Reflections on Lumen Gentium, Part 4

4. When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth (9) was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father.(10) He is the Spirit of Life, a fountain of water springing up to life eternal.(11) To people, dead in sin, the Father gives life through Him, until, in Christ, He brings to life their mortal bodies.(12) The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple.(13) In them He prays on their behalf and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons and daughters.(14) The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth(15) and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits.(16) By the power of the Gospel He makes the Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly He renews it and leads it to perfect union with its Spouse. (3*) The Spirit and the Bride both say to Jesus, the Lord, “Come!”(17)

Thus, the Church has been seen as “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”(4*)

9 Cf. Jn. 17:4.

10 Cf Eph. 1:18.

11 Cf Jn. 4:14; 7:38-39.

12 Cf. Rom. 8:10-11.

13 Cf. Cor. 3:16; 6:19.

14 Cf. Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15-16 and 26.

15 Cf. Jn. 16:13.

16 Cf. Eph. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:4 Gal. 5:22.

17. Rev. 22:17

(3) Cfr. S. Irenaeus, adv. Haer, 111 24, 1: PG 7, 966 B; Harvey 2, 13i, ed. Sagnard, Sources Chr., p 398.

(4) S. Cyprianus, De Orat Dom. 23: PL 4, 5S3, Hartel, III A, p. 28S. S. Augustinus, Serm. 71, 20, 33: PL 38, 463 s. S. Io. Damascenus, Adv. Iconocl. 12: PG 96, 1358 D.


This paragraph from Lumen Gentium is all about the Holy Spirit!

When Jesus’ mission on earth was accomplished, God sent the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised. The Holy Spirit continues to sanctify the Church, continues to make the Church holy, so that all believers may have access to the Father through Christ. That’s how it works. We have access to the Father through Christ in the Spirit. This is the work of the Holy Trinity for our sanctification, for our salvation.

When we sinned, we became alienated from the Father. We are reconciled to the Father by the mission of Jesus Christ. The mission of Christ being accomplished, the Father sent the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Life, to renew us in holiness and eternal life.

“If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sins, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom. 8:10-11).

We are given new life in the Spirit!

But, the Spirit dwells not only in us as individual believers, “in the hearts of the faithful.” The Spirit dwells in the Church, as well. So, it’s not just about me and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s also about my membership in the Church, which is the Body of Christ. It is the Spirit that bears witness to our adoption in Christ. This same Spirit gave birth to the Church at Pentecost and continues to pray for the Church and guide the Church in all truth, forms the Church into one united communion, and equips the Church with gifts to perform her ministries as the instrument of God’s Revelation and His grace through the sacraments. These gifts are hierarchical and charismatic.

What are these gifts? The hierarchical gifts are those of ordination: bishop, priest, and deacon, which are conferred by the sacrament of holy orders. The charismatic gifts are distributed by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul lists them in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:4-10).

The notes to the New American Bible on these verses says, “There are some features common to all charisms, despite their diversity: all are gifts (charismata), grace from outside ourselves; all are forms of service (diakoniai), an expression of their purpose and effect; all are workings (energēmata), in which God is at work.”

In recent decades, many attributing it to the prayer of Pope St. John XXIII, “Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost,” there has been an amazing expansion of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Charismatic Movement within the Church testifies to this wonderfully. It’s important to remember that the hierarchical gifts and the charismatic gifts work in concert. The hierarchical ministries of the Church ought not attempt to suppress the Spirit in His distribution of these gifts, and those gifted with the charisms ought not take them as expressions of God’s favor outside or against the Church, the Body of Christ. The charismatic gifts do not bestow on their recipients an authority to challenge the hierarchical ministries, but an opportunity to work in concert with the ordained for the purpose of bringing the Gospel to all in new and varied ways. As the scholars who wrote the notes to the NAB point out, these are gifts from God, not anything deserved or earned, and they are given for service in the Church to facilitate the work of God. When the hierarchical gifts and the charismatic gifts work in concert, as intended, powerful manifestations of God’s work in the world are possible and have been achieved.

The Spirit also adorns the Church with His fruits, listed by St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23a).  These are the fruits born of believers within whom the Spirit dwells. As such, they adorn the whole Church.

The Council Fathers say it is by the power of the Gospel that the Spirit keeps the Church young. The Gospel is the good news for each generation, and the challenges of proclaiming the Gospel in new and varied ways to each succeeding generation, as well as the embracing of the Gospel by each succeeding generation, keeps the Church youthful and vibrant, as each succeeding generation is led by the Spirit to give expression to the Gospel in its own time. The tradition of World Youth Day begun by Pope St. John Paul II is the fruit of the Spirit that calls to young people of every age to embrace the Gospel and to challenge and renew the world with the Gospel in their own day.

The Spirit leads the Church to unity with Christ. Christ is the groom and the Church is His bride. It is the Spirit that is “matchmaker” to this union, both bringing Christ and His bride together and giving perpetual nourishment, guidance, and direction to this union that it might bear fruit across the centuries until Christ comes again.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s