Friday, February 16, 2007

The Spirit, the Water, and the Blood

Who is it that testifies about our redemption, about the eternal significance of the death of Jesus? "It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the Truth" (1Jn 5:6). Who is it that reveals to us the meaning of the ineffable mysteries flowing down through the ages from the pierced side of Christ? "The Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you" (Jn 16:15). And who is it that declares our divine adoption? "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Rom 8:16).

The Holy Spirit has spoken through the Prophets and the Apostles, as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. He has guided the pen of an eyewitness and disciple of the Word, who testifies to what he has seen and heard and touched (1Jn 1:1; Jn 19:34-35). In a mystical prefiguring of Pentecost, the Spirit was released with the last breath of Christ, (a literal translation of Jn 19:30 concludes with, "he handed over the spirit"). And so the Spirit mixes for the Church the wine of the New Covenant as He reveals the outpouring of the Water and the Blood. This is the Water that testifies to Jesus with the Spirit and the Blood (1Jn 5:7-8); this is the Blood which speaks more graciously than that of Abel (Heb 12:24).

Now Scripture is rich in symbolism and often has many layers of meaning. So I can't here sufficiently explain, in the various passages cited above, the symbols, the realities, and their interrelations and inner unity. But I would like at least to reflect a bit on God the Spirit, in the context of the mystery of the Water and the Blood.

The Holy Spirit is the One who leads Jesus' disciples into the whole truth, little by little, since we cannot grasp all at once everything Jesus has to say to us (Jn 16:12-13). But we will be initiated into the mysteries of God in the measure we thirst for the living water of divine grace, which is God's gift to those who ask it of Jesus (Jn 4:10). Our first initiation is in the waters of Baptism, our rebirth (or heavenly begetting) in water and the Spirit, without which we cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Jn 3:5). Being baptized into Christ, we have received in our souls a spring of living water, the grace of God which He wills to well up within us unto eternal life (Jn 4:14).

In the realm of nature, St James explains, fresh water and salt water cannot come from the same spring (Jas 3:11). He means that, in the realm of the Spirit, good and evil should not come from the same heart, from the same mouth, because good and evil are opposed by nature. Similarly, St Paul rhetorically asks the Corinthians, "What does righteousness have in common with wickedness? What agreement is there between Christ and Belial?" (2Cor 6:14-15).

Now according to the Apostle John, the Spirit is received from and through Christ (7:37-39). Blood and water also came forth from that same source, that same Heart. Water, Blood, and Spirit proceed from the same "spring" because "these three testify [to the truth of God's revelation in Christ]: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are in agreement" (1Jn 5:7-8). There is nothing in common between God and the devil, but there is agreement among the Spirit, the Water and the Blood. What is their common testimony? "This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1Jn 5:11-12). Quite clear, is it not?

Perhaps there is still a question. What do we do in order to "have the Son of God" and thus eternal life? As mentioned above, we start with the water, the water of Baptism, through which we are cleansed of sin and become clothed with Christ. Then we receive the Spirit in the sacrament of Chrismation, filling us with the Gift of Himself as well as spiritual gifts as He wills. Thus we are sealed as children of God in Christ.

There remains the Blood. The new life in the Spirit, granted through our mystical and sacramental immersion in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, has to be nurtured and sustained unto full Christian maturity. Jesus has the answer: "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn 6:53-54). Is this not again quite clear?

So the Spirit, the Water and the Blood testify also to us of the sacramental life of the Church, that it is indispensable if we desire eternal life. All this comes from God who is Love, God who desires mercy. Jesus poured out divine love as blood, divine mercy as the river of the water of life, the inexhaustible twin streams of healing and salvation. He also breathed the divine Spirit who created the Church, the children of the living God.

Let us understand that the Spirit is inseparable from the water and the blood, the life of the Church from the life of the soul, the cross from the resurrection, love from sacrifice, faith from works. The Good News is that all these agree. Sin alone sounds the sour note in this spiritual symphony. But grace and mercy are offered to us moment by moment. Seek the Lord while He can still be found. Eternal life is ours for the asking. So the Spirit and the Bride say, "Come!" Come to the Water, come to the Blood, and let the Ocean of Mercy receive your soul.