Office of Readings
Office of Readings, Week VII of Easter
The glory you gave to me, I have given them
From a homily on the Song of Songs by St. Gregory of Nyssa,
When love has entirely cast out fear, and fear has been transformed
into love, then the unity brought us by our saviour will be fully
realised, for all men will be united with one another through their
union with the one supreme Good. They will possess the perfection
ascribed to the dove, according to our interpretation of the text:
One alone is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only child of her
mother, her chosen one.
Our Lordís words in the gospel bring out the meaning of this text
more clearly. After having conferred all power on his disciples by his
blessing, he obtained many other gifts for them by his prayer to the
Father. Among these was included the greatest gift of all, which was
that they were no longer to be divided in their judgement of what was
right and good, for they were all to be united to the one supreme Good.
As the Apostle says, they were to be bound together with the bonds of
peace in the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit. They were to be made
one body and one spirit by the one hope to which they were all called.
We shall do better, however, to quote the sacred words of the gospel
itself. I pray, the Lord says, that they all may be one; that
as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so they also may be one in us.
Now the bond that creates this unity is glory. That the Holy Spirit
is called glory no one can deny if he thinks carefully about the Lordís
words: The glory you gave to me, I have given to them. In fact,
he gave this glory to his disciples when he said to them: Receive the
Holy Spirit. Although he had always possessed it, even before the
world existed, he himself received this glory when he put on human
nature. Then, when his human nature had been glorified by the Spirit,
the glory of the Spirit was passed on to all his kin, beginning with his
disciples. This is why he said: The glory you gave to me, I have
given to them, so that they may be one as we are one. With me in them
and you in me, I want them to be perfectly one.
Whoever has grown from infancy to manhood and attained to spiritual
maturity possesses the mastery over his passions and the purity that
makes it possible for him to receive the glory of the Spirit. He is that
perfect dove upon whom the eyes of the bridegroom rest when he says:
One alone is my dove, my perfect one.
The Living Water of the Holy Spirit
From a Catechetical Sermon by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop
The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water,
welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping
water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the
grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants
and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain,
and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different
effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the
whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another,
but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of
every creature that receives it.
In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and
indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which
puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when
repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the
Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in
the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.
The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to
prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to
interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one manís self-control,
shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life
of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains
another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the
Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the
Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.
The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not
felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge
stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of
a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to
strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the
one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.
As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the
sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before,
so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy
Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision,
things hitherto undreamed of.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
From the treatise On the Holy
Spirit by St. Basil the Great, bishop
The titles given to the Holy Spirit must surely stir the soul of
anyone who hears them, and make him realise that they speak of nothing less
than the supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of
truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, the guiding Spirit?
But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit.
To the Spirit all creatures turn in their
need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their
ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.
The Spirit is the source of holiness, a
spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its
search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but
we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole
universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each
according to the measure of his faith.
Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in
his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the
whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he
remains unchanged; his self giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine,
which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is
enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours
forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as
though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that
share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his
ability to give.
The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven,
guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making
progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin
and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.
As clear, transparent substances become very
bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also
souls in whom the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace
From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the
future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden
meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become
citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God.
Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is
beyond our most sublime aspirations Ė we become God.
The Mission of the Holy Spirit in the Church
From the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican
Council (LG nn. 4, 12)
the Son completed the work with which the Father had entrusted him on earth,
the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost to sanctify the Church
unceasingly, and thus enable believers to have access to the Father through
Christ in the one Spirit. He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water
welling up to give eternal life. Through him the Father gives life to men,
dead because of sin, until he raises up their mortal bodies in Christ.
The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the
hearts of the faithful as in a temple. He prays in them and bears
witness in them to their adoption as sons. He leads the Church into all
truth and gives it unity in communion and in service. He endows it with
different hierarchical and charismatic gifts, directs it by their means,
and enriches it with his fruits.
By the power of the Gospel he enables the
Church to grow young, perpetually renews it, and leads it to complete
union with its Bridegroom. For the Spirit and the Bride say to the Lord
In this way the Church reveals itself as
a people whose unity has its source in the unity of Father, Son and Holy
whole company of the faithful, who have an anointing by the Holy Spirit,
cannot err in faith. They manifest this distinctive characteristic of
theirs in the supernatural instinct of faith (Ďsensus fideií) of the
whole people when, from the bishops to the most ordinary lay person
among the faithful, they display a universal agreement on matters of
faith and morals.
instinct of faith is awakened and kept in being by the Spirit of truth.
Through it the people of God hold indefectibly to the faith once
delivered to the saints, penetrate it more deeply by means of right
judgement, and apply it more perfectly in their lives. They do all this
under the guidance of the sacred teaching office: by faithful obedience
to it they receive, not the word of men but in truth the word of God.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit not only
sanctifies and guides Godís people by the sacraments and the ministries,
and enriches it with virtues, he also distributes special graces among
the faithful of every state of life, assigning his gifts to
each as he chooses. By means of these special gifts he equips them
and makes them eager for various activities and responsibilities that
benefit the Church in its renewal or its increase, in accordance with
the text: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for a good
These charisms, the simpler and more
widespread as well as the most outstanding, should be accepted with a
sense of gratitude and consolation, since in a very special way they
answer and serve the needs of the Church.
If I do not go away, the Comfortor will not come to you
From a commentary on the Gospel of John by St. Cyril of
After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still
remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of
the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that
we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be
pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in
the Holy Spirit.
It was most fitting that the sending of the Spirit and his
descent upon us should take place after the departure of Christ our
Saviour. As long as Christ was with them in the flesh, it must have
seemed to believers that they possessed every blessing in him; but
when the time came for him to ascend to his heavenly Father, it was
necessary for him to be united through his Spirit to those who
worshipped him, and to dwell in our hearts through faith. Only by
his own presence within us in this way could he give us confidence
to cry out, Abba, Father, make it easy for us to grow in holiness
and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us
invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.
