A Pentecostal Discovers the True Working of the Holy Spirit

[I outlined this post a few Saturdays ago but got busy and didn’t finish it. It refers to the day’s prayers at Mass. For the record, they are from Saturday, March 18.]

worship concert

Growing up as a Pentecostal youth, pretty much the sum of my Christian experience was in waiting for, proclaiming, or savoring the presence and working of the Holy Spirit. High-powered, emotional worship services were all about experiencing the Holy Spirit through ecstatic detachment, “getting lost” in Jesus. I’ve written before about how this emotional experience of God was difficult to maintain, especially for a teen who struggled with depression and anxiety, and how ultimately it lacked a lot of substance in terms of real commitment or intellectual depth. It was about momentary excitement and stimulation, but after the emotion was passed, this didn’t always amount to a real change.

Whether it lasted or not, core to my faith in God was the belief that Holy Spirit is immanent in the Church and in our lives; that He works in us and through us daily; that He moves in us powerfully, inspires us, changes us, heals us. I believed in miracles, both in wondrous physical healing and in changed lives through spiritual transformation.

Holy Spirit

None of this faith was lost when I became Catholic. Though it’s true I’ve grown more skeptical of the sensational and the ecstatic, I still believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and in the Church, and that He has the power to change us and to heal us. I’ve often heard the complaint that the liturgical approach to experiencing God feels regimented, constricted, and limiting; that it “quenches the Holy Spirit” and does not allow Him to work; that unless we are free to “get lost” in worship, we are not giving God the freedom to move in us.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Though at times it may seem, as it did to me early in my journey to Catholicism, that Catholic practice marginalizes the Holy Spirit or downplays His work (I once suggested here that Catholicism made the Holy Spirit a “tag-along”), in fact the Holy Spirit is absolutely central to everything the Church does and Christians do, to all our prayer and all our liturgy, to every work of God’s grace that we do and that God does in us, most of all to the Sacraments.

Come, Holy Spirit

Antiphon Veni Sancte Spiritus

A key difference that I observe between the Catholic approach to the Holy Spirit and the Pentecostal or Charismatic one is that the Catholic approach to the Holy Spirit is introspective, focused on the work of the Holy Spirit in us, while the Charismatic approach tends to focus on outward signs and manifestations. This is evident in the very ways in which we invoke the Holy Spirit. Charismatics very often speak of the Holy Spirit “filling this place” like an atmosphere, or “feeling the Holy Spirit here” as something external, as “the presence of God.” A popular song implores:

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

The presence of the Holy Spirit, for the Charismatic, is about “God showing up and showing out” — as I often heard. It is something that manifests itself most of all in a show of power and wondrous signs; something that overpowers the senses and overcomes the person.

The differences in the Catholic view can be seen in our own hymn, Veni, Sancte Spiritus (“Come, Holy Spirit”):

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.
Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.
O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.
O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.
Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.
Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.
Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.
Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.
Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

For the Catholic, the coming of the Holy Spirit is not so much about “filling this place” as about “filling our hearts“; not about outward displays or manifestations so much as about inward sanctification, healing, and transformation.

The Holy Spirit in the Sacraments

Holy Spirit EucharistThe essential ground of the Holy Spirit is the Sacraments. When I was first becoming Catholic, I was so accustomed to looking for the Holy Spirit in outward signs and wonders that I mistook that He was missing or absent from Catholic life altogether. Far from being absent, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God on the earth, and is present in the Church, in everything we do, and most of all in us. In each of the Sacraments, God works in our lives and communicates His grace to us through the Holy Spirit.

In Baptism, we are “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5-7); we are washed, regenerated, and renewed (Titus 3:5) — and the agent is the Holy Spirit. In the sacrament of Confession, it is the Holy Spirit Himself who forgives our sins and accomplishes the same cleansing (1 John 1:9). And most powerfully and intimately in the Eucharist, it is the Holy Spirit who makes present the reality of Christ’s Body and Blood in His Paschal mystery. I was struck today by how the Mass’s prayer after Communion highlights the work of the Holy Spirit in us:

May your divine Sacrament, O Lord, which we have received,
fill the inner depths of our heart
and, by its working mightily within us,
make us partakers of its grace.
Through Christ our Lord.

