Friday, September 10, 2021

Guest Reflection: The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church


Dear Parish Faithful,

Here is another guest reflection, this time from John Guentz, who is now a catechumen. John is a former Anglican priest, so his comments below are more than a little interesting, as he has an awareness of a good deal of Western theological trends and emphases.


Father Bless!

I wanted to mention some good take-aways from Fr Argenti's book on the Holy Spirit. I know there is far more emphasis on the Holy Spirit in Orthodoxy than the Roman church - that is obvious in our prayer and in the liturgy and this is a good thing. It is obvious to me also that the Orthodox theology behind the Holy Spirit is more focused on the true Personhood of the Holy Spirit. Again, the ecumenical councils affirmed this beginning with the Second Council. I personally believe the Roman church has largely left the Holy Spirit behind in much of the worship and liturgy because of the lack of focus on the true Personhood of the Spirit. Fr Argenti goes as far as to say the western depiction of the Holy Spirit as a dove between the Father and the Son (we see everywhere in western art) is enough to relegate the Third Person of the Holy Trinity to a mere link between the Father and the Son diminishing His true Personhood. The same can be said concerning the filioque as to one reason why it is wrong.

Liturgical practice, as I mentioned previously, regarding the Epiclesis is very telling between East and West. In the Roman church the Epiclesis is a short mention before the Words of Institution - while in the Divine Liturgy the Epiclesis is the summit of the consecration prayers. Why this has been a profound point with me is now clear. Fr Argenti, among other discussions of the work of the Spirit, outlines simply but beautifully the role of the Holy Spirit in liturgy and the exegesis (in layman's terms) behind it. 

  • As the Holy Spirit transforms our lives and animates the Church - so we ask Him (even laity praying with our Amen!) to transform the bread and wine into the true body and blood of our Savior - which heals and transforms us.
  • The liturgy is Pentecost - Fr Argenti says the Liturgy is the Church's "perpetual Pentecost." 
  • The Holy Spirit, through communion, unites us all into the Body of Christ - to the Church and to one another as members. Koinonia!
  • It is the Holy Spirit that makes us a new creation - we are already in the Kingdom of God - through the Holy Spirit we are able to be Eucharistic people living eucharistic lives of thanksgiving.

We do not base our faith on "feelings," of course. However, there is no energy of Pentecost in what I have experienced in the past. I see at Christ the Savior the work of the Holy Spirit - faith, youth, love for Church, participation, welcoming, fellowship. Thanks be to God...!

Truly, I have never really been able to wrap my head around the whole notion of papal universal jurisdiction and infallibility even with the years I spent in the Roman church. Spending most of my life as an Anglican, and especially my time as a traditional Anglican priest, helped me understand that any rank of bishop may have particular charisms bestowed at ordination - but authority given by God to Peter, James, John and the rest of the apostles were the same "keys".