How wonderful is the work of the artist! By efforts both ardent and gentle, he can penetrate hard and shapeless materials with the light of his soul. The instruments that he uses, although often crude, can impart to these materials exquisite proportions and shapes.
That is the way one may conceive the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, Artist of souls. Is not sanctity the supreme art? God has only one ideal which, in its prodigious unity and because it is divine, encompasses all the highest forms of beauty. This ideal is Jesus. The Holy Spirit loves Him more than an artist loves his ideal. That love is His being, because the Holy Spirit is nothing but love, the personal Love of the Father and of the Word. With divine enthusiasm He comes to the soul — the soul, which is breath of the Most High, spiritual light that can merge with uncreated Light, and exquisite essence that can be transformed into Jesus, reproducing the eternal ideal.
Because He is perfect and infinite, the divine Artist accomplishes that which the human artist only dreams of without ever being able to attain. His action is not exterior or intermittent, but intimate and constant. He enters into the depths of our souls, penetrates the innermost recesses, and takes up His permanent dwelling there to produce later on His magnificent work.
To the Artist of souls, sanctification and possession are the same act, for sanctification is the work of love, and love is possession. The very lowest degree of sanctity demands that the Holy Spirit dwell in our souls and possess them, while supreme sanctity is the supreme possession that the Spirit attains in the soul, the full and perfect possession of love.
Therefore, the first relationship that the Holy Spirit has with souls is that of being its delightful Guest — dulcis Hospes animae — as the Church calls Him in the inspired prose of the Mass of Pentecost.
The Trinity Dwells Within the Soul
Without doubt, the entire Blessed Trinity dwells within the soul living the life of grace, as it is to dwell eternally within the soul living the life of glory, which is the full and joyous expansion of the life of grace. Thus Jesus taught us on the night before His death, that night of intimate secrets and sweet effusions: “If anyone love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him.” Attention should be given to the fact that the Scriptures attribute, in a special manner, this indwelling to the Holy Spirit.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Without this dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, we cannot “become Christ.” “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Grace and charity, which are the life of our souls, have relationship with the Spirit who dwells in us, because “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Even the resurrection of the flesh is a consequence of this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who converts our bodies into His temple. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then He who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also bring to life your mortal bodies, because of His Spirit who dwells in you.”
And the Holy Spirit does not come to us in a transitory manner; infinite Love is not a passing visitor who pays us a call and then goes away. He establishes in us His permanent dwelling and lives in intimate union with our souls as their eternal Guest. Jesus promised this to us on the last night of His mortal life: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you shall know Him because He will dwell with you, and be in you.”
Undoubtedly, as we have already said, this permanent and intimate dwelling in our souls which is attributed by appropriation to the Holy Spirit pertains to all the divine Persons; but the appropriation is made by the Scriptures — by Jesus Christ Himself — so we know that it is perfectly founded and admirably efficacious for revealing the Blessed Trinity to us.
And why is this indwelling in souls attributed to the Holy Spirit? Because it is a work of love. God is in our souls in a most particular manner because He loves us.
The Holy Spirit Loves Us
What a delight in the thought! It is not because of the exigencies of His immensity, nor only because our wretchedness demands it, that God establishes His dwelling in souls; love, which attracts, allures, and makes one overcome all difficulties, makes the God of Heaven, who is in love with souls, come down to them and unite Himself to them in an intimate and permanent manner. This is love: union or desire of union. And as the Holy Spirit is the infinite Love of God, to Him is appropriated this happy name: the soul’s delightful Guest.
The Holy Books give us a foundation for exploring this mystery of love. We have already seen St. Paul establish a close bond between the Holy Spirit and charity. And St. John, the master of love, completes in a wonderful way the teachings of St. Paul. In his first letter, the beloved disciple explains the intimate relation that exists between the Holy Spirit and charity. This virtue is the image of God, because “God is love,” and, for this reason, charity accomplishes the prodigy that “he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” But the unmistakable sign of the mutual and sweet possession is that we have received the Holy Spirit: “In this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”
The first gift of love is love itself, and all the other gifts emanate from this supreme gift, as from their source. Therefore, the Gift of the love of God is the Holy Spirit. Loving us with the love of friendship and giving us His Spirit is for God one and the same thing. And through His Gift, He gives us all the gifts of His munificence. “Through the Gift, which is the Holy Spirit, are distributed many gifts proper to the members of Christ,” says St. Augustine. But of all the gifts that God gives us through His Gift, the most excellent and precious, the created gift that cannot be separated from the uncreated, is charity, the image of the Holy Spirit.
The love of friendship is mutual. God loves us through the Holy Spirit. In order that we may correspond to that infinite love with a love that is created, to be sure, but also supernatural and divine, the Holy Spirit, when giving Himself to us, pours into our souls the likeness of Himself, which is charity. This can become so perfect that it can be said that God and we form one same love, one same spirit, as St. Paul teaches: “He who cleaves to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”
There is, then, a very close union between the Holy Spirit and charity: the Holy Spirit does not give Himself to us without pouring charity into our hearts, nor can there be the love of charity in us without the Holy Spirit’s coming to us by the very act of loving.
Consequently, the basic reason why God dwells in us, why He remains in us and we in Him, is love. The love of God that descends to the depths of our souls, and our love, which, by its irresistible needs, attracts the God of Heaven and captivates Him in the bonds of charity — these are two loves that seek each other, find each other, and fuse together in a divine unity. On the part of God, it is the Holy Spirit who gives Himself to us, and, on our part, it is charity, the image of the Holy Spirit, that cannot be separated from the divine Original. Therefore, the inspired expression of the Church, “delightful Guest of the soul,” encloses a mystery of love.
Undoubtedly, knowledge also makes God dwell in us as in His temple — although not knowledge as such, even of the supernatural order, but only that knowledge called wisdom, which is, as it were, experienced, and which proceeds from love and produces love. “The Son,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “is the Word; not any sort of word, but one who breathes forth Love.” Thus, too, St. Augustine says that the Son is sent “when He is known and perceived by someone. But the perception signifies experimental knowledge. And this is properly called wisdom.”
Some profound considerations result from this doctrine, revealing to us the important part played by the Holy Spirit in the spiritual life.
The divine gifts that belong to the understanding make us resemble the Word of God, who is Wisdom engendered by the understanding of the Father, and the gifts that pertain to the will make us resemble the Holy Spirit, who is infinite Love.
Now, on earth, the most perfect gift is charity; consequently, our assimilation with the Holy Spirit is more perfect than our assimilation with the Word of God. But from charity, by which the gifts of the Holy Spirit are ordered in their progress and development, springs that loving wisdom which, according to St. Thomas, accomplishes our resemblance to the Word of God, our transformation into Christ, which is the work of light, and consummates holiness on earth.
In the supernatural order, love leads to light; the Holy Spirit leads us to the Word, and through the Word we go to the Father, in whom all life is completed and all movement is converted into rest. And in Him every creature finds its perfection and its happiness, because all things are completed when they return to their principle.
The development of these ideas will reveal to us the economy of the work of sanctification, but in the present, it is sufficient for our purpose to establish upon a firm foundation this consoling doctrine: that the Holy Spirit is, in a unique sense, the soul’s delightful Guest.