“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
God is with us. He is here present in each breath of our lives, present in our interactions with others, present in the ebb and flow of the cycle of seasons, present in all of His Creation. “God is with us” – a refrain from a hymn sung during the Great Compline Service of Lent. In a world where so much darkness lurks, where tragedy and pain are interwoven within our lives, where the devil “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” (1 Peter 5:8) – even here God is with us.
Before our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven on the 40th day after His glorious Resurrection, He promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, who would “abide with you forever.” (John 14:16) On Pentecost God fulfilled His promise, sending upon His apostles the Holy Spirit. Each year on the Monday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit. (This is also the feast day of Holy Trinity Cathedral.) We remember that, even though God has left the earth in His bodily form, He has not left us alone.
So Who is the Holy Spirit? The Greek word for Spirit is Pnévma. This word also means “wind” and “breath.” To better understand the Holy Spirit, think of wind: it is present and yet invisible; it has great effect, even silently; it is known and yet uncontainable. God’s Hand in Creation is continuously present through the Holy Spirit, dwelling in each person and “everywhere present and filling all things.” Like breath, we have the Holy Spirit entering our lives and our very bodies. “He dwells with you and … in you.” (John 14:17) Through the sacraments of the Church—baptism, chrismation, ordination, etc.—we receive special gifts or anointings of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is also called Paráklitos, which is translated as “Comforter,” “Consoler,” or “Helper.” All of these words describe the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Spirit comforts us in times of struggle. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.” (Psalm 34:18) God grants us more abundant grace when we endure adversity, pain, or sorrow. His Spirit consoles us, offering solace through turbulent times.
The Holy Spirit is also the Helper. “The Spirit helps in our weaknesses.” (Romans 8:26) and “will teach you all things.” (John 14:26) What we lack, we can receive through Him. By prayer, the sacraments, confession, and the life of the Church, we can grow in God and begin to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in our lives: “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Yet the Holy Spirit does not compel us. We receive the Spirit only to the extent that we prepare the dwelling place of our soul for His presence. If we clutter our soul with other things—anxiety, egotism, anger, envy, lust, and the like—we leave little room for the Spirit. We must clean out the debris of our sinfulness and cleanse the inner self through repentance and confession.
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. … Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)
God is with us. He will never depart! But let us grant His Holy Spirit ample space in dwelling place of our souls, so that He may comfort, console, and help us each day of our lives.