BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Theresa Scott
I’m going to start by stepping away from the Credo for a moment, and jump to last week’s Palm Sunday second reading;
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave… (Phil2:6-7)
Jesus shows us what true humility means. He is God. Not sort of God, or sometimes God, or kind of god-like, He is God most-high, God most holy, the maker of heaven and earth and if He should forget us for a moment, we would cease to exist. He can do whatever He likes, and if He wants to be human, then He is human. But it is important to Who Jesus is that while “He came down from heaven” it is not alone that the second person of the Trinity takes on human flesh.
I have in my mind an image of the Son as a giant whose very footsteps shake the stones of the earth, bending down, stooping low to crawl through the gate of Jerusalem on hands and knees, like Alice grown too large to enter the house of the white rabbit. He bends so low, his beard brushing the earth, his tunic catching on the gate, knees and knuckles scraping across the stones while the choirs of angels sing deafening hosannas and the whole world ought to be astonished, stupefied and terrified.
Yet though He is God Most High, whose will alters the fabric of the universe, it is the Holy Spirit who builds for a Him His house of flesh and opens wide the door so that He might enter. He doesn’t have to do it this way. The Son could have caused all of it, but He doesn’t. He does not come of His own will, but is sent by the will of His Father. He does not enter this world of His own power, but steps through the door which is opened for Him by the Spirit, into the flesh created for Him by the Spirit. He does not grasp His Godhead to Himself, but neither does He grasp at flesh, but receives it from the Holy Spirit as a gift. Receives too the simple “yes” of that lowly creature, without whose permission, it would not have happened. The giant stoops low, knocks and asks permission, “May I enter?” and waits for a yes.
And this is how it is done.
Quietly, in secret, like Elijah waiting in the cave, the Spirit tiptoes into Israel, shhhh, a whisper, pay attention, let us be attentive, for between one breath and the next, He is here among us and we none the wiser that the universe itself has been fundamentally altered. Mary knows, then Joseph, but it takes time, growing out of sight in a forgotten corner where no one thought to look.
We are called to imitate this action in our own lives.
God breathed on the face of the waters and the universe is made. We too are born on the breath of the Spirit, dust formed into lifeless clay until we receive that divine kiss and we begin to breathe with Him. Our baptisms are small events, a little water softly spoken words and once again the Spirit enters with the quietest of knocks to change us and open our hearts, our lives, our bodies to become homes to Christ so that we too might be fundamentally altered into something radically new. All the sacraments are like this. Small, quiet, with no thunder or lightning, no shaking of earth or heavens to accompany the gravity of the moment.
But if we are to grow to become who and what He meant us to be from the beginning, we must continually quiet ourselves, quiet our clamoring needs and desires to listen for the knock of the Spirit upon the doors of our hearts and souls. We cannot grasp Christ to ourselves, nor holiness or righteousness or salvation, but we must be content to work in the space given to us by the Spirit, however humble or crude and not at all what we thought we were getting ourselves into because what waits for us is so much grander than anything we could possibly make or grasp to ourselves. If we allow the Spirit to open our hearts and work within us, we might start in the mess and squalor of our own sins, but where we end up will be the best of surprises.
Christ Jesus became man by the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember this, and remember too that we are most truly human only when we follow the lead of that same Spirit. If we hope to reach heaven and the glory that is offered to us in the promises of Psalm 8, that we shall be “little less than a god” then we need first to learn how to be most properly human, and that can be accomplished only when we allow the Spirit to open the doors of our hearts so that Christ may enter and work in us in quiet, small hidden ways. We cannot decide what our own personal holiness will look like.
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “by the Holy Spirit”?
Theresa Scott is my sister and, sad to say, she doesn’t have a blog.
Read all the entries in the Blog Series: Credo: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith.