The Indwelling Spirit — Center for Action and Contemplation

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The Indwelling Spirit

Paul’s Life-Changing Teachings

The Indwelling Spirit
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Paul develops a marvelous theology, really the very first one, of the Holy Spirit, or what I often call the Internal Witness. His theology is best summarized in Romans 8:16: “The Spirit joins with our spirit to bear common witness that we are children of God.” What a succinct statement of first stage contemplation! This is experienced when our spirit learns how to calmly join with the “Always, Already Awareness” of God—who is forever observing us and loving us objectively and compassionately, just the way we are. Only when our spirit joins with God’s Spirit do most of us find the strength to stand guard over our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). It is almost impossible to do this alone and unaided, unless one has immense discipline and will power. (Buddhists seem to be trained in this much better than followers of most other religions.)

Paul understands that Jesus left us his Indwelling Spirit as a permanent, strengthening gift. So the Christ, for Paul, is not out there; the Eternal Christ is in here, inside us in the form of his Indwelling Spirit. I cannot say this strongly enough. God has implanted in us a true “homing device” that we can depend upon. Paul believes that we’ve all been given a source for a true inner knowledge, which becomes a calm inner authority whereby we know spiritual things for ourselves (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-16). We have been so afraid of this in most churches; most religious people have been told to look outside instead of inside. Only the mystics grab onto it with fervor and conviction.

Such a knowledge of the Indwelling Spirit creates the foundation, not just for Paul’s mysticism (and ours), but for the egalitarian and charismatic church that Paul is establishing. This church doesn’t depend upon patriarchy and hierarchy to generate itself, because everybody’s got the Spirit. Everyone can call upon this Indwelling Witness. Humility is the giveaway that they are relying upon a Source beyond themselves. So leadership really has nothing to be afraid of here. The Spirit creates lovers, not rebels or iconoclasts (1 Corinthians 13). Only God’s Spirit-with-us can fully forgive, accept, and allow reality to be what it is.

Gateway to Silence:
I am the temple of God.

Adapted from In the Footsteps of St. Paul (CD);
Jesus as Liberator/ Paul as Liberator (MP3 download);
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, p. 77

Image Credit: Grotto in Ephesus, Turkey adorned with a Byzantine fresco of Paul and Thecla (c. 6th century).
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