***This is the second post exploring the Person of the Holy Spirit. You can find the first post here, a more theoretical consideration of the Holy Spirit as regarding His mission within creation.
Let me also preface this saying that the anxiety I am speaking of here is more of the everyday run of the mill sort, rather than taking the term In a more strict, clinical, psychological way. I do not mean to conflate the psychological with the spiritual, nor am I suggesting anything about a course of treatment here. I am a huge proponent of psychological and psychiatric support under the guidance of a well trained doctor, and I would never dissuade someone from using those, nor would I suggest that they have failed as a Catholic if they have that. Neurochemistry isn’t the same as the spiritual. However, there are many people for whom this more spiritual understanding may prove beneficial, such as those with anxiety as a fallout from the circumstances and living out of life.
I get anxious. Most of us do, from time to time. It can be over the big things, the who should I be? what should I do? where should I go? sorts of life questions. It can also be over far more mundane questions: do I have something on my face (oh Lord Jesus please don’t let me have something on my face)? does he he like me? will he text me? is this even a time in my life I should worry about a guy? will my student loan officer call today? so I should really call that friend back I said I’d call pray three months ago, shouldn’t I? What’s most frustrating about it is how even the little anxieties can expand into much bigger anxieties, and even actual problems. I mean, who of us hasn’t worried themselves into a back or shoulder spasm a time or two?
I’m not the only one. Even the saints themselves feel this way at time; St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions
I am distracted amid times, whose order I do not know, and my thoughts, the inmost bowels of my soul, are torn asunder by tumult and change, until being purged and melted clear by the fire of your love, I may flow altogether into You.
I mean, I would have said “filled with angst and emotionally distressed,” but tomato, solanum lycopersicum. The point is, even saints, before they reached the full evidence of their sanctity, had anxiety. But what exactly happens here? Well, when we move out of the now, which we are ever doing, the mind, the memory and imagination, allow us reflections on the past and imaginings of possible futures.
Anxiety of the less neurological or neuropsychological kind tends to arise from shame, embarrassment, or other sorts of unresolved or distempered wounds residing in our past, or it arises from attempting to divine the future with only the power of your own mind to support your precognitive hypotheses. In doing so, it becomes far easier than you might expect to lose sight of God and His eternal now, moving out of the existing and experienced reality in which we become saints. This is where the Person of the Holy Spirit comes into the picture, to be a healing balm to our soul, healing our past wounds as well as soothing our future fears.The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, the Comforter. He is the one who pours the theological virtue of charity into our hearts, and He is the gift to the Church both as the Body and in her individual members, given to us by the Son (c.f. Romans 5:5). He is the One Who comforts us in our anxiety, in the thousand small ways we are tempted to turn our eyes away from Christ as we walk through the storm to Him. He is the One Who comes in love
to dwell in my memory…since I have remembered You from the time I learned of You, and I find You there when I call You to mind. (Confessions).
The Holy Spirit dwells in our soul, and it is His mission to bring into us the Son, and through the Son, the Father. He does this by giving us the graces we need to heal our souls.
For me, one of the best things to do when I am facing anxiety about my own past sins and follies is to pray to the Holy Spirit. By doing so, when I see those sins and they threaten to overwhelm me, I invite the Holy Spirit to be my Comforter in the face of my own sins and my own woundedness. Since the Father acts through the Son in the Holy Spirit, we know that these scarred and less than-healed places in our memories are being healed with the flame of Divine Love, if only we would accept this healing.
The Holy Spirit does not simply have the role of bringing us the particular, healing, and redemptive love which the Son poured out for us on the Cross; He also has been sent to us as our Comforter when we become anxious about the things to come in our lives. The Holy Spirit, St. Augustine reminds us, has been given to us so that we might see creation, including the possibilities that could be in our lives in this world, and in these things of the world, learn to love God.
I’ve learned that the wonderful truth of this is that when we ask the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts, and I prayerfully reveal to Him the anxiousness and apprehension I feel about the future, He will often comfort me and teach me by drawing to mind passage from the Scriptures, or from the Liturgy, of even from the writings of the saints. I mean it isn’t always so holy-sounding in practice. Sometimes it’s just me, talking to Him before I sleep about the things in my life that worry me, and asking Him to teach me to have better trust in God in His Trinity, for Whom all the future is encompassed by His eternal now.
In growing in my relationship and love for the Person of the Holy Spirit, I have come to find that my heart truly is restless until it rests in God, because I allow what is only possible to draw me away from the peace I experience, despite the storm around me, when I gaze on the one I love, the Triune God made present by the action of the Holy Spirit on my soul. My prayer for you all this week is that you begin to develop and grow in your relationship with God the Holy Spirit, Who will give you comfort and make you holy, so that you may share eternity with with the Blessed Trinity, redeemed, healed, known, and loved.