Thursday of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit, Teacher

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He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

Here again we get a statement about the Holy Spirit that runs counter to how people understand “spirituality” today. To be sure, most “spiritual traditions” have their teachings and teachers, but at least in the Gnostic or mystical traditions – which are those traditions most identified with spirituality – the purpose of the teacher is to bring something out of a student that he already has deep inside. It’s to awaken the divine spark within. It’s teacher as guru.

The way the Holy Spirit teaches is completely different. His job is to bring to remembrance what Jesus said, and thereby “teach all things.” This speaks to what we meditated upon in our last meditation, that Jesus’ word is the highest philosophy, the revelation of the meaning of it all. “He will teach you all things.” All things! And what does the Holy Spirit teach? What Jesus said, this He will bring back to remembrance.

What Jesus said is laid down in the Gospels. In that sense, Jesus is promising the inspiration of the Gospels here. And yes, these are words that are taught. They are taught to three year olds and to ninety-three year olds, and in both cases, both are engaged in the highest form of spirituality.

From the moment a child is born he is immersed in a world of words, and these words arise from a world of formal beings and formal activities, nouns and verbs. Each word carves out of the chaos of unknowing an ordered territory of new familiarity. And with each new word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book comes new descriptors of his external world. He is learning.

The Holy Spirit begot these words, at least the good ones. For He is the first one to carve out of the chaos new ordered territories: light, darkness, land sea, up, down, birds, fishes, animals, humanity. He named what He carved out and invited Adam to share in that divine task, thus bestowing to Adam the gift of language.

Of course, there are bad words too. Babel words. Self-induced words. Projections of human desire words. Idols. These work against the Holy Spirit’s words.

In the new creation, the Holy Spirit – who we learn this week “fills the whole earth” – applies new words, from the New Adam, Who speaks only God words, Jesus Christ. And these words do the same thing in the chaotic humanity which we became and into which we are born. They carve out the new man, transforming it into the image of Christ.

This, after all, is the Holy Spirit who teaches a word of God that “is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

This is the task of teaching. To give us external words – not induce internal non-words – that carve, mold, and shape our internal persons, usually putting to death the internal stuff and creating from the mud and water new living tissue. The old tissue hated enemies, fought them, hurt them; the new tissue feeds them, prays for them, and brings life. That’s quite a new creation!

Throughout the Gospel, the idea emerges that the Holy Spirit is not some mystical force moving mysteriously about causing shivers to go up and down people’s spines, but identified by the vocalized words of teaching – specifically the teaching of apostolic ministers. “Go therefore and teach all nations.” “And they continued in the apostles’ teaching.”

This truth even marks our music, which due to Romanticism has come to mean a moment of emotionally-defined spirituality. On the contrary, from St. Paul: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Teaching in psalms, hymns, and songs. The Holy Spirit is a teacher. And that teaching is defined as bringing to mind Jesus’ words, which are written in the Gospel. Teaching the Gospel, then, is the ultimate spiritual activity.

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