In a real way, both physically and spiritually, the Sacrament fills us — but it is the Holy Spirit Who through it, fills the innermost depths of our heart and works mightily within us. I don’t think I had made this connection before, between the reality of the Lord’s Presence in the Eucharist and the presence of the Holy Spirit as worker. But certainly I had always felt this innately.

From the very first time I received the Lord in the Eucharist — and every time since — I have felt this powerfully and viscerally: the Lord Himself working powerfully in my heart, more intimately than I had ever experienced before — an overpowering sense of being touched, inhabited, seized from within. This working is transformative: Coming to the Sacrament from the greatest places of darkness and despair, it has never failed to bring light to my heart; from the deepest hurt, it has brought healing and restoration; from the brink of the greatest temptation, it has brought strength and respite; even from moments or boredom, disinterest, and not wanting to be there, it has brought, unexpected and unlooked for, a renewed focus and friendship with the Lord. In the truest sense, I am overcome by the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist, in my encounter with Him.

The Bread of LifeJesus worked His miracles through physical touch, visiting His people in the flesh and impacting their lives by direct and physical interaction. He gave us the Eucharist using the same physical language of encounter: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51) As He invited sinners throughout his earthly ministry, He invites us to sup with Him and share a meal with Him (Revelation 3:20). After He ascended bodily to Heaven, and sent His Holy Spirit to be our Paraclete, He nonetheless left us with the possibility, in that meal and through the Spirit, of such an intimate encounter with Him. As He touched us physically during His earthly ministry, through His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, he continues to touch us physically in the most intimate communion, and through that touch to work powerfully in our hearts and spirits. The Sacraments are the means by which the Holy Spirit enters, is poured into our lives. He literally fills us and transforms us.

Key to Protestant misunderstandings

Hudrych Zwingli (1484 - 1531).

Hudrych Zwingli (1484 – 1531).

It occurs to me that understanding of the Holy Spirit’s central role in the Sacraments is the key to several Protestant misunderstandings. Of the Eucharist in particular, it is easy for the mind to trip over the physical claims about the real presence of the Lord, when the truth is not one of material at all but of encounter and indwelling, concepts Protestants readily understand in speaking of the Holy Spirit.

Even more important, Protestants routinely charge that Catholic claims about receiving grace through the Sacraments amounts to a system of “works’ righteousness,” that somehow we are subjecting the reception of grace to what we do or to human working. It is only in the understanding that each of the Sacraments is solely the work of the Holy Spirit, given to us in grace, that this myth can be dispelled. Where is the “human work”? In requiring that we do something? Humans need only be there, to receive the grace. In placing the Sacraments at the hands of a priest? The priest is only a servant, a vessel, a tool; it is only the Holy Spirit who accomplishes the work. Is it in making grace about something more than “faith alone”? It is only the most radical misreading of Paul that presumes even the Sacraments of the Church to be “works done by us in righteousness” (Titus 3:5, which is one of the most explicit references in Scripture to the efficacy of Baptism as “the bath of regeneration” by the Holy Spirit). In neither the views of Jesus or of Paul does “faith” exclude action: Jesus asks His listeners to step out in faith in order to receive their healing (e.g. Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 17:11-19; John 9:1-7); Paul, as above, holds forth sacramental means of grace (et. e.g. Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-6; Galatians 3:27) rather than a bare “faith alone” — which threatens, as much as any charge against Catholics of “works’ righteousness” to make grace subject to the action of the person (having faith) rather than the working of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the glue of our faith: In a Trinitarian sense, neither the Father nor the Son, but the Spirit of God that proceeds from both. He is the medium of grace, the means, the actor and worker in our lives and in the Church, by which we are filled, renewed, healed, and transformed. It is in the Holy Spirit that we are bound to God and to each other in communion. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God on earth, the person through whom we encounter God and Christ — and that encounter, the place of our God entering our lives and working in our hearts, is most viscerally and tangibly in the Sacraments.

The Sacrament of Confirmation and Protestants: Profession of Faith or Pentecostal Fire?

