Pentecost: Fear of the Spirit, Part 3

Part three of Karl Rahner’s Homily, which I began a few days ago.

. . . For real confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit in his church implies also the hopeful faith that he constantly prevails in this church with his power of renewal. But why then are these “progressives” so often irritated and impatient? How is the faith in God’s Spirit constantly renewing “the face of the earth” of the church compatible with the peevish threat to leave the church if she does not soon undergo a thorough change, while granting her somewhat optimistically a brief period in which to become again a home which they don’t have to leave?

Don’t the “progressives” also dictate to the Holy Spirit where He has to be active? Namely, at a critical distance from the church which is identified with office and tradition, in purely social commitment, in the will of the unity of Christians at all costs. Not, however, in worship of God, in love for a real, concretely existing neighbor, in fraternal patience and magnanimous understanding for those of His brethren who have to serve the church in office to which they never quite do justice (how could it be otherwise?) with goodwill and an open mind even toward initiatives which emerge from official sources in the church in an open-mindedness without which, whether we admit it or not, we remain complacently and autocratically entangled in our own subjectivity. Are the “progressives” not often afraid of the Holy Spirit when they fear death, which means here fear of the mute, unrewarded sacrifice in the service of the church and of her mission, a sacrifice which cannot be justified in terms of a will for a merely intramundane future?

If the question is put to “traditionalists” and “progressives” in this way, as to whether they are not both afraid of the Spirit, the double question must not be suspected as a cheap, dialectical reconciliation of the two standpoints, nor be misused by professors and, today, by bishops who are inclined to advise a cheap “both this and that” or a “golden mean.” Of course, there are appropriate middle ways, and certainly the extremes of the terribles simplificateurs are stupid and can lead only to disaster. Certainly among the Christian virtues are moderation, patience, and the realism which is not fanatical and does not want to turn the world too quickly into a paradise soon to become a concentration camp of universal forced happiness.

But the Holy Spirit is simply not a compromise between intramundane antagonisms, the the golden mean, not the holiness of narrow-minded mediocrity. The Holy Spirit in particular must not be understood as one side of a dialectic, the other being made up of the letter, the law, the institution, rational calculation. Rather He is the one who constantly blast open all such empirical, dialectical unities of opposites (although these have their justification) and sweeps them into the movement directed toward the incomprehensible God, who is not merely another particular factor in the world and in the counter-and-interplay of its forces.

From The Great Church Year, Karl Rahner, New York, NY: Crossroad, 1993. pages 217-18.

Click here for the conclusion.

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About smkelly8

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