1 COR 2:10-16

WHO KNOWS THE SPIRIT OF A MAN EXCEPT HIS SPIRIT WITHIN HIM?  A few lines after penning this truth Saint Paul makes a statement that seems to be a reply to this question: "The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the deep things of God."  That being the case, it is not only the human spirit that knows what is within a person, but also the Spirit of God.  Because the Holy Spirit is given us we, in some mysterious manner, can share in divine knowledge.  This conclusion is stated explicitly by Paul himself who affirms that we have received "the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God."

This entire passage we have just heard from Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians is replete with truths that invite us to prayerful reflection; they invite us to engage in a certain spiritual analysis, especially when we reflect on these words in light of the striking lines that serve to introduce them in the original text.  Paul has in mind passages from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah when he writes: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it arisen in the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him".  He then adds: "But God has revealed this to us by His Holy Spirit."  In light of such a supernatural revelation we can appreciate more concretely why it is that the apostle explains that it is only with words inspired by the Spirit Himself that we can speak of the realities opened to us by the gift of the spirit.  Concerning the divine truths he observes that "we speak of them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms."

This teaching as set forth by Paul opens up to us a whole world that we are able to enter through prayerful faith.   Paul is writing here, not to extraordinarily holy and faithful persons advanced in prayer but to a congregation in need of correction as well as of encouragement and instruction.   He tells them outright that they are pretty average people, in need of baby food.   Yet he encourages them to enter into the depths of their own spirit where they can make the exciting discovery that the Spirit of God has been given them from above.  So true is this that they can learn from within the life giving realities that surpass human words.   Even the language apt to express them is offered by the same giver of all good gifts.

If these inspired teachings are set before us here at the Eucharist today, they serve as an encouragement for us to devote our selves with determination and energy to the inner work of the heart in prayer that enters into the hidden place of God within.   We receive assurance in Paul's words that there we shall not be alone, but encounter "the Spirit of God that is given" even to us.  For it is in the Holy Spirit that the Risen Christ offers himself on this altar and shares with us the fullness of divine life.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger