Pope John Paul II
Lord and Giver of Life

May 18, 1986

23. We find ourselves on the threshold of the Paschal events. The new, definitive revelation of the Holy Spirit as a Person Who is the gift is accomplished at this precise moment. The Paschal events—the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ—are also the time of the new coming of the Holy Spirit, as the Paraclete and the Spirit of truth. They are the time of the "new beginning" of the self-communication of the Triune God to humanity in the Holy Spirit through the work of Christ the Redeemer. This new beginning is the Redemption of the world: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son".[81] Already the "giving" of the Son, the gift of the Son, expresses the most profound essence of God who, as Love, is the inexhaustible source of the giving of gifts. The gift made by the Son completes the revelation and giving of the eternal love: the Holy Spirit, who in the inscrutable depths of the divinity is a Person-gift, through the work of the Son, that is to say by means of the Paschal mystery, is given to the Apostles and to the Church in a new way, and through them is given to humanity and the whole world.

24. The definitive expression of this mystery is had on the day of the Resurrection. On this day Jesus of Nazareth, "descended from David according to the flesh", as the Apostle Paul writes, is "designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead".[82] It can be said therefore that the messianic "raising up" of Christ in the Holy Spirit reaches its zenith in the Resurrection, in which he reveals himself also as the Son of God, "full of power". And this power, the sources Of which gush forth in the inscrutable Trinitarian communion, is manifested, first of all, in the fact that the Risen Christ does two things: on the one hand he fulfills God's promise already expressed through the Prophet's words "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, ... my spirit";[83] and on the other hand he fulfills his own promise made to the Apostles with the words "If I go, I will send him to you".[84] It is he: the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete sent by the Risen Christ to transform us into his own risen image.[85]

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you'. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you'. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'".[86]

All the details of this key-text of John's Gospel have their own eloquence, especially if we read them in reference to the words spoken in the same Upper Room at the beginning of the Paschal events. And now these events—the Triduum Sacrum of Jesus whom the Father consecrated with the anointing and sent into the world—reach their fulfilment. Christ, who "gave up his spirit" on the Cross[87] as the Son of Man and the Lamb of God, once risen goes to the Apostles "to breathe on them" with that power spoken of in the Letter to the Romans.[88] The Lord's coming fills those present with joy: "Your sorrow will turn into joy",[89] as he had already promised them before his Passion. And above all there is fulfilled the principal prediction of the farewell discourse: the Risen Christ, as it were beginning a new creation, "brings" to the Apostles the Holy Spirit. He brings him at the price of his own "departure": he gives them this Spirit as it were through the wounds of his crucifixion: "He showed them his hands and his side". It is in the power of this crucifixion that he says to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit".

Thus there is established a close link between the sending of the Son and the sending of Holy Spirit. There is no sending of the Holy Spirit (after original sin) without the Cross and the Resurrection: "If I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you".[90] There is also established a close link between the mission of the Holy Spirit and that of the Son in the Redemption. The mission of the Son, in a certain sense, finds its "fulfilment" in the Redemption. The mission of the Holy Spirit" draws from" the Redemption: "He will take what is mine and declare it to you".[91] The Redemption is totally carried out by the Son as the Anointed One, who came and acted in the power of the Holy Spirit, offering himself finally in sacrifice on the wood of the Cross. And this Redemption is, at the same time, constantly carried out in human hearts and minds —in the history of the world—by the Holy Spirit, who is the "other Counsellor".

25. "Having accomplished the work that the Father had entrusted to the Son on earth (cf. Jn 17:4), on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify the Church for ever, so that believers might have access to the Father through Christ in one Spirit (cf. Eph 2:18). He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water springing up to eternal life (cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38ff), the One through whom the Father restores life to those who are dead through sin, until one day he will raise in Christ their mortal bodies (cf. Rom 8:10 f)".[92]

In this way the Second Vatican Council speaks of the Church's birth on the day of Pentecost. This event constitutes the definitive manifestation of what had already been accomplished in the same Upper Room on Easter Sunday. The Risen Christ came and "brought" to the Apostles the Holy Spirit. He gave him to them, saying "Receive the Holy Spirit". What had then taken place inside the Upper Room, "the doors being shut", later, on the day of Pentecost is manifested also outside, in public. The doors of the Upper Room are opened and the Apostles go to the inhabitants and the pilgrims who had gathered in Jerusalem on the occasion of the feast, in order to bear witness to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way the prediction is fulfilled: "He will bear witness to me: and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning".[93]

