Recently, a good friend of mine, who is a candidate for the Diaconate, gave me a copy of an article that appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of the periodical Pro Ecclesia. This article is entitled "Divine Disponibilité: The Hypostatic Ethos of the Holy Spirit" by Khaled Anatolios. This article has changed my understanding of the Trinity, especially in regard to the Holy Spirit.
A really good post was made about this article soon after it came out by Peter Leithart in the First Things blog here. While it is an excellent summary, I'd like to present the first fly-by of concepts here, 10 years later.
First of all, Anatolios laments that the Holy Spirit's place in the Trinity is vague and confusing and whose acts are often confused and conflated with those of the Son. Yet Scripture clearly demonstrates the discreteness of the divine Persons. He points out that the clearest distinction is made when the Holy Spirit is seen alternately as "gift" or "mutual love." The term "gift" is primarily stressed by the Eastern churches and "mutual love" by the Western tradition. His goal is to create a synthesis of the two different conceptions of the Holy Spirit that more fully shows the uniqueness of the third Person of the Trinity and the surprising unity of both metaphors.
He then introduces the concept of "availability" (French: disponibilité) as applied to human, or interpersonal interactions by the French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel.
For Marcel, there are five aspects of availability for human relationships.
- Availability to others outwardly, contrasted to un-availability where one is closed-off to others; seeing the other person as someone who could be me
- Availability to another's appeals; the ability to be appealed to, both to the needs/situation of the other and an active (non-passive) and enthusiastic receiving of the other (being open to others); appealing also in the sense of attracting/delighting in
- Availability as the openness to commit to another; to allow the other to lay a claim to our response; the Good Samaritan exhibits this par excellence, where the robbed man's tragic circumstances alone appeal for help to the Good Samaritan
- Availability that sees every situation as an opportunity and every circumstance as gift; placing oneself in the place of the other, not replacing, but standing together in that situation
- Availability as love; enclosing others within our circle and sharing all with another; the father in the Prodigal Son demonstrates this
- The Spirit makes the Word of the Father available to the world through the prophets; it is also the Spirit that is the medium that makes the Father available to the Son and the Son to the Father. "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me." (Jn 14:10) He makes communion possible.
- The Spirit is God's willingness to outwardly extend His Word, thus bringing about creatures that can appeal to Him. Also, man's fallen state is construed as an appeal to God, thus calling upon God's Word into the availability of the Incarnation. The Spirit is also the way in which we take joy in the Lord, in which we praise God and in whom the Father and Son take joy in each other.
- The Spirit is a pledge or "down payment" from God of his gifts. It is this that allows us to claim the undeserved sonship promised to us, laying claim as heirs to the kingdom. It is a similar pledge between Father and Son that pledges one to the other through the Spirit.
- The Spirit is that which transforms every human situation into divine gift. It is in this way that "discernment" is understood. The Spirit opens our circumstances to the divine life. Also, it is through the Spirit that the Scriptures were written and only through that same Spirit can they be interpreted. It is only when divine and human availability meet that Scripture is composed and, again, understood.
- The Spirit is love in that He effects the mutual availability between the Father and the Son. He also brings about a mutual availability of the Father and the Son to others. The Father and Son face inward individually in love through the Spirit, which then enables the Father/Son to face outwardly to embrace in love all others. So the Spirit enables both types of love, where both sides love and where only one loves another who does not love in return.
I have found that the concept of availability is extremely useful in understanding human love, but am blown away to consider how the Spirit effects and brings about love both within the Godhead (the Spirit as "love") AND from God to His creatures (the Spirit as "gift").
The Holy Spirit is both the message and the message's medium. He is both "love" and "loving." It is He who makes the Father available here on earth initially through the prophets, then through the Incarnation and ultimately indwelling within us beginning at Pentecost. He brings God's love to earth to envelop us in its embrace, pulling us in, and then outwardly enables us to bring that same love to those who do not yet know that embrace.