Holy Spirit Was and Is


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.

Continue reading “Holy Spirit Was and Is”

Places in Heaven, Spaces and Punctuation Marks

In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself. (John 14:2-3)

Very consoling passage. But also very interesting.

The oldest manuscripts of Sacred Scripture which we possess do not have any punctuation. They don’t even have any spaces between the words.

So sometimes the punctuation we read in our English-language Bibles involves some interpretation on the part of the person who added the punctuation marks.

mark gospel manuscript fragmentDid the Lord ask a rhetorical question? “Would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”

Or did He actually make a statement: “If there were no places prepared, I would have told you as much.” Next sentence: “I go to prepare a place for you.”

Depends on which English translation of the Bible you read.

Now, the moral of the story is not that we don’t have places prepared in heaven. On other occasions, the Lord referred to ‘places prepared by my Father.’ And He Himself, the incarnate Son, makes these places ready by: 1) ascending bodily to heaven Himself, 2) praying for us there, 3) pouring out the Holy Spirit so that we can be united with Him by faith as we make our way on earth, and 4) uniting us with Him fully in the end.

So there’s no question about the places, the preparation of them, or the preparation of us for them. The point of fussing about the punctuation of this verse is simply to highlight the fact that it is impossible to receive the Word of God written in Scripture without the help of other people.

All of us are a long way off from being able to understand big sheets of paper covered with Greek letters, with no punctuation or spaces between the words. And even if we knew Koine Greek well enough to read these pages, we would quickly see that a lot of passages can be rendered into English with significantly different meanings—without one way or the other being more “correct.”

This is not to say that the New Testament offers us no clear, unambiguous teaching. To the contrary, the cumulative message of the Scriptures is crystal clear: “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.”

But actually to get this message, each of us individually relies on the help of a lot of other people. The most accurate collective name for all these other people, taken together, is: The Church.

Tharsei, My Child

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Courage, child. Your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9)

He saw their faith, which was great. Faith in Christ: He saves. His power conquers evil. Let’s get as close to Him as we possibly can, because with Him there is always hope.

He saw this great faith. He smiled. He said something in Aramaic, which St. Matthew rendered in Greek as tharsei.

Apparently, the Lord said the same word to the woman with the hemorrhage, who we heard about on Sunday. St. Matthew translates the word the Lord spoke to her with the same tharsei. And St. John also translated the Lord Jesus’ word of encouragement this way: When Christ spoke to the Apostles at the Last Supper, He concluded by saying, “In the world you will have trouble, but tharsei, my friends. I have overcome the world.”

When Christ sees faith—faith in the all-powerful, all-loving divinity of the Galilean rabbi; when the Messiah sees eyes of faith looking at Him and perceiving Who He really is, He responds by saying: Take heart! Be of good cheer! Bolster your spirits! Embolden yourselves.

Why does He say this to those who believe in Him? Because all really will be well. Because He really has conquered death. Because heaven really does await those who serve Him faithfully.

Couragio. Be not afraid.

The Various Lingos (Roman Missal III)

Sooner or later, we have to tackle the mother of all Roman Missal issues: the diversity of human languages.

Where did the Hebrew language come from? Archaeologists and philologists have their ideas. Hebrew came from God, in the sense that everything comes from God. And God used some Hebrew in His dealings with Moses.

When God became man, He spoke the contemporary version of the ancient Syrian language. Greek was the lingua franca of the world. And the people whose ancestral tongue was Latin held sway.

We can say without hesitation that human language exists so that Christ could speak it. If it existed solely for Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, Springsteen, et. al., then human language would constitute nothing more than a glorious and futile tragedy.

As it is, the lips of Christ have made our race’s cluckings and stammerings worthwhile. When the Lord Jesus said, Hoc est enim…, He sealed the whole project with a mighty, definitive breakthrough: Heaven and earth unite at the words.

That said, the Lord Jesus did not of course literally say, Hoc est enim… We figure He spoke Aramaic at the Last Supper, when He wasn’t reciting Hebrew. And I, though I am a somewhat well-educated priest and a semi-devout Christian—I could not, off the top of my little head, supply you with the Aramaic words…

An important sequel followed that pivotal Jerusalem spring. The Apostles fanned-out to the ends of the earth. They established the Church in the great cities, as well as villages and hamlets. The Prince of Apostles ultimately sailed west and watered the soil of Vatican Hill, across the Tiber from Rome, with his blood.

The local churches of Rocky Mount and Martinsville, Va.—coursing with holiness as they may—cannot claim to have begun with a Mass celebrated by one of the Twelve Apostles. Indeed, no English-speaking local church can make this boast; the English language did not exist when the Apostles walked the earth.

The lands around the Mediterranean Sea, and in the now-Arab and Persian domains, and in India—these places saw the Apostles celebrate Mass to begin local churches. The languages of these ancient countries were used in the original rites of the Church of Christ. Pre-eminent among them all: Peter’s church, Rome.

More to come…

On first looking into Kleist’s gospels

Apparently, reading Chapman’s translation of Homer can cause euphoria.

Opening up an unfamiliar translation of the New Testament a week before Pentecost can have this effect:

Somewhat extensive have my studies been
of Koine distilled into English turns.
Heard many plaints a-rattling in a din:
Too hard to catch the tenor of His words.
The worst: a hamhand jumble of the prayer
our Lord spoke heavenward His final speech–
the noblest sounds ever to rend the air–
Perhaps beyond the translator’s short reach.
In supplication, the Christ expressed all:
His place, His Father, and His chosen ones.
But can these words be music on our soil?
Until today I’d never heard it done.
Now it all is real, the Messiah’s dream.
English was made for Kleist’s John 17.