Giotto. Pentecost (1310)

Pentecost (1310), by Giotto.(WikiPaintings.org)

So I’ve written a bit introducing the Sacrament of Confirmation, what it is and what it means; I’ve explicated Confirmation as it appears in Scripture and in the early Fathers of the Church; now I’d like to explore a bit the meaning of Confirmation among our separated Protestant brethren.

Since the practice of Confirmation in the Church is so well attested from Scripture forward, the earliest Protestant reformers didn’t outright reject it. The more liturgical, traditional Protestants — Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists, apparently some Presbyterians* — have retained Confirmation in some form. Because there is no explicit scriptural testimony that it was instituted by Christ Himself, however, these Protestants have generally held it not to have sacramental value. These groups, speaking generally, consider Confirmation to be a public profession of faith for children coming of age who wish to publicly embrace their Christian faith, a reaffirmation of the baptismal vows for those who were baptized as infants, and the end goal of a curriculum of catechesis (q.v. Calvin on Confirmation).

Confirmation from Seven Sacraments Altarpiee (der Weyden)

Confirmation. Detail from Seven Sacraments Altarpiece (1450), by Rogier van der Weyden.

* It seems, from my cursory googling, that it’s mostly PCUSA Presbyterians who do this, and not the more hard-core PCA and OPC. Do I have any Presbyterian readers who can give me the info?

Most evangelicals, on the other hand, have completely rejected the practice of Confirmation as unbiblical — since the church can’t do anything that’s not in Scripture.† Most of these churches, in the Baptist tradition, practice believer’s baptism (the baptism only of adult believers, not infants), and for them Baptism takes the place of Confirmation as a public profession of faith for children coming of age and new believers.

† They’re not looking hard enough, in any case. It’s plain enough that the scriptural references to the laying on of hands refer to some formal act of the Church related closely to Baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Call it Confirmation or call it something else; debate what it means; but it’s there.

Baby baptism

This was labeled, in Google Image Search, as a “baby dedication” — but that looks an awful lot like a baptismal font to me.

The Completion of Baptismal Grace

And this is where, believe it or not, I feel we have some common ground. Though many of these groups consider it immoral and incorrect and unbiblical to baptize infants (or downright heretical if one is also Catholic), the practice of these churches outwardly is not completely alien from that of Catholics. Many of these communities, instead of infant baptism, have a rite of baby dedication that in many ways (by design, I think) mirrors a Catholic infant baptism. The child is dedicated to God, and the parents, and other family members, and the whole congregation, promise to diligently raise him or her up in the Christian faith. Likewise in the Catholic rite of baptism for an infant.

Baby dedication

That looks more like it.

I have never understood,
even when I was an evangelical, the evangelical objection to infant baptism. It seems in all literature I have ever read, especially from the Baptists, to be a vehement and visceral denial. We do NOT believe in infant baptism, any Baptist document is strident to point out. What are they afraid of — of appearing too Catholic? If Baptism is not sacramental, and is only a sign or public profession, why should it matter, regardless of what one church believes, how another church decides to present its public signs? But it does: paedobaptism (the baptism of infants) is often a major theological point of division among evangelicals, and has been, for many Catholic converts of an evangelical background, a major stumbling block.

At the other end, both Catholics and evangelicals have a rite of coming of age, of children reaching the age of reason and publicly professing to embrace the Christian faith. For evangelicals, it is Baptism, but — here’s the thing — for Catholics, Confirmation is part of the same process as Baptism. Confirmation is the completion — the confirmation — of the baptismal grace the believer received as an infant. I would present to my Baptist friends that Confirmation for Catholics functions in the same way as Baptism does in their churches, and is in truth part of the same movement of the Holy Spirit.

Titian, Pentecost

Pentecost (c. 1545), by Titian. (WikiPaintings.org)

Pentecostal Fire

I’ve discovered another parallel in outward forms to Catholic Confirmation among Protestants — and they have no idea. It comes from the very neck of the woods from which I hail: the Pentecostal or Charismatic movement. I have mentioned it once before, almost exactly a year ago, and I wondered what it meant, without ever realizing that it ran parallel to the Sacrament of Confirmation: what Pentecostals call “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” The Scriptures they read in the Acts of the Apostles as describing this second “baptism,” separated from the context of Church Tradition, are in fact the very passages that I have described that give the earliest accounts of Confirmation.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

I’m back in Sunday school!

