William of Saint-Thierry, a monk, a mystic and a very close friend of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux has many writings that are helpful to the spiritual life. Some of the reflections from his “Speculum Fidei” are very useful for the Season of Lent. In writing about the Holy Spirit, William teaches us that the great Paraclete is the answer to how we strengthen our communion with God. And isn’t that what we are encouraged to do in Lent? The Holy Spirit, unfortunately for many, seems to be the most mysterious Person of the Trinity, and thus, doesn’t get the attention He deserves in the spiritual life.
But William writes: “Festina ergo particeps esse Spiritus Sancti” – “Hasten then to be a partaker in the Holy Spirit.” William next assures us that the Holy Spirit is present whenever He is called upon. This is a great assurance – when we call upon the Holy Spirit, He will not fail us. But perhaps even more spiritually arousing is that William writes that when the Holy Spirit comes, He brings with Him “benedictionis Dei” – “the blessings of God.”
Key to our Lenten journey is the effort we make to either establish or strengthen the intimacy with our Lord. This, of course, requires prayer – communal, personal, meditative, contemplative, reflecting on Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, adoration and all the wonderful doors that God opens up to us in order that we may get closer to Him. And with that in mind, William gives us these beautiful words:
(My translation of the Latin)
“And, as soon as He comes, if He finds you humble and quiet and trembling at the words of God, He will rest upon you; and reveal to you what God the Father withdraws from the wise and prudent of this world; and it will begin to dawn upon you that which Wisdom was able to say to the disciples while on earth, but which they were unable to bear, until the Spirit of truth came, Who was to teach them all truth.”
When seeking after these truths, however, one cannot do so with a half-hearted approach. In fact, William tells us it would be vain to expect celestial wisdom to come from any human teacher; for these truths are spoken only from the Lips of Truth Himself. Truth tells us that “God is Spirit” thus “nonnisi in Spiritu Sancto intellectum fidei et puræ ac nudæ illius veritatis sensum expedit quærere” – “it is only in the Holy Spirit that the understanding of the faith and the sense of the pure and plain truth ought to be sought.”
William refers to this life as dark and ignorant; and the Holy Spirit is the Light of the lowly spirit, the Charity which draws us, an affecting Sweetness, man’s Access to God, the Love of the loving, He is Devotion and He is Piety.