Meditations for Layfolk - The Holy Ghost (Love)

The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity is the most mysterious; about Him we seem to hear least and to understand most vaguely. The work of Father and Son, their place in the economy of the divine plan is simple and evident, at least in its main lines, but of the Holy Spirit it appears as though His precise purpose had not been sufficiently described to us. He is the equal of the Father and the Son, of the same nature, power, substance, eternally existent with them, participating in the same divine life, forming with them the ever-blessed Three-in-One. He represents to our human point of view that wonderful mystery, the personified love that proceeds from Father and from Son for ever, and by this act completes the perfections of God. We can conceive of no further addition to that being, save power and knowledge and love. Yet we know also that He has His place, not only in the interrelation (if the word may be allowed) of the Godhead, but in the relationship (though this phrase is certainly inaccurate) that exists between God and us. For since God is one and indivisible, His love for us cannot be other than the love that He has for Himself. In Him there can be no distinction at all. Hence it is that we discover that He loves Himself and us in the love of the Holy Ghost. His love we see to be nothing else than Himself, unchanging, undying, without shadow of alteration. Sin as we may, we cannot make God love us less. Children though we be of wrath, He cannot help but love us, for the gifts of God, especially the supreme gift of Himself, are without repentance.

God cannot cease to love me. That is the most startling fact that our doctrine reveals. Sinner or saint He loves and cannot well help Himself. Magdalen in her sin, Magdalen in her sainthood, was loved by God. The difference between her position made some difference also in the effect of that love on her, but the love was the same, since it was the Holy Spirit who is the love of the Father and the Son. Whatever I do, I am loved. But then, if I sin I am unworthy of love? Yes, but I am unworthy always. Nor can He love me for what I am, since in that case I should compel His love, force His will by something external to Himself. In fact, really if I came to consider, I should find that I was not loved by God because I was good, but that I was good because God loved me. My improvement does not cause God to love me, but is the effect of God having Himself loved me. Consequently, even when I am punished by God, He cannot hate me. It is His very love itself that drives Him (out of the very nature of its perfection) to punish, so that Dante spoke truly when he imagined over the portals of Hell the inscription: "To rear me was the work of Immortal Power and Love." Each of us is, therefore, sure that he is loved eternally, that from God's side that love can suffer no change. How, then, is it that we grow evil, or lose the familiar intercourse that we once had with Him? It is because He has given us the terrible power of erecting as it were a shield between ourselves and His love. He loves for ever the same, but it is we who by our sins have the power to shut off that love from effecting anything good in our souls.

Surely there is something overpowering in the concept of this work of God, this unceasing and unchanging love. I talk of fidelity in friendship as being to me the most beautiful thing of earth. The sight of a lover faithful, despite disillusionment, to his beloved is the most wonderful thing in all the world; this loyalty of soul for soul, despite every toil and stress, good repute and evil; beyond all degradation and above all ambition, when soul has been knit to soul.

"Love is not love
Which alters, when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove."

Yet this is but a feeble representation of the ineffable union between God and myself. Sinner though I be, He is my lover always. Even my sins cannot break His persistence, can only set a barrier between myself and it, can only by the dangerous gift of my free will prevent its effect from being seen in my soul. But the love of God is with me always, "in me and within me and around, in million-billowed consentaneousness, the flowing, flowing, flowing" of the Spirit. How can I hold back, howsoever wrongly I have acted? for His love is the same for ever. As I was deep in His love when I was a child, so also dees He love me now.

- text taken from Meditations for Layfolk by Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.