Some unusual symbols of the Holy Spirit


This coming Sunday, we celebrate Pentecost, the feast of the descent of the Holy Spirit, also called the “Birthday of the Church”.

But this third, and in a certain sense omnipresent member of the Holy Trinity can sometimes be almost incomprehensible – as Giuseppe D’Amore, permanent deacon and active member of the Charismatic Renewal movement explains in the new CTS booklet, Symbols of the Holy Spirit:

“The Holy Spirit is perhaps the most mysterious and hidden of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. We can have some idea about the Father from the descriptions given by Jesus. The Father’s characteristics can be compared to those we recognise in human paternity. The Son became flesh sharing in our complete human nature, being perfectly present to us in his incarnation; he is like us in everything but sin. For the Holy Spirit, however, we have no complete representation.”

How to enter into a relationship with a Person of the Trinity we do not know? We can see only something of His mystery through signs and images given to us in Sacred Scripture and in the tradition of the Church. Some of these, like the image of the dove, are well known, while others are less obvious; but D’Amore is quick to remind us at the outset of his exploration that even these symbols are just that, symbols, and they serve a higher purpose.

“Our aim will be to move from the symbol to the reality, or as blessed John Henry Newman put it, ‘From shadows or images, to the truth.’ “

Often, elemental images have been used to better understand the Holy Spirit – such as water, which is vital for life and purification, and fire, which burns and transforms:

“The fire of the Spirit renders us malleable. Iron placed in the fire, freed of its impurities, becomes incandescent; it can be shaped at will by the blacksmith who can transform it into a work of art. Such a Spirit, as molten lava, can shape and make life the masterpiece foretold in eternity by the creative mind of the Word.”

This more thought-out understanding of the symbols that one finds in Scripture can help us to see how much we need this Spirit and how it has always been there. Pentecost in Judaism was the feast of the giving of the Torah, and through the words of that Torah, we can see how God prepared his people to receive His greatest Word, from those formerly frightened men who burst from their upper room.

Symbols of the Holy Spirit is available from CTS priced 1.95

Of related interest:

LF53 Novena for Pentecost Leaflet – The Novena, prayed for the unity of Christianity, starts the day after Ascension Thursday and finishes on the eve of Pentecost, and invites us to pray, daily, for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The specific daily themes can be prayed in any way that suits, and may include spontaneous prayers, praying in the Spirit, prayers of repentance, thanksgiving and blessing.
SP27 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Every Christian who has been confirmed has received the fullness of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. This booklet explains what these gifts are, the effect they can have on the life of the person who accepts them and what a life truly led by the Spirit should look like.
DO693 Dominum et Vivificantem – Already setting the Church’s sights on the great Jubilee of the year 2000, marking ‘the passage from the second to the third Christian Millennium’, Pope John Paul reflects on the Holy Spirit, as the one who is at the centre of the Christian faith and is the source and dynamic power of the Church’s renewal.

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