnie z Rodakami rozważam te prorockie słowa wobec Ciebie, Pani Jasnogórska, Matko naszego Adwentu.

Są one szczególnie aktualne dla społeczeństwa, które nosi w sobie Ślady trudnego pięćdziesięciolecia. Pokrzywiło ono wiele ścieżek ludzkiego bytowania. Zaciążyło nad świadomością i postępowaniem. Skrzywiło także sumienia.

Co to znaczy dla nas “prostować ścieżki”? Co znaczy “czynić prostymi drogi kręte, a wyboiste drogami gładkimi”?

Do ilu dziedzin naszego życia i współżycia odnoszą się te słowa?

Słusznie przywiązuje się wagę zasadniczą do odnowionego prawodawstwa. Prawo jest z pewnością podstawowym warunkiem społecznego ładu. Wedle definicji św. Tomasza z Akwinu wyraża się w nim troska o dobro wspólne. Dobro wspólne warunkuje dobro poszczególnych obywateli i zarazem je ogarnia miarą dobra wszystkich. Prawo jest wyrazem troski, rzetelnej troski, tych wszystkich instancji i osób, którym społeczeństwo powierzyło stosowną władzę.

To ludzkie prawo stanowione tylko wówczas “prostuje ścieżki”, jeżeli wyraża się w nim prawo moralne, które jest wobec wszelkich ludzkich ustanowień nadrzędne. Co więcej, ono samo decyduje o wartości prawa jako prawa. Ustanowienie ludzkie sprzeczne z prawem moralnym traci swą właściwą moc. Przynosi natomiast szkody czasem nieobliczalne. Zamiast “prostować ścieżki”, prowadzi na manowce. Jest ono wówczas odpowiedzialne za skrzywienie sumień, bo poszczególni ludzie skłonni są uznawać to, co “legalne”, za “moralne”.

Wspólnie przeto z pielgrzymami przybyłymi z Ojczyzny proszę Cię, Matko Jasnogórska, u progu naszego Adwentu - dla polskich prawodawców o mądrość i męstwo. Dla wszystkich rodaków o miłość dobra prawdziwego jako fundament społecznej odnowy. Niech nie zabraknie im mocy ducha, aby “prostować ścieżki”.

Witam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski: Księdza Kardynała z Krakowa, Księży Biskupów z Koszalina, z Radomia, z Białegostoku, z Częstochowy, prócz tego pracowników “Chemobudowy” z Krakowa, pielgrzymów z Luborzycy oraz z Frankfurtu; pielgrzymów z diecezji włocławskiej; z parafii Matki Bożej Królowej Polski w Głogowie oraz pielgrzymów z Poznania; grupę obsługi turystycznej “Trakt” z Warszawy; grupę turystyczną “Krakowiak”, oraz również z Krakowa grupę studentów Wyższej Szkoły Pedagogicznej; grupę “Savio-Matec” z Łodzi; “PTTK” z Krakowa; pracowników technicznych rewii na lodzie “Holiday on Ice” oraz innych pielgrzymów indywidualnych z kraju i z emigracji.

Ai diversi gruppi provenienti da diocesi e parrocchie italiane 

Saluto ora i pellegrini di lingua italiana, venuti da varie regioni della Penisola.

Il mio pensiero va anzitutto ai gruppi del Volontariato Vincenziano della Puglia, presenti con il loro Assistente Regionale. Carissimi, abbiate sempre gli occhi aperti sulle situazioni di povertà tipiche del nostro tempo: esse esigono spesso dedizione pronta, generosa, urgente. Un cordiale saluto poi va ai numerosi giovani dell’Istituto Nazareno, ai loro educatori e familiari, agli ex alunni. Esprimo il mio compiacimento per la bella iniziativa di premiare ogni anno i più significativi gesti di bontà compiuti dai giovani.

Mi è gradito poi salutare gli aderenti al “Lions Clubs” del distretto di Bari ed incoraggiare le numerose iniziative sociali e culturali che essi promuovono in collaborazione con la Chiesa locale.

Sono presenti pure numerosi aderenti alla Federazione italiana braccianti, impiegati e tecnici agricoli, che celebrano il XL anniversario di fondazione del loro sodalizio. Il mio augurio sincero a tutti voi, cari lavoratori, che promuovete ogni forma di partecipazione e di solidarietà, consapevoli che l’aggiornamento dell’agricoltura è una garanzia per risolvere i problemi della fame delle popolazioni più povere.

Saluto, infine, i fedeli della parrocchia di San Tommaso Apostolo in Castelfusano e l’Associazione dei donatori volontari di sangue di Piansano, in diocesi di Viterbo. 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli 

Con il pensiero rivolto alla vicina solennità dell’Immacolata, porgo, oggi, il saluto ai giovani, ai malati, agli sposi novelli, presenti a questa Udienza. La Madre del Cristo, preservata dalla colpa di origine in vista dei meriti del Redentore, è venerata dalla Chiesa come il modello dei credenti, chiamati ad essere santi ed immacolati al cospetto di Dio nella carità (cf. Ef 1, 4). Maria, la piena di grazia, ci precede così e ci accompagna nel cammino della nostra perfezione cristiana.

Questa riflessione sia di stimolo per voi, carissimi giovani, che vi preparate alla vita e alle future responsabilità, ispirandovi agli ideali della fede; doni coraggio, speranza, conforto a voi, cari ammalati, e vi faccia accettare la sofferenza come espressione redentrice; susciti in voi, sposi novelli, desideri di santità nel formare la vostra famiglia, secondo il modello della Casa di Nazaret. A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana