Tag Archives: Holy Spirit
Commonweal‘s weekly email led me to an essay responding to a preposterous ad that aims to persuade liberal and nominal Catholics to quit the church because its teachings are “out of step with the times”. Is this for real?
Yep. As bizarre and poorly thought out as it sounds, these folks are for real.
I have to pity the people who put the ad out there to begin with. They just don’t get that being Catholic or Christian or a believer of any faith is not the same as say belonging to a club like the Boy Scouts or Lions. Certainly, there are many with superficial faith, who did get a weak education or catechism, and they’ve got a slew of wrong ideas about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the church. That’s an issue the church needs to address, but I am glad that the church doesn’t just follow what’s popular and takes a long view.
I do agree that some changes need to be made in the church, but not based on this ad or the ideology of those who paid for it. The church constantly needs to strive for correct teaching. It’s not a job that’s ever done, but that doesn’t mean we need to fit in with the outside culture as it shifts and stumbles along.
Catholicism goes deeper and it ought to. Yes, those who’s faith is like seed on rock may leave, but most of them left already, sadly. The church is not all about how many members there are. It shouldn’t be at least. Even if half the Catholics left, which I doubt would happen, this religion is here to stay. Every 500 years or so the church faces a major crisis and it looks like it’s in jeopardy, but it has always bounced back and grown.
Ironically, this little ad may wind up bringing people to Catholicism.
Part four of Karl Rahner’s Homily, which I began earlier this week.
If, then, all are asked if they are not afraid of the spirit, this does not mean striving after the golden mean with the secret intention of smoothing everything out so that all remains as before and each one sticks to his opinion and attitude. The prayer to the Holy Spirit, the appeal to leave everything to him, means rather a readiness to admit into the life the incalculable, the new that becomes old, the old becoming new’ it often means having no clearly worked out answer in the concrete situation, but with a secret confidence on which adequate reflection is impossible, leaving the existing and enduring question itself to count as the answer; it means continuing, because the past provides enough reason for hope, but in fact only for hope.
The word of the Holy Spirit does not provide prescriptions which we merely need to carry out. It commands boldness, experiment, decision, which cannot be justified by general principles (the law and the letter). The word of the Holy Spirit is the question to each individual in his irreplaceable uniqueness as to whether he has the courage to venture, to experiment, to endure the opposition of the great mass (whether traditionalist or progressive); whether he trusts in something which in the last resort cannot be rationally proved, but which is of course supremely rational wisdom–that is, in the Holy Spirit.
With this courage everyone in the church must do his own part, even though at first sight he is not in agreement with what the other does for his part. Each must do this conscious of the fact that her gift and her mission are different from the Spirit’s gift to others. But if the unity of the Spirit in the variety of his gifts is to be maintained, there are in fact many gifts. An antagonism, a dispute, among these gifts in the church simply cannot be avoided. For if these gifts were unambiguously and palpably already reconciled for us, there would be no need of a Holy Spirit who is of himself this unity; and, because not comprehensible and controllable by us, this unity escapes us.
This duty exist for us only if we blast open what the Spirit has given us for our own — so that we do this and not something else — in the loving hope that all these gifts are one, even though we cannot see into and control this unity, even though we must bear witness to our faith in this incomprehensible unity in terms of the sort of unity that we ourselves can achieve in humility and a willingness to adapt ourselves.
But how this courage in regard to our own gift of the Holy Spirit and the will for the unity of gifts in the church can coexist at the same time is in the very last resort once again not a question to be solved by the principles of systematic reasoning, but the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives himself to us in a way that does not place Him under our control. We should have no fear of this Spirit, we should admit him, each of us being critical in regard to ourselves. Then the Spirit’s improvisation, which we call the church, is more likely to succeed than seeking to form the church only according to the principles which we have taken under our own control.
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.
We in the church would be able to discover and experience the Spirit of the Lord more easily and more powerfully if we were not afraid of Him. He is in fact the Spirit of life, of freedom, of confidence of hope and joy, of unity, and thus of peace. We might therefor suppose that the human person longs for the Holy Spirit more than anything else. But he is the Spirit who constantly breaks through all frontiers in order to make these gifts, who seeks to deliver up everything to the incomprehensibility which we call God; he is the Spirit who gives life through death.
