Who is the Holy Spirit?

Josh Raymond recalled a story from before the pandemic, about three years ago, when he took his son Elijah to see the musical Hamilton. As you may know if you’ve ever seen a live musical, many of the opening numbers are songs that introduce main characters. One such song in Hamilton introduces three sisters: Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy. Angelica ends up becoming a prominent character that corresponds with Hamilton throughout the play. Eliza marries Hamilton, so she obviously plays an important role.

But Peggy, the third sister, seems to only be there to round out the introduction song. The audience doesn’t learn very much about her, and although she is close to many of the main characters, you would be forgiven for forgetting that she was ever even there. John likened this third, mysterious, often forgotten character to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Too often, we dwell on God the Father and God the Son but forget the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? What role does He play?

Josh welcomed Father Joseph Ilo onto The Inner Life to discuss devotion to the Holy Spirit, why the Holy Spirit matters to our spiritual lives, and who the Holy Spirit should be to us.

Father Joseph began by focusing on a word that Josh used to describe the Holy Spirit: “nebulous”. It comes from the Latin nebula meaning cloud or mist. Literally and metaphorically, we may see clouds in our lives all the time and yet we choose to ignore them. But in scripture, we see God’s chosen figures acknowledging these “clouds” time and time again: the cloud that overshadowed Moses on Mt. Sinai, the cloud that led the Israelites out of Egypt, the cloud that came to Our Lady at the Annunciation, the voice from the clouds at the Baptism in the Jordan.

The clouds in our lives, while they may not be so obvious, come in many forms. They may be bright and beautiful, signs of potentially good, hopeful news. They might be dark and foreboding, indicative of the skepticism and fear in our lives. But one thing remains constant in any given cloud: God the Holy Spirit will work through all of them.

The Holy Spirit has many titles, but two of the most popular are the Giver of Life and the Paraclete. He is called the Giver of Life because He inspires us. He gives us life and energy. We cannot see or feel the Spirit, but it animates us and gives us vitality. The Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete, which means advocate, because He is the one whom Jesus sent to guide us after His ascension.

Satan is the prosecutor, and he is accusing us of sins which we are guilty of. He is making the case for why he has won our souls and we must pay for our sins. In order to be saved, said Father Joseph, we need the best defense lawyer we have ever known. And that is the Holy Spirit. “He will defend you. He will inspire you with what to say at your trial, how to speak the truth … I often think of the Holy Spirit as my defense attorney who tells me what to say and what not to say, who gives me hope and consolation as I’m being accused by the Evil One.”

Father Joseph encouraged Josh’s listeners to learn the prayer of the Holy Spirit, especially in anticipation of the original novena: the nine days of prayer between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost. The Apostles and Mary remained hidden in that upper room, entranced in prayer, awaiting the arrival of the one Jesus promised them.

Josh asked Father Joseph how we should envision and approach the Holy Spirit in our spiritual lives. It’s very difficult for physical, material beings like us to wrap our minds around something so ethereal and mysterious. Often, without a way to concretely apprehend an idea, we abandon it. But in our search for growth with the Holy Spirit, what’s the most effective way to think about Him?

Father Joseph said that there are a few ways he likes to picture the Holy Spirit: as fire, as a dove, or as a cloud. The fire to him signifies the vitality he gives to us as the Giver of Life. The dove represents a symbol of peace and tranquility. The symbol of the cloud particularly sticks out to Father Joseph, though, because of the symbolism at Mass. At the Epiclesis, when he holds his hands over the offerings, he can see the incense smoke cloud rise up to the heavens. And then, pouring down on him is the light. It’s a very literal depiction, but it evokes a strong message.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.