It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament
and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell;
he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind
of life. Saul was told by the prophet Samuel: The Spirit of the Lord
will take possession of you, and you shall be changed into another
man. Saint Paul writes: As we behold the glory of the Lord with
unveiled faces, that glory, which comes from the Lord who is the
Spirit, transforms us all into his own likeness, from one degree of
glory to another.
Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes
to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the
Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been
absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly
in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage. There
can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples. The
strength they received from the Spirit enabled them to hold firmly
to the love of Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors
unafraid. Very true, then, was our Saviourís saying that it was to
their advantage for him to return to heaven: his return was the time
appointed for the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The Father's Gift in Christ
From the treatise On the Trinity by St. Hilary of Poitiers,
Our Lord commanded us to baptise in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, then, we profess faith in the
Creator, in the only-begotten Son and in the gift which is the Spirit.
There is one Creator of all things, for in God there is one Father from
whom all things have their being. And there is one only-begotten Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things exist. And there is one
Spirit, the gift who is in all. So all follow their due order, according
to the proper operation of each: one power, which brings all things into
being, one Son, through whom all things come to be, and one gift of
perfect hope. Nothing is wanting to this flawless union: in Father, Son
and Holy Spirit, there is infinity of endless being, perfect reflection
of the divine image, and mutual enjoyment of the gift.
Our Lord has described the purpose of the Spiritís presence in us.
Let us listen to his words: I have yet many things to say to you, but
you cannot bear them now. It is to your advantage that I go away; if I
go, I will send you the Advocate. And also: I will ask the Father
and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever, the
Spirit of truth. He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not
speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he
will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for
he will take what is mine.
From among many of our Lordís sayings, these have been chosen to
guide our understanding, for they reveal to us the intention of the
giver, the nature of the gift and the condition for its reception. Since
our weak minds cannot comprehend the Father or the Son, we have been
given the Holy Spirit as our intermediary and advocate, to shed light on
that hard doctrine of our faith, the incarnation of God.
We receive the Spirit of truth so that we can know the things of God.
In order to grasp this, consider how useless the faculties of the human
body would become if they were denied their exercise. Our eyes cannot
fulfil their task without light, either natural or artificial; our ears
cannot react without sound vibrations, and in the absence of any odour
our nostrils are ignorant of their function. Not that these senses would
lose their own nature if they were not used; rather, they demand objects
of experience in order to function. It is the same with the human soul.
Unless it absorbs the gift of the Spirit through faith, the mind has the
ability to know God but lacks the light necessary for that knowledge.
The Church in its unity speaks in the language of every nation
from a sermon by a sixth century African author
The disciples spoke in the language of every
nation. At Pentecost God chose this means to indicate the presence of the
Holy Spirit: whoever had received the Spirit spoke in every kind of tongue.
We must realise, dear brothers, that this is the same Holy Spirit by whom
love is poured out in our hearts. It was love that was to bring the Church
of God together all over the world. And as individual men who received the
Holy Spirit, speaks in the language of every people.
Therefore if somebody should say to one of us, ďYou have received the
Holy Spirit, why do you not speak in tongues?Ē his reply should be, ďI do
indeed speak in the tongues of all men, because I belong to the body of
Christ, that is, the Church, and she speaks all languages. What else did the
presence of the Holy Spirit indicate at Pentecost, except that Godís Church
was to speak in the language of every people?Ē
This way is the way in which the Lordís promise was fulfilled: No one
puts new wine into old wineskins. New wine is put into fresh skins, and so
both are preserved. So when the disciples were heard speaking in all
kinds of languages, some people were not far wrong in saying: They have
been drinking too much new wine. The truth is that the disciples had now
become fresh wineskins, renewed and made holy by grace. The new wine of the
Holy Spirit filled them, so that their fervour brimmed over and they spoke
in manifold tongues. By this spectacular miracle they became a sign of the
Catholic Church, which embraces the language of every nation.
Keep this feast, then, as members of the one body of Christ. It will be
no empty festival for you if you really become what you are celebrating. For
you are the members of that Church which the Lord acknowledges as his own,
being himself acknowledged by her, that same Church which he fills with the
Holy Spirit as she spreads throughout the world. He is like a bridegroom who
never loses sight of his own bride; no one could ever deceive him by
substituting some other woman.
To you men of all nations, then who make up the Church of Christ, you the
members of Christ, you, the body of Christ, you, the bride of Christ Ė to
all of you the Apostle addresses these words: Bear with one another in
love; do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
peace. Notice that when Paul urges us to bear with one another, he bases
his argument on love, and when he speaks of our hope of unity, he emphasises
the bond of peace. This Church is the house of God. It is his delight to
dwell here. Take care, then, that he never has the sorrow of seeing it
undermined by schism and collapsing in ruins.
The Sending of the Holy Spirit
from the treatise Against Heresies by St. Irenaeus, bishop
When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach
all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new
life in God. He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he
would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would
prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also
descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the
human race, to living in men and to inhabiting Godís creation. The Spirit
accomplished the Fatherís will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave
them new life in Christ.
Luke says that the Spirit came down on
the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lordís ascension, with power to open
the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant.
So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to
God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to
the Father as the first fruits of all the nations.
This was why the Lord had promised to
send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry
flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without
moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the
water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no
harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree
could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from
above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have
become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.
The Spirit of wisdom and
understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge
and the fear of Godcame down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave
this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the
world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast
down like lightning. If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we
need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an Advocate as well.
And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of
brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins
bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the
Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given
to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make
it yield a rich profit for the Lord.
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