We all bless ourselves “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And most of us are pretty clear about God and Jesus. But what about the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit can often feel like the “hidden” part of the Trinity. So let’s enter into an understanding of it in the same way that we enter the life of the Church: through a consideration of baptism.
The Catholic sacrament of Baptism brings a person—usually a child or even a baby—into the life of the Church. Baptism is so important that it’s the only sacrament the Church permits lay people to perform in an emergency! And while it’s at Pentecost that we celebrate the Holy Spirit descending as a dove and bringing life to the new Church, it’s perhaps in baptism that we see and refer to the Holy Spirit most fully.
We know something about the way Baptism was administered in the early days from a fourth-century church order. Then, Baptism was only available after years of formation, years of having candidates’ motives and lives scrutinized, years of hearing the word of God read, years of being dismissed with prayer before the faithful went on to celebrate the Eucharist. Baptism was a serious endeavor.
In the darkness that preceded the dawn of Easter, candidates were taken naked into the water of the baptistery and there plunged under it three times, pledging their belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When all the new Christians were baptized, the bishop then affirmed and sealed their baptism after prayer, for all the faithful to see, with an authoritative gesture: laying his hand on each head, signing each oily forehead once again in the form of a cross, while declaring, “The servant of God is sealed with the Holy Spirit.” To which all replied in a thunderous “Amen!”
The servant of God is sealed with the Holy Spirit.
It couldn’t be clearer, could it, that Christians of the fourth century had a special, a unique relationship with the Holy Spirit? And yet for most of us, the Spirit remains the most mysterious part of the Holy Trinity. That may be in part because we don’t spend enough time with the Holy Spirit in prayer; we naturally turn to God the Father, as we can relate best to him.
But if we started to pray to—and with—the Holy Spirit, we too might recover that sense of having been sealed. Of belonging.
Deepen your devotion to the Holy Spirit with the spiritual classic on the Holy Spirit: The Sanctifier. In The Sanctifier, one of the most fascinating books on the Holy Spirit ever written, Archbishop Martinez reveals the secret of holiness. Step by step, he will guide you to understand the gentle ways in which the Spirit acts in your life. The author explains how the Spirit is present to us and leads us to the Father and the Son, especially through the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. He then focuses on the seven gifts, which make us attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Along with the gifts, we discover the consoling fruits of the Spirit, such as joy, peace, and patience. Finally, Martinez crowns his work with a masterful explanation of the beatitudes, the summit of the Christian life.