We read in another document of the Second Vatican Council: "Doubtless, the Holy Spirit was already at work in the world before Christ was glorified. Yet on the day of Pentecost, he carne down upon the disciples to remain with them for ever. On that day the Church was publicly revealed to the multitude, and the Gospel began to spread among the nations by means of preaching ".[94]

The era of the Church began with the "coming", that is to say with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, together with Mary, the Lord's Mother.[95] The time of the Church began at the moment when the promises and predictions that so explicitly referred to the Counsellor, the Spirit of truth, began to be fulfilled in complete power and clarity upon the Apostles, thus determining the birth of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles speak of this at length and in many passages, which state that in the mind of the first community, whose convictions Luke expresses, the Holy Spirit assumed the invisible —but in a certain way "perceptible"—guidance of those who after the departure of the Lord Jesus felt profoundly that they had been left orphans. With the coming of the Spirit they felt capable of fulfilling the mission entrusted to them. They felt full of strength. It is precisely this that the Holy Spirit worked in them, and this is continually at work in the Church, through their successors. For the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles gave to their collaborators through the imposition of hands continues to be transmitted in Episcopal Ordination. The bishops in turn by the Sacrament of Orders render the sacred ministers sharers in this spiritual gift and, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, ensure that all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit are strengthened by this gift. And thus, in a certain way, the grace of Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church.

As the Council writes, "the Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). In them he prays and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons (cf. Gal 4:6, Rom 8:15-16.26) The Spirit guides the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and gives her a unity of fellowship and service. He furnishes and directs her with various gifts, both hierarchical and charismatic, and adorns her with the fruits of his grace (cf. Eph 4:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4; Gal 5: 22). By the power of the Gospel he makes the Church grow, perpetually renews her, and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse".[96]

26. These passages quoted from the Conciliar Constitution Lumen Gentium tell us that the era of the Church began with the coming of the Holy Spirit. They also tell us that this era, the era of the Church, continues. It continues down the centuries and generations. In our own century, when humanity is already close to the end of the second Millennium after Christ, this era of the Church expressed itself in a special way through the Second Vatican Council, as the Council of our century. For we know that it was in a special way an "ecclesiological" Council: a Council on the theme of the Church. At the same time, the teaching of this Council is essentially "pneumatological": it is permeated by the truth about the Holy Spirit, as the soul of the Church. We can say that in its rich variety of teaching the Second Vatican Council contains precisely all that "the Spirit says to the Churches"[97] with regard to the present phase of the history of salvation.

Following the guidance of the Spirit of truth and bearing witness together with him, the Council has given a special confirmation of the presence of the Holy Spirit—the Counsellor. In a certain sense, the Council has made the Spirit newly "present" in our difficult age. In the light of this conviction one grasps more clearly the great importance of all the initiatives aimed at implementing the Second Vatican Council, its teaching and its pastoral and ecumenical thrust. In this sense also the subsequent Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops are to be carefully studied and evaluated, aiming as they do to ensure that the fruits of truth and love—the authentic fruits of the Holy Spirit—become a lasting treasure for the People of God in its earthly pilgrimage down the centuries. This work being done by the Church for the testing and bringing together of the salvific fruits of the Spirit bestowed in the Council is something indispensable. For this purpose one must learn how to "discern" them carefully from everything that may instead come originally from the " prince of this world".[98] This discernment in implementing the Council's work is especially necessary in view of the fact that the Council opened itself widely to the contemporary world, as is clearly seen from the important Conciliar Constitutions Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium.

We read in the Pastoral Constitution: "For theirs (i.e. of the disciples of Christ) is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that is truly and intimately linked with mankind and its history".[99] "The Church truly knows that only God, whom she serves, meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what the world has to offer".[100] "God's Spirit ... with a marvellous providence directs the unfolding of time and renews the face of the earth".[101]

27. When Jesus during the discourse in the Upper Room foretells the coming of the Holy Spirit "at the price of" his own departure, and promises "I will send him to you", in the very same context he adds "And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment".[102] The same Counselor and Spirit of truth who has been promised as the one who "will teach" and "bring to remembrance", who "will bear witness, and "guide into all the truth", in the words just quoted is foretold as the one who "will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment."

The context too seems significant. Jesus links this foretelling of the Holy Spirit to the words indicating his "departure" through the Cross, and indeed emphasizes the need for this departure: "It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you".[103]

But what counts more is the explanation that Jesus himself adds to these three words: sin, righteousness, judgment. For he says this: " He will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged".[104] In the mind of Jesus, sin righteousness and judgment have e very precise meaning, different from the meaning that one might be inclined to attribute to these words independently of the speaker's explanation. This explanation also indicates how one is to understand the "convincing the world" which is proper to the action of the Holy Spirit. Both the meaning of the individual words and the fact that Jesus linked them together in the same phrase are important here.

