I was preparing to teach this past week on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit when I came upon two quotes (from very different authors) that I found beautiful in their juxtaposition.
John Calvin, writing in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, talks about the Spirit’s role in the ongoing care of creation:
For it is the Spirit who, everywhere diffused, sustains all things, causes them to grow, and quickens them in heaven and on earth. Because he is circumscribed by no limits, he is excepted from the category of creatures; but in transfusing into all things his energy, and breathing into them essence, life, and movement, he is indeed plainly divine (I.1.13.14).
When I read these words for the first time in 2016, they were something of a revelation for me. I had never thought much about the role of the Holy Spirit outside the context of salvation. It was mind-opening to consider that the Spirit sustains and animates all life—the active agent of God’s providential care for creation (Ps 104:30). Why does the grass grow? The Spirit. Why are babies born? The Spirit. Why did I just take another breath? The Spirit. Why does the sun trace its daily path through the sky? The Spirit.
The Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins captures this profound theological truth in his poem “God’s Grandeur," which concludes:
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
The Spirit who, everywhere diffused, sustains all things broods over the bent world with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.