For Pentecostal churches, in particular the Assemblies of God in which I grew up, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is necessarily accompanied by the evidence of speaking in tongues. They read in the Book of Acts that the descent of the Holy Spirit, in every case that it is mentioned, beginning with Acts 2, is accompanied by speaking in tongues and prophesying. In particular they note the incident in Acts 19 in which St. Paul “laid his hands on [believers]” and “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying” (Acts 19:1–7). And this is commonly how Pentecostals receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit: by having other believers lay hands on them and pray that the Holy Spirit falls on them. This laying on of hands, in Acts, is precisely what we Catholics read as the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The Assemblies of God believe:

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a vital experience of the Christian life. It is a special work of the Spirit beyond salvation. On the Day of Pentecost, disciples who had already made a decision to follow Jesus “were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues” (Acts 2:4). Paul asked the Ephesians disciples if they had received the Holy Spirit, after which “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues” (Acts 19:2). New Testament believers were constantly challenged to be filled with the Spirit (Acts 1:4,5; Ephesians 5:18). The Assemblies of God is committed to the baptism in the Holy Spirit because the experience is such an important focus of New Testament Christianity.

And strangely enough, they kind of get it.

Most Protestant Christians do not acknowledge any further sense of receiving the Holy Spirit in one’s life after their initial regeneration, when the Holy Spirit first comes to them (we believe this happens at Baptism). I am not sure what other evangelical Christians make of these passages of Scripture that Pentecostals have built their doctrine upon, but in my days I’ve never heard of such a thing discussed.

Holy Spirit as Dove

The Holy Spirit as a Dove, from St. Peter’s Basilica.

But we Catholics understand that the Sacrament of Confirmation “in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church”; that it is “the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (CCC 1288–1288,1302–1303). We believe that it, among other graces, “increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.” This sounds in every way like the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” I grew up with.

We Catholics believe that only a bishop has the authority to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, or a priest to whom he delegates the authority (this actually goes for all of the Sacraments save Baptism). And, I can say without hesitation that Confirmation, spiritually, was for me unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. But, as I have written before, though God has instituted the Sacraments, He Himself is not bound by them (CCC 1257). It may be that in some portion, Pentecostals, in praying to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, are given what they ask, by the overabundant grace of our God.

Confession and Healing

Today I made my First Confession.

I’ve heard from various friends about the sensations they felt the first time they took part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation — from joy, to peace, to release. For me, it was similar. I was very nervous going in. It was a new experience, and I would be laying my soul and my faults bare. I had written out my confessions beforehand. As I confessed them, I had the sensation of a pouring out of my soul — and in the end, catharsis. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt clean. I didn’t smile; I didn’t skip away; I cried.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
Micah 7:18-19 ESV

This has always been one of my favorite Scriptures about God’s forgiveness. Today I truly feel that my sins have been cast into the depths of the sea.

What has moved me the most in approaching Confession is that it’s known as a Sacrament of Healing. I don’t know what I thought it was when I was a Protestant; but I conceived of it more as a burden, a legalistic obligation, than as an administration to the soul. Christ is the physician to our bodies and souls. Confession is the Sacrament of Reconcilation, the Sacrament by which we as sinners are reconciled to the Church, to each other, and to God. It is also called the Sacrament of Conversion, because through it, through Confession and Penance, we actively turn away from our sins and convert (turn towards) God and His path of righteousness (CCC 1423-1424). This whole chapter in the Catechism is powerful and poignant to me; I have quoted sections of it before; but to quote another:

“The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.” Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God (CCC 1468).

One of the key scriptural foundations for Confession is telling to this point:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:13-16 ESV

Here, confession of sins is intimately connected with healing, both physical and spiritual. And it is paired essentially with the other Sacrament of Healing, the Anointing of the Sick.

