‘How are we to try to think of this third Person of the Trinity who is called the Spirit? With the second Person we feel ourselves to be on safer, because homelier, ground, for the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, and it is as the God-Man that in practice we think of him and worship him. Yet we must not exaggerate the incomprehensibility for us of the Spirit of Love: we know what we mean when we speak of the spirit of a family, a school; we know what it means to be wrapped about in another human being’s love; and when we speak of someone as showing great spirit we think of him as infused with an energy which so fills him that it pours out from him in greatness. And historically our first glimpse of what the spirit of God may be is given false in the story of Pentecost: when the Apostles, from being frightened men in hiding in an upper room, become transformed, and transformed quite obviously from within, God coming to them now not outwardly in human form but inwardly as an infusion of divine energy – mighty wind, fire-so that they rush forth, new men, to preach the wonderful works of God.
Inwardness: it is this that gives us the clue to our Lord’s meaning. Earlier he had told them: He that believeth in me, as the Scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water; and St John goes on to explain, Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in him: for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. The third Person is called the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Love: the two things go together. The Church prays: O God who dost instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the holy Spirit... God comes first into the world as man: and in that first mission it is his humanity which determines the mode of all that is done. He comes to raise and heal humanity through the Cross; he comes to teach humanity, but as a man can teach men, through the medium of the word, the voice, the external sign. But that proposal of the truth to the ears and minds of. men is not enough to transform them.
...So God comes to the world the second time not as man but as Spirit, not proposing the truth from without but instilling it into the heart, teaching the heart to become what the mind has apprehended, so that it is now a question, not of the mind possessing the truth, but of the truth taking possession of the heart’.
Gerald Vann OP, 1906-1963
Fr Lee Kenyon