It is not surprising that we are afraid of Him. For we always want to know what we are involved in, we want to have the entries in our life’s account clearly before us and to be able to add them up to a figure that we can clearly grasp. We are frightened of experiments whose outcome cannot be foreseen. We hate to be overtaxed and like to measure our duty by what we are prepared to accomplish without great efforts. We want the Spirit therefore in small doses, but He won’t put up with this. We trust him only insofar as he is expressed in literary form, in law and tradition, in institutions that have proved their worth. We want him to be measured by these standards, to prove His identity as Holy Spirit through these, although in fact it should be the other way around.
We are afraid of the Spirit. In a word, he is too incalculable for us. We believe only in theory and not in practical life that God is infinite incomprehensibility into which the Holy Spirit wants to hurl us. We make our permanent home in what should be merely a starting point or take-off runway for this movement of human beings through faith, hope and love, into the immense incomprehensibility of God.
It is no better when we give the name of church to this country which we don’t want to leave, when we forget that the church too has validity before God and human beings only to the extent that she produces through word and sacrament this hope and faith and the love in which human persons entrust themselves unconditionally to the Holy Spirit of God.
Even in the life of the church as such this fear of the Holy Spirit can be found. Fear can be perceived among the “traditionalists.” They fear risks and experiments the results of which are not known in advance. They don’t want to hear any formulation of faith with which they have not been familiar with since childhood onward, as if a proposition and the Spirit which it attests were simply identical. They want to have unity in the variety of the church in such a way that they can thoroughly understand this unity and take it under their own control. The tradition which they defend–as such rightly–is for them the land of the fathers, now definitely acquired and only needing to be inhabited and governed, not a station on a pilgrimage, beckoning them on further, even though the course in the direction in which they had hitherto been moving. And if they admit and profess in theory the doctrine of divine unrest, known as the Holy Spirit, it is only in order really to have the right to refuse the demands of this incalculable Spirit in practical life.
On the other hand, we get the impression that those also are often afraid of the Holy Spirit who proudly call themselves or are suspected by others of being “progressives.”
From The Great Church Year, Karl Rahner, New York, NY, 1993. pages 217-18.
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit have been on my mind. Last week I was looking for a prayer Karl Rahner, a Jesuit theologian, wrote and couldn’t find it, but I did find this homily on Pentecost. It’s long so I’ll present it here in segments.
Pentecost: Fear of the Spirit
We are told in the Act of the Apostles (19:1-2) that Paul found some disciples at Ephesus and asked them: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered: “We have never even heard of the Holy Spirit.”
Many Christians today, if they were faced with the same question, ought really to answer: We We were told of the Holy Spirit in our religion instruction at school, we were baptized and confirmed, but that’s about all we’ve had to do with the Holy Spirit; we’ve not yet seen any trace of Him in our lives.
In fact, in this age of technology, of rational planned leadership of human beings, of mass media, of rational psychology and depth psychology, it isn’t easy for people today to discover within the field of their experience anything they might venture to call the efficacy of the Holy Spirit. There seems to be no scope for anything that is not secular within a “system” of intramundane causes and effects, without exit or entrance.
If we want to get rid of the impression of a secular world, in which there is nothing like a Holy Spirit, then we shall have to stop looking for him only under explicitly religious labels of the kind to which our religious training has accustomed us. If we look out for inner freedom in which a person, regardless of herself, remains faithful to the dictate of her conscience; if someone succeeds, without knowing how, in really breaking out of the prison of her egoism; if someone not only gets his pleasures and delights, but possesses joy which knows limit; if someone with mute resignation allows death to take her and at the same time entrusts herself to an ultimate mystery in which she believes as unity, meaning and love: when these things happen, what we Christians call the Holy Spirit is at work, precisely because in these and similar experiences what is involved is not a controllable and definable factor of the world of our experience. The Spirit is at work precisely because this world of experience is delivered up to its comprehensible ground, to its innermost center which is no longer its very own.
We Christians least of all need to think of this nameless Holy Spirit, “poured out upon all flesh,” as locked up within the walls of the church. Rather do we form the church as the community of those who confess explicitly in historical and social forms that God loved the world (not merely Christians) and make his Spirit the innermost dynamic principle of the world, through whom everyone finds God as his absolute future, as long as he does not cut himself off from God through the deep-rooted sin of the a whole life. If we see the gift of the Spirit to the world in this way, then it is perhaps not so difficult to find in this world the Holy Spirit in whom we profess our faith at Pentecost as our innermost mystery and even more as God’s mystery.
From The Great Church Year, Karl Rahner, New York, NY, 1993. pages 215-16.