Jesus stood up and exclaimed,
“Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.
As Scripture says:
Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.”
He said this in reference to the Spirit
that those who came to believe in him were to receive.
There was, of course, no Spirit yet,
because Jesus had not yet been glorified (Jn 7:37-39).
The reading chosen for the feast of Pentecost this Sunday is a bit more cryptic than what we are usually accustomed to when the Holy Spirit came down from heaven accompanied by a strong driving wind, with tongues of fire resting on each of the Apostles. Scripture further tells us that each of these individuals were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to express themselves in foreign tongues.
The image of ‘rivers of living water’ are not as noticeable an introduction of the Holy Spirit we are familiar with, but nonetheless is as dramatic. One of the better explanations of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to humanity after Jesus Ascended into heaven comes from St. Cyril of Jerusalem who focuses on the living water theme.
Cyril first questions why Christ equated the grace of the Holy Spirit with water. With ingenious reasoning, Cyril explains that everything alive is dependent on water and are made up of water. Water is such an integral part of creation it can’t live without it.
Water is a gift continually given by God to creation by the rain coming down from the heavens, and although the water is always the same it has different effects on each part of creation. Cyril writes, “rain comes down and remains essentially the same through all of creation and adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.” The water supplied by God is same given to all of creation but is used in different ways once received. A puppy accepts water and is used by it to become a dog. Plants accepts the water from heaven and grows into lush flora.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit whose nature never changes, apportions grace (like water) to each man as he wills. Similar to a dry tree which receives moisture sends out new shoots, a human soul is strengthened, when through repentance, has made his dwelling ready to accept the life-giving waters of the Spirit. The soul then grows in holiness and produces a talent for the good of the world. The talents and gifts are unique to the individual even though they receive the same Spirit.
Some of the talents are teaching, prophecy, and casting off evil spirits. For others it helps their self-control. While still others the grace of the Spirit help them care for the poor, ill and vulnerable. Although the Holy Spirit remains the same, his action is manifested differently in each of those who believe.
St. Cyril concludes with how the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling in us:
“The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before his as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.
As light strikes the eye of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly the things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of a man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of. “