Tag Archives: all flesh

The Holy Spirit: Water Poured Out

The Holy Spirit is “poured out on all flesh,” Peter tells the crowd at Pentecost. The Spirit is like water poured out, St. Cyril of Jerusalem tells his hearers:

“The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
 “In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each one as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.
 “The Spirit makes one person a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one person’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

“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 him 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 eyes of a person who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of someone counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.”  (Catechesis)


Some wonder if our talk about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; about the story of Pentecost which we celebrate today, means anything at all. Is it just an old tale that has nothing to do with life and life’s challenges today?

Let’s look at this great story told in our first reading. (Acts 2,1-22) The Spirit of God came down on some people in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago, our story says. Who were these people? Those mentioned first were disciples of Jesus gathered together in one place, as we are today. They had previously seen Jesus die and then they saw him risen from the dead.

They were gathered  in Jerusalem on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, when the Jews celebrated the blessings of the harvest that gave them food for life and the words of God that guided them.

On this feast of Pentecost a new blessing of life would be given, a blessing from Jesus, risen from the dead.

A fierce wind shook the house, tongues of fire fell on them– symbols of light and power–and those in the house were filled with new hopes, new dreams, new thoughts, new energy, new words.

The Spirit of God was given to them.

But notice that the Spirit of God is given to others as well, not only to those in the house, but those outside. There were visitors from all parts of the world in Jerusalem for the feast and they experienced this blessing too.

When they ask Peter what’s happening, he says the Spirit of God is being poured out on all flesh, “and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2.17-18) Even your slaves, the poorest among you, will be blessed by God’s Spirit, Peter says, quoting from the Prophet Joel.

Pentecost is a world feast, therefore. We not only celebrate the birth of the church as this feast signifies. We celebrate God’s abiding promise through Jesus Christ to recreate the world. “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

Christians can easily become too parochial, as if God were our private God, given only to us. But the Feast of Pentecost reminds us that God reaches with divine blessings to the ends of the earth. The Spirit has been poured out on “all flesh,” on all our world.

Strong winds and tongues of fire may not be the signs of his presence everywhere, but the Spirit of God dwells in our world all the same, blessing it with power and truth.

On this feast God opens the horizons of our minds to a greater world where God’s Spirit is at work.