Loving the Person of Love
Since the wonderful moment of our Baptism, the Holy Spirit has been dwelling within us, loving us and giving Himself to us. How blessed our life becomes when we draw close to the Holy Spirit, responding with all of our love to the Divine Person whose very name is Love.
The Person of Love
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). As St. Augustine reflected on this beautiful passage from St. Paul, he found in our own experience of love a precious intimation of who the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Trinity. There is always a “threeness” in our love: we who love, our beloved, and the bond of love between us. In this mystery of created love, Augustine found a tender reflection of the deepest love of all, the Divine Persons’ infinite love for one another. As he contemplated the exquisite mystery of the Father’s eternal self-giving to His Son, and the Son’s ecstatic returning of His Father’s love, Augustine was inspired to glorify the Holy Spirit as Their infinitely sweet “Embrace,” Their exquisite “Delight,” Their most intimate Bond of Love.
All three Persons of the Trinity are love by nature, but only the Holy Spirit, the Father’s and Son’s living Love for one another, is the Divine Person whose distinct personal identity and name are “Love.” Even the precious name that we most often use for the Third Divine Person, “Holy Spirit,” alludes to this mystery of Love that the Holy Spirit is. The beautiful word spirit can mean “breath” or “impulse,” and one kind of gentle “breath” is the impulse of love that draws us to our beloved. The Father’s and Son’s “Impulse of Love” drawing Them eternally to one another, Their mutual “Breath of Love,” is the Third Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, whose intimate, personal name is Love.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux calls the Holy Spirit not only the Father’s and Son’s living “Breath of Love,” but also Their sweet “Embrace” and tender “Kiss” of Love (Song of Sol. 1:2). The Lord Jesus kissed His apostles with this living “Kiss” when, after His Resurrection, He “breathed” on them His wondrous Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Through the Trinity’s intimate love for us, we ourselves are blessed beyond all measure to receive the Father’s and Son’s own “Kiss of Love” at our Baptism, and then to receive the unrestrained fullness of Their eternal, intimate “Kiss” at our Confirmation. Wonderful mystery of love! The Holy Spirit, the Father’s and Son’s exquisite “Kiss of love,” now dwells intimately within us, loving us tenderly, delighting in us, and inviting our own response of love in return.
Our Gift to Possess and Enjoy
We know that love itself is, above all else, a cherished gift. When we give our love to someone, we bestow it freely and not because it is owed. When we give a gift to someone dear to us, it is not because it is demanded; in our gift, we are freely giving our love. Our experience is a reflection of the exquisite mystery of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Person of Love, whose very name is not only “Love” but also precious “Gift” (Acts 2:38). At our Baptism, all Three Divine Persons give Themselves completely to us as gift so that we may possess Them, enjoy Them, delight in Them. The Holy Spirit, however, is infinite Gift in a unique way. As the Father’s and Son’s own intimate Love for one another, the Holy Spirit is also Their exquisite Gift of Love, the living Gift who also gives Himself to us, to be truly ours to possess and enjoy and belong to us forever.
The Holy Spirit gives Himself completely to us, not because we are worthy but because He is the most tender “Father of the Poor.” What a consoling name! What gentle miracles of love we experience when we pray to the Holy Spirit using this beautiful, powerful name! In all of our needs, when we feel helpless, when everything seems hopeless, let us cry out to the Holy Spirit, “Father of the Poor, help me!” St. Paul assures us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,” who “has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). These beautiful words show us how unreserved is the Holy Spirit’s self-giving to us who are utterly poor, who have nothing to draw the Holy Spirit’s love to us except our helplessness.
The Lord reminds us of how tenderly we ourselves give good gifts to our children, who do absolutely nothing to “deserve” our love. We simply love to give them our love; the more helpless they are, the more we love to help them and give good gifts to them. How much more does our Father in Heaven love to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask” (Luke 11:13). In our every need, let us simply ask the Father to flood our souls with His precious Gift of the Holy Spirit, the Person of Love who is everything good we could want for ourselves and our loved ones. In every situation, when we are happy and when we are troubled, when we are content and when we feel empty and distressed, when our hearts are at peace and when they are broken, let us turn to the Person of Love: “Father of the Poor, O Love, Beloved of my soul, give me Your love, Your joy. Satisfy my heart with Yourself.”
