The Holy Spirit

I had an idea for an image of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the very idea of an image of the Holy Spirit was foolish. Of the three persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit seems most resistant to description, both in words and images. A dove. A flame. But what else? When we try to describe our experience of it, we can only talk about the enlightened feeling that comes upon a group of people when they’re together and helps to guide their decisions. Beyond that, words seem inadequate.

I went looking for prayers to the Holy Spirit, but couldn’t find any. Then I read that we don’t pray to the spirit because the spirit is prayer itself. The spirit is the spark of divinity in us, and it speaks, and listens to, the bonfire of divinity in everything around us. Yet we do pray to the Holy Spirit, at least in song. “Come, Holy Spirit,” we plead, and while we’re singing it’s not unusual for the spirit to descend, or, at least, for us to notice that it’s been there all along.

I know the spirit, and yet my capacity to depict or describe it is limited. Others have done it better. Here’s what Meister Eckhart had to say about the spirit:

“The Father laughs with the Son; the Son laughs with the Father.
The Father likes the Son; the Son likes the Father.
The Father delights in the Son; the Son delights in the Father.
The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father.
This laughter, liking, delighting, loving is the Holy Spirit!”

And here’s what Rilke said about the spirit:

“If I don’t manage to fly, someone else will. The spirit wants only that there be flying. As to who happens to do it, She has only a passing interest.”

So maybe it doesn’t matter if I can’t perfectly depict or describe the spirit. It’s action in me helps to depict and describe me, and its action in other people will bring about the necessary work, even if I have only a marginal role in it.

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