Love is the foundation of devotion to the Holy Spirit, as it is also the foundation of Christian perfection. But love as a reflection of God, as His own image, is something that encloses within its simplicity a boundless wealth and a variety of forms. Who can fathom the depths of love?
Human love in all its manifestations is admirably in harmony with the love of charity; it is confident in filial love, trusting in friendship, sweet and fruitful in the love of husband and wife, disinterested and tender in the love of a mother. Our love of God must include all these forms of human love; every fiber of our heart must vibrate when the harmonious and full canticle of love bursts forth from it. But since God is one in essence and triune in Persons, our love for Him takes on a particular aspect accordingly as it is directed to each one of the divine Persons.
Our love for the Father is tender and confident like that of children — eager to glorify Him as His only-begotten Son taught us to do by word and example. Love for the Father is the intense desire to have His will fulfilled on earth as it is in Heaven.
Our love for the Son, who willed to become flesh for us, is characterized by the tendency to union with Him and transformation into Him; by imitation of His example, participation in His life, and the sharing of His sufferings and His Cross. The Eucharist — the mystery of love, of sorrow, and of union — reveals the characteristics of this love.
Love for the Holy Spirit also has its special character, which we should study in order completely to understand devotion to Him. We have explained how the Holy Spirit loves us, how He moves us like a divine breath that draws us to the bosom of God, like a sacred fire that transforms us into fire, like a divine artist who forms Jesus in us. Surely, then, our love for the Holy Spirit should be marked by loving docility, by full surrender, and by a constant fidelity that permits us to be moved, directed, and transformed by His sanctifying action.
Our love for the Father tends to glorify Him; our love for the Son, to transform ourselves into Him; our love for the Holy Spirit, to let ourselves be possessed and moved by Him.
In order to attain this holy docility to the motions of the Spirit, the soul must be so silent and recollected that it can hear His voice; so pure and so filled with light that it can clearly perceive the meaning of the divine inspiration; so surrendered to the will of God that it embraces that will without hesitation; and so selfless that it performs that will without stopping at any sacrifice. Love accomplishes all this alone, or through the virtues and gifts that it coordinates and directs; for love, as St. Paul teaches, “believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”93
Love brings recollection and silence to the soul. Whosoever loves distinguishes among thousands of voices the voice of the beloved. Does not a mother know the voice of her child among all other sounds? Does she not hear him even when she is asleep? Love causes silence because it brings solitude and recollection, because it concentrates all its activity and desire on the beloved. The Holy Spirit frequently speaks to souls, breathes upon them, and inspires them. But they do not hear Him except in the measure of their love for Him, in the proportion in which love has anointed them with silence. Closely united with the Holy Spirit through love, souls feel the secret palpitation of the heart of God.
One of the characteristics, then, that love for the Holy Spirit should have is this solicitous attention to the sound of His voice, to His inspirations, to His most delicate touches. We should struggle against all disturbances, all distracting noises; we must bravely detach ourselves from all creatures, from every affection. Little by little, love will have power over our heart and spread its deep influence through all our faculties.
The voice of the Spirit is gentle; His movement is very delicate. To perceive them, the soul needs silence and peace. But it is not enough to hear: the divine language must be understood. “The sensual man does not perceive the things that are of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him and he cannot understand, because it is examined spiritually. But the spiritual man judges all things, and he himself is judged by no man. For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord, that he might instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”94
Therefore, the things of the Spirit have a spiritual and secret sense that not everyone perceives. To know divine things, the soul has to be pure, and, in proportion to its purity, it judges spiritual things and penetrates inspirations. Such purity is produced by love and wondrously brought to perfection by it, for purity considered negatively is withdrawal from earthly things, while, under its positive aspect, it is deification; and love deifies by uniting the soul to God.
Human love, by the union it produces between those who love each other, makes one penetrate the mind of the other, and in a certain manner guess his hidden thoughts. Who has not admired the amazing intuitions of the mother discovering what her little one suffers from his all-but-unintelligible cry? Even so, divine love, leading the soul into the intimacies of God and bringing God to the soul, produces that marvelous understanding of spiritual things that we see in the lives of the saints.
When Jesus, risen from the dead, appeared on the shores of Tiberias to the disciples who were fishing in Peter’s boat, He was recognized by only one of them. It was John, the apostle of purity and love, who said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Pure and loving souls have the secret of discovering Jesus in whatever way He shows Himself to them, for the clean of heart see God, and love penetrates all veils. Whether Jesus comes radiant in glory or humiliated and covered with ignominy, whether He brings divine consolations or bestows bitter things, these souls catch the enchantment of the divine perfume and exclaim, like the beloved disciple, “It is the Lord!”
The loving soul perceives through silence the divine inspirations and, by its own purity, discovers their deep meaning, allowing itself to be taken along, docile and gentle, by the breath of the Spirit. Love offers no resistance to that divine breath, because to give and to let itself be possessed, to surrender to the exigencies of infinite Love, are of its very essence. By its nature, love is the union of wills, the fusion of affections, of identical inclinations. Holy Scripture speaks clearly, as we have seen, about the docility of souls that love: “For whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
One of the most intense and delicate joys of love is precisely this abandonment to the dispositions and action of the beloved, this sweet slavery that makes the soul lose its own sovereignty in order to surrender itself to love; this ineffable happiness of having a Master — sweeter perhaps than knowing oneself to be master of the Beloved. O mystery of love which we cannot explain, but which the heart understands! To love is to disappear, to efface oneself to the point of transformation into and fusion with the Beloved.
This sweet abandonment to all the movements of love is the characteristic mark of devotion to the Spirit. To love this divine Spirit is to let ourselves be taken along by Him, as the feather is carried along by the wind; to let ourselves be possessed by Him, as the dry branch is possessed by the fire that burns it; to let ourselves be animated by Him, as the sensitive strings of a lyre take life from the artist’s touch.
The degrees of this abandonment are degrees, not only of love, but of Christian perfection, the height of which is characterized precisely by the extension and constancy of the movements of the Spirit in the soul He possesses. St. John of the Cross often taught this truth, as in the following passage: “For the soul, like the true daughter of God that it now is, is moved wholly by the Spirit of God, even as St. Paul says: ‘That they that are moved by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’ So the understanding of the soul is now the understanding of God; and its will is the will of God; and its memory is the memory of God; and its delight is the delight of God; and the substance of the soul, although it is not the substance of God, for into this it cannot be changed, is nevertheless united in Him and absorbed in Him, and is thus God by participation in God, which comes to pass in this perfect state of the spiritual life. . . .”
Undoubtedly, this docility requires abnegation, for it will always be true that love and pain are proportionate and that the perfection of the one cannot be attained without the perfection of the other. The soul abandoned to the Holy Spirit exposes itself to every sacrifice, every immolation. The soul of Jesus was possessed by the Holy Spirit in a singular manner. We shall never comprehend to what depths of pain He was led thereby.
The path of the divine Dove is ever the same. His flight is always toward Calvary. The shining white wings can always be described above the blessed Cross, for that is where love is to be found on earth, as in Heaven it is found in the bosom of the Father.