Our Beloved Friend
What is the sweetest, easiest way to grow close to the Holy Spirit? St. Cyril of Jerusalem gives us a beautiful response when he tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells in us with “the tenderness of a true friend.” What peace and joy fill our hearts when we learn to speak to the Holy Spirit with the ease and familiarity we show to our dearest Friend! As we begin to return the Holy Spirit’s self-giving love to us, when we start to give ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we savor the happiness not merely of a one-sided love but also the tender love that is truly intimate friendship with the Holy
Spirit, the very Person of Love.
“I do not call you servants any longer . . . but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). The Lord Jesus assures us of His own intimate friendship with us, for He has revealed to us all that His Father has spoken to His heart, and He has given Himself completely to us, sacrificing His life for us (John 15:13, 15). The Holy Spirit, too, however, is our beloved Friend, and in an utterly unique way. Because love is the very heart of true friendship, the Holy Spirit, whose personal name is Love, is, above all, our beloved Friend. A prayer used in the Liturgy of the Hours assures us of this very truth, as we ask the Father to fill us with the same Spirit of Love whom He tenderly gave to the apostles as their own beloved Companion and “constant Friend.”
The meditations of St. Thomas Aquinas on the qualities of true friendship help us to appreciate more deeply the beautiful mystery of the Holy Spirit’s intimate love for us as our beloved Friend. Thomas tells us, first of all, that true friendship is not a one-sided love; it is the equality and reciprocity of a self-giving love that is mutual and good. We both give the gift of ourselves, desiring and working for one another’s true good as if it were our very own, loving and helping each other in every way that we can. We share with and listen to one another, delighting in each other’s company and taking true joy in each other’s accomplishments. As beloved friends, we are a comfort and refuge for each other, especially in difficult times. We love to spend time with each other not only when we are happy but also when we are troubled and sad.
Most of all, we want to share all that we have and are with our beloved friend in a true “life together.” This does not necessarily mean dwelling together in the same home. On the contrary, people may live under the same roof with another but not have a real “life together” because they never communicate from their hearts with one another. St. Thomas Aquinas stresses that true friendship is based on this intimate, mutual communication in which we share with each other our thoughts and desires, our fears and goals, and most of all, all that is in our hearts (John 15:15). Through intimate friendship, we “reveal the secrets” of our heart to one another, as to the “other half of our soul,” for we want our beloved friend to know everything about us. Realizing that the more we know, the more we love, we desire to understand all that we can about each other, knowing, if possible, even each other’s inmost soul.
These beautiful reflections of St. Thomas on true friendship help us to appreciate how intimately the Holy Spirit, the very Person of Love, is our beloved Friend. Since our Baptism, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have been dwelling in us, loving us unconditionally, giving Themselves to us, and bestowing on us countless blessings. In a most intimate way, however, the Holy Spirit of Love has dwelt in us as our beloved Friend, giving Himself unreservedly to us. Imparting to us His own joy in our trials (Acts 9:31; Rom. 14:17), the Holy Spirit has been protecting us from all that could truly harm us and helping us in our every need.
Even when we have been unaware of His tender presence and unfailing help, the Holy Spirit has spread His sweet “fragrance” within and around us, comforting and healing us, counseling and teaching us, all through love alone. We know how love itself is our teacher when we want to understand more deeply someone dear to us. The Holy Spirit, the very Person of Love, is constantly teaching us, especially through His gift of wisdom (1 Cor. 2:9–13). Giving us insight into the precious mysteries of our Faith, the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts especially to the beautiful mystery of the Trinity’s intimate life of love.Even more, the Holy Spirit enables us tenderly and truly to love the Father, the Lord Jesus, and Himself with an unselfish, supernatural love that is the wondrous virtue of charity.
The Holy Spirit’s Charity Uniting Us to the Trinity and to One Another
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,” who “has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). In meditating on St. Paul’s profound words, St. Thomas Aquinas was inspired to understand that “God’s own love” fills us through the beautiful virtue of charity. This exquisite supernatural love is nothing less than an intimate friendship with the Trinity and a created sharing in the Holy Spirit. By means of charity, the Holy Spirit unites us to Himself, and to the Father and the Son, whose tender Love He is, enabling us to love the Trinity intimately. What an astounding gift and mystery of love! Through the virtue of charity, our love for the Persons of the Trinity comes not from ourselves (1 John 4:19) but from the Holy Spirit, the very Person of Love!
