This is Part 3 of 3! Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2!
The third face of the Trinity is Spirit, or the Holy Spirit. Beyond the Maker-Creator and the Manifest-Christ, Spirit is The Mystery that weaves and pulses through all reality, and our Partner in the ongoing project of Creation. Appropriately, this Mysterious Partner may be the trickiest Divine personality to understand, so let's try to clarify (as much as we can)!
First off, terminology: I tend to use the term Spirit rather than Holy Spirit. The word Holy is traditionally meant to distinguish Spirit from spirits – supernatural beings that can be holy (e.g. angels), unholy (e.g. demons), and everything in between (e.g. ancestors, faeries, ghosts, etc.). But to me the capital-S of Spirit can make the word Holy redundant – there's only one Spirit and it surpasses any other spirits. I also use Spirit because it's used by many spiritual traditions other than Christianity to refer to the Divine. Such interconnectedness is exactly what the Spirit is concerned with!
Whereas the Creator is the transcendent personality of God, and Christ is the imminent, Spirit is the interflowing – Goddess as a force that connects and nourishes all Creation. Just as Nature is an ever-shifting source of light, heat, nutrients, movement, and grounding that sustains the web of life, so too is Spirit restlessly kindling Divinity throughout the Cosmos. Just as language, imagination, senses, and touch facilitate relationships between people, so too Spirit maintains the network of power, consciousness, and love that permeates Creator and Christ. On an individual level, Spirit is Who inspires your Soul; Who conspires to make transpire that to which your Soul aspires; and Who we respire and suspire and perspire on the way there. In other words, Spirit is Divine magic.
Have I lost you with this talk of magic and spirits? Afraid “the woo-woo train has left the station”? The Mystery is indeed fantastical, a Divine Trickster or Magician that keeps us on our toes. Fortunately, you need not believe in the supernatural to believe in Spirit. You need only believe the Universe is an enchanting, if not enchanted, place. You need only believe that beauty, truth, and Sacredness exist, and change the world daily, through ideas, action, art, and the artistry of Nature. To return to Celtic Christian symbolism from a previous post – the voices of the Divine, threads in the Knot, currents of the Spirit are ready, whenever you are ready to hear, follow, feel and see and ride. In the meantime, I hope you at least find other ways to cast aside illusions of control and join in the playfulness of reality. Learning more about the Celtic tradition is a great place to start!
In addition to the fact that it's more all-encompassing and gender-neutral, I usually use the name Spirit when referring to God/Goddess (even when referring to the full Trinity) to remind myself of all the above. This energetic personality emphasizes that the Divine is Someone we partner with in the ongoing creation of Creation. And this Partnership points to additional dimensions of this facet of the Trinity...
SPOUSE & FRIEND
Just as we are siblings to the Divine Sibling, we are also spouses to the Spouse and friends to the Friend. In both cases here, we are invited to open, offer, and share our lives with Spirit, to serve and sacrifice on behalf of Goddess, to delight in the presence of God. But Marriage and Friendship can have different flavors to them. Let's look at each in turn.
In the case of our relationship with the Spouse – as with any spouse – there is a great deal of dynamism. It begins, of course, with romance! From the moment we're born, Spirit dotes on us with gifts and woos us with odes to our specialness. By adolescence we may notice Spirit is more than a just childhood sweetheart: an alluring presence, a Holy Muse we want to bond with. As in teenage love, we may feel our spirituality is in a push and pull of emotions – our Beloved is there one minute, gone the next; closeness is ecstatic, distance is unbearable! (It's no wonder so many Mystics of every tradition throughout history have reported quite sensuous experiences with the Lover!) Spirit may even take on many guises in our lives, experimenting with whatever appearances we find most attractive – like a Christian, Nature-based, or other conception.
Eventually we get a sense of the direction this Muse-Lover is leading us, and we commit to it, often in a very formal way – such as through any number of sacraments. We dedicate ourselves to the art, science, and craft of Divine marriage. Then we go about building a spiritual home and path to journey on together. We focus on contributing to the community and bringing new Creations into the world. We may go through many iterations of conflict and negotiation, maybe the same recurring fight, maybe even separation or divorce. But we can always come back to each other and the beautiful vision that binds us. Even when we can't imagine how, Spirit stays by our side through all life's trials, tribulations, and celebrations. Then one day, as we close our eyes for the last time, the Spouse holds our hand and leads us on to the next stage of our life in Love.
This relationship could be the most difficult – yet the most beautiful – one we ever enter into. Spouses grow and change each other and the world, beyond what anyone assumes is possible. That is the Spouse's invitation: robust Partnership.
Our relationship with the Friend has a different feel to it, more ease. Nobody even quite knows how it begins (and unlike with a spouse or Spouse, you'll never be tested on it so)... it doesn't really matter. Maybe a shared fascination, maybe just a shared context. You meet at the local park, school, church, anywhere; You're both enjoying the same book, music, art, activity, anything. It doesn't really matter. One of You cracks a joke or invites the Other to check out some awesome thing, and pretty soon You're playing and exploring together. Then someday your Friend is toasting you and your spouse, holding your child, laughing with you and your sibling, crying with you return your parent's body to the Earth. How did They get there? It doesn't really matter – the Friend is there, and that's what matters.
The stakes are lower here than with anyone else – Parent, Mentor, Child, Sibling, Spouse. The Friend doesn't need as much from you, doesn't live under your same roof. They have a path that intersects rather than intertwines with yours – you always ask them to come over, or find Them out there somewhere. As a kind of Intimate Stranger, They have Their own reality adjacent to yours, Family beyond your own, and They can offer perspective from outside your purview of awareness. Somehow you end up talking to Them about the emotions and thoughts that everyone else is either too close or too distant to really hear. There's a curiosity and nonjudgment, an understanding and empathy you can't quite find anywhere else. You can say everything or nothing. They may know exactly what to say, or not. They may not even "get" it. They may just sit with you. It doesn't really matter – the Friend listens and hears you, and that's what matters.
Somehow, in the simplest way, They help you find you what you need. And then, somehow, the Friend always knows how to bring you back to having fun! That is the Friend's invitation: flexible Partnership.
I hope we can all step into flow with Spirit, and into Partnership with the Spouse and Friend. This is no easy task, and I and all of us have much to learn. I believe aspiring to and practicing these things is part of what it means to be a committed Christian and a true follower. And we desperately need more folks doing that in our world.
This need is more desperate now than ever before. Our society seems to be coming apart at the seams, just when we need to be coming together to ensure the future of humanity and all Life. How can Christian Spirituality help heal our divides?
Stay tuned for upcoming posts – Christian Spirituality: The Family of Creation!
In the meantime, as always, I offer some reflection questions:
How have you been experiencing the Divine as a Mystery, magic, Trickster, or Magician?
How have you been challenged to cast aside illusions of control?
How have you been experiencing reality as enchanting, enchanted, and playful?
How have you been experiencing beauty, truth, and the Sacred?
How have you been experiencing the Divine as a Spouse, Beloved, Lover, or Muse?
How have you been experiencing the Divine as a Friend or Intimate Stranger?
To learn more
Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (SPCK: 2016)
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Crown Publishing Group: 2019)
Image credits: #1 - Rob Marshall; #2, #3 - Devin Bard