7.1 Come, Creator Spirit
Come, Creator Spirit Raniero Cantalamessa
This is one of the best theologies of the Holy Spirit that I have read. He provided many good stories and illustrations that will be useful in teaching about the Holy Spirit. His enthusiasm about the Holy Spirit is refreshing (271) since so many in my church background are afraid to talk about the Holy Spirit! This book had a solid biblical focus and brought me into contact with many of the Church Fathers that I had not previously read. I also valued the effort to show how every chapter can be practically lived out. In my previous reflections and teachings on the Holy Spirit, one issue that always had come up concerned prayer made to the Spirit. Cantalamessa provided several good examples of how we can appropriately pray to the Spirit including Veni Creator and how even the reformers composed hymns to the Holy Spirit (269). Although I have not memorized the entire hymn, I have used the first stanza for meditations several times already. I would like to implement his suggestion to start each day with something like the first two lines of the hymn (39). I believe the ministry of the Spirit will indeed help with my issues of depression and anxiety (38).
In my church background and ministry, rarely do we invite the Holy Spirit’s ministry among us. I want to encourage more of this with the confidence that as we genuinely invite Him to come, visit and fill, He will indeed answer (58). I personally would also like to begin praying with my wife, “Come, Holy Spirit” as was illustrated (92-93)
Cantalamessa’s discussion of the Spirit as Paraclete was quite encouraging to me. One of the ways that God has used me in the last year is in the ministry of consoling or comforting and this section has encouraged me to continue this under the leading of the Spirit (75). As I reflect upon surrendering more of my life to God and offering myself as a sacrifice, I was challenged that the “addressee is always God and the beneficiary is always one’s neighbor (87). This makes it clear that I cannot serve God and avoid serving my neighbor. The Spirit provides hope in our troubles but Cantalamessa does a good job at explaining that we are responsible to act and not just expect the Spirit to act apart from our will or desire (214-217, 286, 306-308). He acknowledges that “our human free will is not enough” to be obedient but says that the Holy Spirit can transform our will “by awakening the love of God in us and with it arousing the desire to obey God in all things” (263). That encouraged me a lot in my pursuit of holiness. His discussion on the Spirit giving us the joy of being certain (yet with humility) is an important pint that needs to be emphasized in today’s post-modern world of uncertainty about truth (245-247).
He provided a much needed exhortation to purity that I and my brothers need and gave some practical ways that we can cooperate with the Spirit in maintaining purity (251-253). I will be making copies of these pages for others who struggle with purity and sexual temptation. I really like his statement, “Fall in love with genuine beauty, choose carefully the “body” with which you want to become as one” (251). His suggestion to start out the day with the pure thoughts of God’s word is a good reminder in this area. Since I am facing some significant choices in the future, his section on making choices was helpful to me and can be applied (334-338). Since I struggle with experiencing God’s love, his section on the Paraclete’s ministry of helping us to know God’s love was important to me (350).
It seems that at points Cantalamessa reads too much into the biblical text. He makes little distinction between wind and spirit (8-11). He says that all natural gifts and creativity of artists come from the Holy Spirit but are they not a reflection of mankind and His Creator (31-32)? I am uncomfortable with his movement towards universalism and ecumenical dialogue (30, 57). I was not convinced that the finger of God is equivalent to the Spirit (192-195). His view of justification as a change in the person differs from my understanding of it as a declaration by God of our righteousness because of what Christ has done (Romans 5:1).
The view of multiple baptisms of the Spirit is presented (55), whereas I see Paul saying that there is one baptism of the Spirit in which we are made part of the Body of Christ. I would question whether or not we need to “ask the Father, consistently and persistently, to send us the Holy Spirit” (57). Perhaps, it is a matter of asking for the filling of the Spirit (Eph 5:18). He tries to achieve balance regarding tongues by saying they should not be “the only obligatory charism”, he also says that those who believe that tongues are a “necessary and sufficient sign” of receiving the Spirit should be respected (224-225). In chapter 10, 13 and 16 he brings more of an emphasis than I think is the biblical weight on what I would call the “sign gifts” (tongues, healing, miracles etc.). However, I appreciate his emphasis on humility in the use of all the gifts and the reminder that the charisms should demonstrate love (188-189). Fortunately, he recognizes that those who are not healed by prayer do not lack faith and may in fact have been given a “gift far more precious than healing” (281). He warns against overemphasizing the devil’s work as well as neglecting his power to tempt and destroy (292-295).
Most of the time I had no problem with his Catholic background. His emphasis and explanation on the Trinitarian nature of God were excellent (26-27, 81-83, 194-195, 375-382). However, there is an emphasis on the Mass (59), the Eucharist (366) and prayer to Mary (76) which does not fit into my theological grid. I commend him for acknowledging the value of the Reformers calling for an “inward, personal witness” in addition to the “apostolic witness of the Church” when interpreting Scripture (248) but he notes some weaknesses of this view (329). Our evangelical tradition would do well to heed his advice, “When we neglect the inner witness, we fall very easily into legalism and an authoritarian attitude; when we neglect the outward, apostolic witness, we fall into subjectivism and fanaticism” (328).