Without the Holy Spirit’s love, we are so wounded by the weakness that is original sin that, in loving, we easily seek our own good. The beautiful virtue of the Holy Spirit’s charity, however, makes it easy and delightful for us to love the Trinity above all else, with an unselfish friendship love that is filled with ease and joy. Through the virtue of charity, the Holy Spirit enables us to delight in Him and in the Father and the Son, not for selfish reasons but because They are infinitely good and immeasurably dear to us.
Nothing gives us more joy than this heavenly virtue of charity, which inseparably unites us also to one another. As St. Thomas Aquinas beautifully comments, when we truly love those dear to us, “for their sake we love all who belong to them.” And so it is with our love for the Divine Persons of the Trinity. Through the very same virtue of the Holy Spirit’s charity, we love the Trinity and also all those who “belong” to the Trinity.
As we become intimate friends of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit’s own love within us conceives in us other wonderful virtues through which we grow in self-giving love not only for the Trinity but also for one another: “Love is patient and kind … not jealous or boastful,” not “arrogant or rude.” Love “does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13:4–5). How consoling it is to realize that the love that is charity does not depend on our feelings but on the Holy Spirit, who permeates our will with His love. Because our love comes from the Holy Spirit of love within us, the closer we draw to the Holy Spirit, the easier and more delightful it is for us to give this love to one another. Even when we feel empty or incapable of loving, the Holy Spirit’s charity within us enables us to love others with a love deeper than our own.
The Holy Spirit enables us, first, to love ourselves with His love. The Lord Jesus Himself reminds us that we must love others with the love we have for ourselves (Mark 12:31). When our lives are self-centered, when we dislike ourselves and are miserable in our own company, we have no true love for ourselves, and our hearts are empty. Generous, self-giving love overflows from us when our hearts are full, when we are happy and content. The Holy Spirit, the very Person of Love, gives us this contentment. Through the beautiful virtue of charity, we desire and love the best good for ourselves, the Blessed Trinity. And because the Holy Spirit enables us to cherish the Trinity dwelling intimately in us as in Their own home (John 14:23), we are truly happy in our own company. We take delight in “entering into” our souls, where the Trinity dwell and where we are never alone. Loved tenderly by the very Person of Love, we find within us the joy of “good thoughts in the present, the memory of past good, and the hope of future good.”
The more intimate our friendship with the Holy Spirit becomes, the more the Holy Spirit’s love gives us the contentment and grace to be freed from destructive relationships. Increasingly, we are healed of the need to use or to depend on other human persons for our happiness. Secure and content within ourselves, we grow more loving in our care for one another as members of the Lord’s own Body who “belong” to one another: “If one member suffers, all suffer together;” “if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12–13, 26).
We want the Holy Spirit of Love to be the very soul of all our relationships. Our love deepens for those dear to us and those who are poor and in need. We find it easier to be more generous with our time, our talents, our resources (1 Cor. 12:4–11). Most of all, we learn that loving with the Holy Spirit’s charity is not a matter of feeling but of willing and working for the good of those we are called to love. Every one of us is meant to know the power of the Holy Spirit’s love within us to deepen our married love, our love for our spouses, our children, our parents, those dear to us, and all those we are called to help and serve. As the Holy Spirit enlightens us to see more clearly our own faults and weaknesses, we become more compassionate, patient, kind, and generous to one another. In these and so many other beautiful ways, the Holy Spirit blesses us, increasing our desire to glorify the Trinity and to draw others, especially those dear to us, to the Trinity’s love.
A beautiful hymn by St. Ambrose implores the Holy Spirit, “Light up our mortal frame, ’til others catch the living flame.” With the Holy Spirit’s charity taking hold of us, deepening our love for the Trinity and for all those who “belong” to the Trinity, we are inspired to pray with new fervor the Church’s wonderful prayer to the Holy Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love.” Yes, most sweet Holy Spirit, fill my heart; enkindle in me the fire of Your love!
The closer we draw to the Holy Spirit, the Living “Flame of Love,” the more the hearts of others are touched and warmed by His love within us.The Gospel of John recounts the beautiful story of Mary, the beloved friend of the Lord, whose lavish anointing of the Lord’s feet “filled” the entire house “with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3). May the home of our own hearts be filled with the warmth and fragrance of the Holy Spirit’s love, drawing many others to the wonderful joy of loving the Person of Love.
Art for this post: Cover and featured image used with permission.