(18 May, 1986)
VATICAN CITY (VIS) - The Encyclical Letter "Dominum et Vivificantem" on the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and the world was written by John Paul II in 1986, during the eighth year of his pontificate. It forms a trilogy on the Trinity, with the Encyclicals dedicated to the Father, "Dives in misericordia" (1980), and to the Son, "Redemptor hominis" (1979).
The document is divided into an introduction, three parts - "The Spirit of the Father and of the Son, Given to the Church", "The Spirit Who Convinces the World Concerning Sin", "The Spirit Who Gives Life" - and a conclusion.
The Holy Spirit is "a divine Person, he is at the center of the Christian faith and is the source and dynamic power of the Church's renewal." This Encyclical uses the heritage of the ecumenical Vatican Council II as a point of departure. "For the Conciliar texts, thanks to their teaching on the Church in herself and the Church in the world, move us to penetrate ever deeper into the Trinitarian mystery of God himself, through the Gospels, the Fathers and the liturgy: to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit."
This first part illustrates the modes of the gift to the Church and to mankind of the Spirit Who gives life. The Pope begins from the center of the history of salvation: the paschal supper, during which Jesus promises the coming of another "Consoler" or "Paraclete": "The Holy Spirit comes after him and because of him, in order to continue in the world, through the Church, the work of the Good News of salvation.l"
The Holy Father writes that "Christ's 'departure' is an indispensable condition for the 'sending' and the coming of the Holy Spirit." This is not the first sending; the Encyclical says that it is "a 'new beginning' in relation to the first, original beginning of God's salvific self-giving, which is identified with the mystery of creation itself."
"It is a new beginning, first of all because between the first beginning and the whole of human history - from the original fall onwards - sin has intervened, sin which is in contradiction to the presence of the Spirit of God in creation, and which is above all in contradiction to God's salvific self-communication to man."
With Christ, "at the price of the Cross which brings about the Redemption, in the power of the whole Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes in order to remain from the day of Pentecost onwards with the Apostles, to remain with the Church and in the Church, and through her in the world."
The Pontiff notes later that 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."
The second chapter contains various considerations on the action of the Holy Spirit with respect to sin in the world.
"'Sin'," writes the Pope, "means the incredulity that Jesus encountered among 'his own'" and "the rejection of his mission, a rejection that will cause people to condemn him to death."
He recalls that Christ "Christ did not come into the world only to judge it and condemn it: he came to save it." His will to save it is, in a certain sense, blocked by the prince of this world, Satan, who, as the Holy Father says, "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 judgement, it is in order to continue in the world the salvific work of Christ."
This "convincing" of the world of all that relates to sin "has its purpose not merely the accusation of the world and still less its condemnation. ... It becomes at the same time a convincing concerning the remission of sins, in the power of the Holy Spirit."
"It is the (original) sin that according to the revealed Word of God constitutes the principle and root of all the others. ... it can be said that in this sin the 'mysterium iniquitatis' has its beginning, but it can also be said that this is the sin concerning which the redemptive power of the 'mysterium pietatis' becomes particularly clear and efficacious."
Later on he notes that Jesus conferred the power of forgiving sins on the apostles and they transmitted it to the Church. "But this power granted to men presupposes and includes the saving action of the Holy Spirit": the purifying of consciences, which makes it possible for man "to call good and evil by their proper name".
In this perspective words of "unforgiveness" of Jesus are understood, applied to "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit", which "consists in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit."
"'Non-forgiveness' is linked, as to its cause, to 'non-repentance', in other words to the radical refusal to be converted. This means the refusal to come to the sources of Redemption, which nevertheless remain 'always' open in the economy of salvation in which the mission of the Holy Spirit is accomplished."
"The great Jubilee ... has a directly Christological aspect: for it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. At the same time it has a pneumatological aspect, since the mystery of the Incarnation was accomplished 'by the power of the Holy Spirit'."
God, affirms the Pope, "becoming incarnate in the individual humanity of Christ, unites himself in some way with the entire reality of man" and establishes a permanent "openness" of God toward man. This openness of God toward man and of man toward God "gives to the human creature the fullness of freedom."
The Encyclical examines different resistances to the saving action of the Holy Spirit, which restrict to varying degrees the freedom of man. These are made concrete "in the interior and subjective dimension as tension, struggle and rebellion taking place in the human heart finds in every period of history and especially in the modern era its external dimension, which takes concrete form as the content of culture and civilization, as a philosophical system, an ideology, a program."
This dimension finds its maximum expression in materialism, which "radically excludes the presence and action of God, who is spirit, in the world and above all in man. Fundamentally this is because it does not accept God's existence, being a system that is essentially and systematically atheistic."
John Paul II highlights that "on the horizon of contemporary civilization - especially in the form that is most developed in the technical and scientific sense - the signs and symptoms of death have become particularly present and frequent. One has only to think of the arms race," indigence and hunger, abortion and euthanasia.
Nevertheless, despite this "picture of death being composed in our age, ... there remains the Christian certainty that the Spirit blows where he wills."
The Pope expresses his wish that the vivifying action of the Holy Spirit may be manifested in the strengthening of the inner man, so that he may "understand himself, his own humanity, in a new way. Thus that image and likeness of God which man is from his very beginning is fully realized."
The new coming of Christ "by the power of the Holy Spirit, and his constant presence and action in the spiritual life, are accomplished in the sacramental reality. ... The most complete sacramental expression of the 'departure' of Christ through the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection is the Eucharist."
Affirming that "wherever people are praying in the world, there the Holy Spirit is, the living breath of prayer," the Pontiff underlines that "our difficult age has a special need of prayer."
"The Church perseveres in prayer, like the Apostles together with Mary, the Mother of Christ, and with those who in Jerusalem were the first seed of the Christian community and who awaited in prayer the coming of the Holy Spirit."
The Holy Spirit "does not cease to be the guardian of hope in the human heart: the hope of all human creatures, and especially of those who 'have the first fruits of the Spirit' and 'wait for the redemption of their bodies'."