In the Christian tradition from which I’m coming, miraculous healings, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are at the forefront of the Christian experience. When someone is sick, especially gravely sick, there is so much prayerful petition, so much faith and hope that God will work miracles of healing through prayer, anointing, and the laying on of hands — inspired by the healing miracles of Christ and the Apostles, and by this same Scripture that undergirds the Catholic Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. There is a genuine belief and an active faith that God heals; but even beyond this, there is ready credence and faith given to faith healers, individuals who profess to have individual, personal gifts of miraculous healing through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, in the Great Commission of the “Longer Ending” of Mark (Mark 16:14-20), that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” and that “these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues . . . ; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12, writes of gifts of healing and other spiritual gifts. While Catholics and cessationists apply these passages only to the Apostles and believers of the Apostolic Age, many Protestants and continuationists apply them to wider Church, to all believers in all ages, and believe that these miraculous, personal gifts of healing continue to this day.

I have no doubt that God heals today — that He intervenes in our lives in miraculous and mysterious ways. If this weren’t the case, I wouldn’t be alive today. But I believe that more often than not, these healings follow the course of the mysterious rather than the miraculous: of God’s infinite love and grace, and not His desire to make a show or spectacle. My own healing was miraculous, but it was a private, personal miracle, more for me than for anyone else. My experience, and the faith it engenders in me, is of little weight to anyone else; and to me, that makes it all the more personal and precious. I believe God works through medicine, through surgery, through the unexplained, through paths that no one sees, that few appreciate but those that receive His graces. When it comes to professed faith healers, to individuals with professed gifts of healing, I tend to be a skeptic. Many of them, I fear, are charlatans and showmen. I certainly don’t believe “word of faith” teaching, that professes that we can “speak” or “declare” God’s blessings and graces into our lives.

Do Catholics believe in divine healing? This was one of the most pressing questions I faced as I made this journey. When someone is terminally ill and dying in the Catholic Church, I have never heard a priest or anyone pray for God’s divine healing. There seems to be a ready acceptance that death is imminent. In many ways I think this is healthy; earthly death is a part of life, as much as being born, and I have seen firsthand the crises of faith faced by those who believed they had “spoken” a healing and “received” it, only to face death in the end. But do Catholics believe in divine healing? Most certainly. Catholicism abounds with stories attributing healings and other miracles to the intercession of saints; even attributing intercession against certain ailments and diseases to particular saints. St. Peregrine Laziosi, for example, is the patron saint against cancer.

And in the Catechism itself, in the mainstream, established doctrine of the Church, there is also hope in God’s healing. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick — the so-called “Last Rites” — is not a sacrament of death or even strictly of preparation for it, but of healing (CCC 1499-1532). Though the emphasis of the Sacrament, as described in the Catechism, is the healing of the soul — on the gift of grace to face sickness; on the forgiveness of sins; on preparation to make life’s final journey — throughout is an acknowledgement that Christ is a physical healer. It affirms that Christ may heal the body to accomplish the salvation of the soul (certainly, this is what happened for me); but accepts that the salvation of the soul is paramount, and that crossing over into the next life is a grace in itself to those who belong to Him.

So do Catholics believe in divine healing? Yes, they do. Sometimes I think that there should be more faith and prayer for physical healing in this life; but what I see, more openly than that, is perhaps even more valuable: a full acceptance of God’s Will and Grace in our lives, that not ours, but His Will be done.

Cum Sancto Spiritu: A First Look

In the liturgy of the Mass, where it reads Cum Sancto Spiritu — at the end of the Gloria, where “You alone are the Most High Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father” — I have sometimes gotten the sense, from both the Latin and the English, that the tone of this is “and the Holy Spirit, too!” — as if the Holy Spirit were a tag-along, there gratuitously as a part of the Trinity, without a clear idea of what He’s doing there. Coming into the Catholic tradition, it often seemed as if the Holy Spirit was downplayed, a less important figure than in the tradition I’m coming out of. So I’m searching for the role of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic tradition, trying to understand who he is and what he does in the Catholic understanding. It seems rather more complex, and less visible, but nonetheless important.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

In the Pentecostal tradition, the Holy Spirit takes a central role in Christian life. Prayers are offered to the Holy Spirit, asking him to “fill this place” or “move in this place.” My feeling has always been that in this context, the Holy Spirit is an atmosphere of fervency and emotion that spreads and envelops. The Holy Spirit is said to have moved, for instance, after a service in which the congregation “gets lost” in emotional worship. But the Holy Spirit also fills, and overflows. He manifests himself in miracles and miraculous spiritual gifts, such as healing, prophecy, and especially speaking in tongues — the sine qua non of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” This “baptism of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by speaking in tongues” is one of the hallmarks of the “Spirit-filled life.” This, and the moving of these spiritual gifts, define the Christian life for Pentecostals, who call themselves “Spirit-filled Christians.”

