Fr. Hermann Geissler FSO

The Holy Spirit: Our Consolation

1. Images of the Holy Spirit

When Sacred Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit, it often uses the language of images – images that can help us to understand something about his greatness, power and the manner in which he operates. We here choose three of them.
Often the Holy Spirit is compared with fire. John the Baptist announces that Jesus is the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). Concerning that Spirit, Jesus himself says: “I have come to set the world on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49). Fire has several purposes: it illuminates, it warms, it transforms. When on the morning of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descen­ded upon the apostles “as tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3-4), they could experience its divine strength: it removed fear from their hearts; it gave them the power to preach; it turned them into fervent apostles who were able to offer themselves for the sake of the Lord. All of us have received that same fire of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God has created us and let us be reborn to be persons full of “fire”, of passion for God and the truth, of courage to preach the gospel. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, said in a homily: “Christianity is fire, it is not something boring, and it is not just empty chatter without consequences. Christianity demands the passion of faith that is filled with fidelity to the passion of Christ and tries to renew the world starting with this passion.”

Another image of the Holy Spirit is that of living water. Jesus once cried out in a loud voice: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him’.” And St. John adds: “He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who come to believe in him were to receive” (John 7:37-39). This word was fulfilled when “blood and water” (John 19:34) flowed out of the pierced side of the crucified Lord. The open heart of Jesus is the source of that water that gives life to the faithful of all times. The symbolic meaning of that water was evident to the people of Israel, a people who had experienced life in the desert: without water there is no life; the source of water is the fountain of life. Therefore, Jesus compared the Holy Spirit with water that gives life to our hearts, to our hearts who often can be compared to the desert. Jesus himself is the source who gives us life from the cross. Each one of us, by drinking this water, becomes a source from which pours out living water that allows those around us to grow and to live.

A third symbol of the Holy Spirit is breath. When the risen Lord appeared to the disciples “he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven” (John 20:22-23). Air is an essential element that renders our planet habitable. Only where there is air, one can breathe and live. What air is to our physical life, the Holy Spirit is to our spiritual life. Only where that Spirit is accepted and breathed, we are able to live in a truly human way as Christians. We also become aware that we need the Spirit not only every now and then, in certain situations, but that actually we always need him. Today people often speak of air pollution and, surely in big cities, this can be a serious problem. But much more serious is spiritual pollution that poisons the heart of men through violence, commercialized sex, and a disdain of human dignity. As Christians we have the duty of fighting this spiritual pollution, we have to spread “the aroma of Christ” (2 Cor 2:15), the good and healthy air of the Holy Spirit, who is a Spirit of purity, pardon and peace.

»Christianity is fire.«
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger