The Kiss of God
Have you ever thought of the Holy Spirit as God’s kiss?
Reading: Luke 11:5-13
The following homily was preached to the student brothers during compline. You can listen here or read below:
Some medieval artists liked to depict the Holy Spirit as a kiss between the Father and the Son. Father and Son each have one eye looking at one another, and one eye looking out toward us, while a Dove emerges from where their mouths meet. It is, undoubtedly, a striking image, but for the medievals it involved less of a conceptual leap than it does for us. We tend to think of the kiss in purely physical terms: a meeting of lips. For ancient Christian tradition, the kiss is a conspiratio, a breathing together, a sharing of spirits – a pouring into one another of the lovers’ love.
So, in the Holy Spirit the love of the Father and the Son is another Person. The Spirit is like a common project, as it were. Lovers kiss to bring their relationship to a new degree of intimacy; if they are really serious, they will embark on a life together. Even friends are united by looking out on common interests. So it is that the Father and the Son are related to one another not just by definition – the Father is Father of the Son, the Son is Son of the Father – but they are bound together in this new Person, this Love. The Spirit stands for all that the Father and the Son hold in common – the whole life of the Trinity.
This Love spills out into God’s creation as Gift. When, in the Book of Genesis, God gives Adam life by breathing into him his Spirit, some Patristic and Rabbinic commentators interpreted this to mean that God gave Adam a kiss of life. The Spirit which binds the Father and the Son in love is also their gift of life to us. In traditional forms of the liturgy, at the kiss of peace, the priest takes the peace from the consecrated gifts by kissing the chalice; and this kiss, this peace, is passed down through the ministers to the congregation. The peace that holds us together is not simply harmony among ourselves, but the life of God finding its place among us and making us into a unity. That peace allows us to share in the project of the Father and the Son.
That is why, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that there is nothing more we can be given than the Holy Spirit. It comes almost as an aside, at the Gospel’s end – but it is the most profound teaching. We may of course pray for particular needs, desires, intentions, that is well and good. But, in the end, in the Holy Spirit we have everything we could ever desire: God’s own life. In Jesus Christ, God’s Word, God has said all that he can say to us. In the Holy Spirit, God has accomplished all that he could work for us, from all eternity. God has nothing more to give. The whole Christian life is a matter of learning this. The whole of the Christian life – it’s in his kiss.
Image courtesy of Fr Lawrence Lew OP, who offers his own reflection as well: Contemplata aliis Tradere.