Listen to the Pomerium Ensemble sing Dunstable's Veni Sancti Spiritus. Music details HERE.
God the Holy Ghost is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity,
equal to God the Father and God the Son,
and of one essence with Them (see pp. 128-35).
Yet we find in the devotional and theological life of the Church
a remarkable neglect of God the Holy Ghost.
For instance, there are in the Prayer Book only three direct addresses to the Holy Ghost;
the second "Lord, have mercy upon us" in what is called the Lesser Litany;
the collect for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany (which is not used every year);
and the hymn "Come, Holy Ghost", with its alternative, in the Ordinal.
Nor is this neglect confined to the Anglican Communion.
The popular Latin devotion known as the Divine Praises contains no reference to the Holy Ghost, but goes straight from the Son to the Blessed Virgin.
A friend of mine searched all the leading theological bookshops of Paris for a book on the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, under the guidance of an eminent French theologian, but without success.
The neglect of any truth by the Church usually leads to the rise of sects
that make that truth their chief doctrine.
Sects have been formed which have given to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit the chief, perhaps the only, place in their teaching, and combined it with the practice of "speaking with tongues", emotional and unintelligible utterance.
Apart from this the result of the neglect of the Holy Spirit within the Church has been disastrous.
The endless disputes about the Eucharist and the sacraments in general might have been avoided if it had always been remembered that the Holy Spirit brings about all sacramental action.
The Holy Ghost is God, and therefore He is everywhere.
But He is also present in a special way with those who are united with Him both as individuals and corporately in the Church.
Both parts of this truth are to be kept in mind:
His universal presence,
and His special presence in the Church.
The Holy Ghost is shown to us in a rising scale:
in Nature; in Man; in Man redeemed;
supremely in the Incarnate Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.
He is shown forth in the order and the beauty of the material world,
for it was created through Him.
The wonderful order of the universe,
in which stars and electrons obey the same rules
and are alike "the army of unalterable law", [George Meredith.]
presents to us the guiding power of the Holy Ghost.
The marvellous beauty that appears in almost all natural objects,
from mountains and sunsets to the smallest flowers,
displays to us the infinite beauty of God the Holy Ghost
who delights in beauty because it resembles Himself.
Wherever we see either order or beauty in the natural world
or in things made by man,
we recognize the handiwork of God the Holy Ghost.
This is the truth recognized by St. Patrick when he wrote:
I bind unto myself today the virtues of the star-lit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray, the whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightening free, the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks.
The stable earth, the deep salt sea, around the old eternal rocks.
[St. Patrick's Breastplate, translated by Mrs. Alexander, English Hymnal, 212.]
The Seer of the Revelation saw among the worshippers in the court of Heaven
the four living creatures,
representing the powers of nature,
as the twenty-four elders represented the powers of grace. (Rev.4.4-11.)
[See also Psalm 104; Job 38; The Song of The Three Children (Benedicite); etc.]
But above and beyond the material world, both organic and inorganic,
we see God the Holy Ghost displayed
in the truth and beauty of the works of the mind of man;
in literature, art, and music;
in scientific skill.
We recognize the power of the Holy Ghost in all great poetry and philosophy;
wherever there is beauty,
wherever there is order,
wherever there is truth,
it comes from Him.
It is He who guides the statesman and the explorer, the surgeon and the chemist;
there is no work or thought of man which is in any way good, or true, or beautiful, that is not His gift (Wisdom 7.17-20).
We see the power and the wisdom of God the Holy Ghost in all that is true
and good in the heathen religions.
Zoroaster and the Buddha,
Socrates and Plato,
Virgil and the Stoics,
though they did not know Him, were His instruments.
The Church has recognized this by sometimes placing pictures of Socrates and Plato in the porch of the churches; and there is a beautiful legend of St. Cadoc the Wise, a Welsh saint of the sixth century who, when a monk had thrown his Virgil into the sea declaring that the author was undoubtedly in hell, heard a far off voice repeating,
Cease not to pray for me;
I will ever sing the mercies of the Saviour.
[Virgil's Fourth Eclogue was regarded, not without reason, as a prophecy of Christ.]
Nevertheless, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through the writers of
the Old Testament is unique.
Isaiah and Jeremiah were inspired in a sense in which Aeschylus and Plato were not.
We see that inspiration given first to Moses, the earliest leader of the Hebrews of whom we can say with certainty that he separated Israel from the other nations.
The inspiration becomes clearer in the great writing prophets from Amos onwards, and in the psalmists, sages, and apocalyptic writers whose work found its climax in the Son of God.
It was the Holy Ghost through whose power Jesus Christ was born (Luke 1.35;
He is not the Father of Jesus Christ,
but He gave power to His Mother to conceive, though she was a virgin.
We hear of Him next at our Lord's baptism.
He descended upon Him to give to His manhood all that was needed for His public ministry, and the visible sign of this descent was the dove (Mark 1.9-10).
Our Lord warned His disciples that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost
that is, the deliberate sin against conscience was the unpardonable sin (Mark 3.29).
As long as we are by our own fault so completely self-deceived that we cannot repent, we cannot be forgiven;
for we have shut God the Holy Ghost out of our hearts.
The special work of the Holy Ghost in the order of grace began at Pentecost
We find a foreshadowing of it in John 20.22.
Our Lord promised that the Holy Ghost would shortly be sent upon the apostles,
that they might be His witnesses (Acts 1.8; cf. John 5.26).
On the day of Pentecost He came upon them,
with the visible appearance of tongues of fire upon their heads,
which was the birthday of the Church of the New Covenant.
Throughout the Acts of the Apostles the leaders of the Church are seen working consciously under the direction of the Holy Ghost
(Acts 3.31, 6.10, 7.51, 8.17, 10.44, 13.2, 4; 15.28, 16.6-7, 19.6, 20.23, 28, etc.),
and their conduct was completely changed in a very short time.
St. Peter, who had only a few weeks before denied his Master to a maidservant, now stood up before the very council that had condemned his Master to death, and said, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
And the other apostles, who had fled when their Master was arrested
and had afterwards shut the doors for fear, became equally courageous.
Wisdom as well as courage had been given to them.
Just before the Ascension they had asked whether our Lord was now going to set up an earthly kingdom (Acts 1.6), but they never made that mistake again.
Nothing in the New Testament is more striking
than the contrast between the apostles in the Gospels,
timid, foolish, and quarrelsome,
and the apostles in the Acts,
bold, wise, and united.
It was the descent of the Holy Ghost that made the difference.
The work of the Holy Ghost, which began at Pentecost, is still going on.
He is the true Vicar or representative of Christ,
God working in and among mankind,
illuminating and sanctifying
(that is, giving light and holiness)
to all who will accept Him.
He has three principal means of acting among men.
The first is the conscience, which all men possess
but which is, or should be, very much more sensitive
in those who have been admitted into the Church than in those outside.
The second is the Bible, which is available to all who can read it,
but which can be fully understood only by those who can verify,
by their own experience of life in the Christian community,
the truths which it teaches.
The third is the Church, the society of those upon whom the Holy Ghost fell
at Pentecost (not only the apostles but the whole body of disciples, male
They are, ideally, living by the power of the Holy Ghost
and are therefore able to make full use
both of the Bible, which He has inspired,
and of the conscience that He has enlightened.