We read at the end of chapter seven of St. John’s gospel, the Lord Jesus promised that “rivers of living water will flow from within” the one who believes in Him. St. John explains that the living water is the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit has come at certain points in time with outward signs. Tongues of fire. A luminous cloud. Speech in many languages. A dove. An anointing.
But the Holy Spirit comes, first and foremost, as an invisible spiritual gift. The gift operates inside us, not outside. The gift elevates the soul of a human being, from within.
Right after we read Christ’s promise about rivers of living water flowing within us, we find a curious statement in the gospel. St. John has written, “There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not been glorified.”
Now, this presents us with a good moment to take a step back and free ourselves from any kind of foolish biblical literalism. St. John, of course, did not write in English. In fact, then, in verse 39 of chapter 7 of his gospel, he wrote: oupo gar he Pneuma, hoti Iesus oudepo edoxasthe.
There “was” no Spirit yet? Not true, since: The Holy Spirit, co-eternal with the Father and the Son, breathed over the primordial waters. The Holy Spirit, co-eternal with the Almighty Father and the eternal Word, separated light from darkness in the very beginning. The blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, created the universe, out of nothing.
So the Spirit has always been. Bill Clinton isn’t the only person who can say, “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” Oupo he Pneuma can mean, “The Spirit was not yet given, not yet present”—because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
In other words, all things in their proper time.
From the ages unto the ages, the Holy Spirit has communed in perfect love with the Father and the Son. The proper time for the original “appearance” of the Holy Spirit in the Church was: fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus, ten days after the Ascension of Jesus. The proper time for the on-going, invisible infusion of the Holy Spirit into the Church is: always. From that first Pentecost, through to the end of the world.
The rivers of living water: invisible, inaudible, not at all bodily, not material. Purely spiritual. Holy Spirit-ual.
This leaves us with a problem. Since the Holy Spirit-ual rivers cannot be sensed by smell, taste, sight, hearing, or touch, and since they begin to flow at a particular time, and do not flow before that time–how do we know that these rivers of living water flow within us? It’s not automatic. Maybe they flow; maybe they don’t.
Good question. St. John gives us the key to the answer, in chapter 7, verse 39. The Holy Spirit ‘comes,’ ‘is present,’ when Jesus has been glorified.
Look: We might have all kinds of ways in which we wish Jesus had attained glory. We might wish for Him to have won the Stanley Cup. We might wish He had attained glory by getting Himself a shiny new Lexus RC, or even just a new Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
But the Lord actually did attain glory by: Enduring cruel suffering at the hands of evil men, despite His perfect innocence of any crime; rising again from the tomb and appearing to a limited number of undistinguished individuals; and then ascending into the invisible Temple in heaven.
We know that the Holy Spirit flows like living water within us when we perceive this particular and unique glory of Jesus Christ. When we grasp that the glory of Jesus Christ is the true glory. The only real glory. The glory that we want, that we earnestly, ardently desire.
Only the soul filled with the Holy Spirit can perceive the glory of Jesus of Nazareth. And the Holy Spirit has one fundamental effect upon a soul: to make that soul perceive and desire the glory of the Carpenter.
Our faith in and our desire for the glory of Christ—that unites us as a Church. And our spiritual faith and desire give to the lives we lead as pilgrims their true meaning and depth.
May it flow, this living water! Uniting us interiorly with the everlasting, original, all-encompassing glory of the crucified Galilean.