This understanding of the Holy Spirit is based primarily in the Book of Acts (especially Acts 2Acts 10:44-46 and Acts 19) and Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12 and 14). Being “baptized” or “filled with the Holy Spirit” is something that takes place separate from believing in Christ or “being saved,” as seems to be the case in Acts 19, in which “disciples” had “believed” and been baptized (in water) but had not yet “received the Holy Spirit.” (Another way to read this, as my ESV Study Bible notes suggest, is that these people clearly didn’t know very much about Jesus or his teachings if they had never heard of the Holy Spirit, and had only been baptized with John the Baptist’s baptism. So receiving the Holy Spirit was merely the product of receiving the fullness of Christ’s message and being baptized in his name.) Certainly 1 Corinthians 12 lists spiritual gifts, and 1 Corinthians 14 speaks at length about the gifts of prophecy and tongues. But these are the only places they are mentioned in the New Testament.

The Catholic Church, and most non-Charismatic Christians, believe that these miraculous spiritual gifts ceased with the passing of the Apostolic Age — this view is called Cessationism; the opposite view, that the gifts continued, is Continuationism. I have never read much in the way of this theological debate — like most theological debates, I’ve found it dizzying and threatening and detrimental to my spiritual health. I have a book on the debate I’ve never gotten through; perhaps I should try again. I feel that it, like most doctrinal debates, is a rabbit trail that distracts believers from more important issues of Christian life — but I am curious about the reasoning here. I wonder if there are any Catholic books on this issue?

Anyway, I’ve gotten completely off the track of the well-meaning, and I thought well-settled, outline I set for this post a couple of weeks ago. I’m tempted to delete all of the above distraction, but I think I will leave it just to illustrate how confusing an issue this is for me, and to hope that some helpful reader might stumble upon it and offer me book recommendations. It’s nearly midnight, but I will leave you with what I meant to reach: a summary of what I understood, in the Pentecostal tradition, to be the roles and functions of the Holy Spirit. (I would give Scripture references, but I’m tired and it’s late. Consequently, this list may be flawed or incomplete. So this does not represent a studied effort, just my off-the-cuff understanding.)

  1. The Holy Spirit enters the heart and life of all believers, as part of “asking Jesus into your heart” or “getting saved” — but this is different than the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
  2. The Holy Spirit, indwelling in one’s heart, is a Counselor. He leads the believer to decisions or courses of action, and urges him to act.
  3. The Holy Spirit is a Comforter, consoling and assuaging the heart of the believer.
  4. The Holy Spirit also convicts the believer of sin and guides him to repentance.
  5. The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets and inspired the writers of Scripture of the New Testament also.
  6. The Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture for the believer, leading him to a correct understanding of it and allowing the Bible to function as the living Word of God and a continuing revelation.
  7. The Holy Spirit gives the believer words to say in ministry, speaking for him or through him.
  8. The Holy Spirit bears the virtuous fruits of the Spirit in the believer who walks by the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-22).
  9. The Holy Spirit moves one to zeal, joy, or other high emotion, leading one into worship.
  10. The Holy Spirit baptizes or fills a believer, granting a more intimate connection and manifesting in miraculous gifts, especially speaking in tongues.
  11. The other gifts of the Holy Spirit (all of which Pentecostals believe continue), as enumerated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, are:
    1. Word of wisdom.
    2. Word of knowledge.
    3. Miraculous faith.
    4. Gift of healing.
    5. Working of miracles.
    6. Prophecy.
    7. Discerning of spirits.
    8. Speaking in tongues.
    9. Interpretation of tongues.

Next time, I’ll attempt to tackle Catholic doctrine about the Holy Spirit. But that’s requiring a good bit of studying of the Catechism, and I’ve been busy with school. So this post has been delayed, and will probably continue to be.