"Sin", in this passage, means the incredulity that Jesus encountered among "his own", beginning with the people of his own town of Nazareth. Sin means the rejection of his mission, a rejection that will cause people to condemn him to death. When he speaks next of "righteousness", Jesus seems to have in mind that definitive justice, which the Father will restore to him when he grants him the glory of the Resurrection and Ascension into heaven: "I go to the Father". In its turn, and in the context of "sin" and a righteousness" thus understood, "judgment" means that the Spirit of truth will show the guilt of the "world" in condemning Jesus to death on the Cross. Nevertheless, Christ did not come into the world only to judge it and condemn it: he came to save it.[105] Convincing about sin and righteousness has as its purpose the salvation of the world, the salvation of men. Precisely this truth seems to be emphasized by the assertion that "judgment" concerns only the "prince of this world", Satan, the one who from the beginning has been exploiting the work of creation against salvation, against the covenant and the union of man with God: he is "already judged" from the start. If the Spirit-Counsellor is to convince the world precisely concerning judgment, it is in order to continue in the world the salvific work of Christ.

28. Here we wish to concentrate our attention principally on this mission of the Holy Spirit, which is "to convince the world concerning sin", but at the same time respecting the general context of Jesus' words in the Upper Room. The Holy Spirit, who takes from the Son the work of the Redemption of the world, by this very fact takes the task of the salvific "convincing of Sin". This convincing is in permanent reference to "righteousness": that is to say to definitive salvation in God, to the fulfillment of the economy that has as its centre the crucified and glorified Christ. And this salvific economy of God in a certain sense removes man from "judgment", that is from the damnation which has been inflicted on the sin of Satan, "the prince of this world", the one who because of his sin has become "the ruler of this world of darkness".[106] And here we see that, through this reference to "judgment", vast horizons open up for understanding "sin" and also "righteousness". The Holy Spirit, by showing sin against the background of Christ's Cross in the economy of salvation (one could say "sin saved"), enables us to understand how his mission is also "to convince" of the sin that has already been definitively judged ("sin condemned").

To read the entire encyclical see Lord and Giver of Life.


81. Jn 3:16.

82. Rom 1:3 f.

83 Ez 36:26 f.; cf. Jn 7:37-39; 19:34.

84. Jn 16:7.

85. St. Cyril of Alexandria, In Ioannis Evangelium, Bk V, Ch. II: PG 73, 755.

86. Jn 20:19-22.

87. Cf. Jn 19:30.

88. Cf. Rom 1:4.

89. Cf. Jn 16:20.

90. Jn 16:7.

91. Jn 16:15.

92. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 4.

93. Jn 15:26f.

94. Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity Ad Gentes, 4.

95. Cf. Acts 1:14.

96. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 4. There is a whole Patristic and theological tradition concerning the intimate union between the Holy Spirit and the Church, a union presented sometimes as analogous to the relation between the soul and the body in man: cf. St Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, III, 24, 1:SC 211, pp. 470-474; St. Augustine, Sermo 267, 4, 4: PL 38, 1231; Sermo 268, 2: PL 38, 1232; In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, XXV, 13; XXVII, 6: CCL 36, 266, 272f.; St. Gregory the Great, In Septem Psalmos Poenitentiales Expositio, Psal. V, 1: PL 79, 602; Didymus the Blind, De Trinitate, II 1: PG 39, 449 f.; St. Athanasius, Oratio III contra Arianos, 22, 23, 24: PG 26, 368 f., 372 f.; St. John Chrysostom, In Epistolam ad Ephesios, Homily IX, 3: PG 62, 72 f. St. Thomas Aquinas has synthesized the preceding Patristic and theological tradition, presenting the Holy Spirit as the "heart" and the "soul" of the Church; cf. Summa Theol., III, q. 8, a. 1, ad 3; In Symbolum Apostolorum Expositio, a. IX; In Tertium Librum Sententiarum, Dist. XIII, q. 2, a. 2, Quaeastiuncula 3.

97. Cf. Rev 2:29; 3:6. 13. 22.

98. Cf. Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11.

99. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 1.

100. Ibid., 41.

101. Ibid., 26.

102. Jn 16:7f.

103. Jn 16:7.

104. Jn 16:8-11.

105. Cf. Jn 3:17; 12:47.

106. Cf. Eph 6:12.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 18 May, the Solemnnity of Pentecost, in the year 1986, the eighth of my Pontificate.

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