Dominum et Vivificantem

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Pope John Paul II's fifth encyclical, issued on May 18, 1986. Dominum et vivificantem (DV), "The Lord and Giver of Life," deals with the Holy Spirit "in the Life of the Church and the World." The introduction makes clear that DV stands with the first two encyclicals of John Paul, Redemptor hominis (RH) and Dives in misericordia (DM) to form a textual triptych, with each document highlighting a specific person of the Trinity. After recalling the doxology of St. Paul, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor 3.13), John Paul continues: "In a certain sense, my previous encyclicals Redemptor hominis and Dives in misericordia took their origin and inspiration from this exhortation. Fromthis exhortation now comes the present Encyclical on the Holy Spirit" (DV 2).

DV is closely linked and makes frequent reference to the Second Vatican Council: "The Encyclical has been drawn from the heart of the heritage of the Council. For the Conciliar texts, thanks to their teaching on the Church in herself and the Church in the world, move us to penetrate ever deeper into the Trinitarian mystery of God himself to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit" (DV 2). Again, as with the previous, the impending approach of the third Christian millennium forms a crucial horizon within which the present reflection on the Holy Spirit takes place. Of special importance in this context is the role of the Spirit "as the one who points out the ways leading to the union of Christians" (DV 2); Christian ecumenism is an especially prominent dimension of the millennial commemoration.

The text of DV moves in three main parts: (1) "The Spirit of the Father and the Son, Given to the Church";(2) "The Spirit Who Convinces the World Concerning Sin"; and (3) "The Spirit Who Gives Life." Four scenes from the "Upper Room" form the framework of the encyclical's theological vision. First, there is the farewell discourse of Jesus at his final meal with his disciples (John 14:17). In this scene "the highest point of the revelation of the Trinity is reached" (DV 9). Here Jesus begins to disclose the personal role that the Spirit will play in communicating the Gospel to the world: "All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he [the Holy Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you" (Jn 16:15). John Paul then makes the obvious point: "By the very fact of taking what is 'mine', he will draw from 'what is the Father's"' (DV 7).

The second Upper Room scene takes place on the evening of the first Easter Sunday, according to John (20:1922). Jesus breathes on his disciples and says to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Here "there is fulfilled the principal prediction of the farewell discourse: the Risen Christ 'brings' to the Apostles the Holy Spirit" (DV 24). The further giving of the Holy Spirit to the world takes place in the third Upper Room scene, on the day of Pentecost. "This event constitutes the definitive manifestation of what had already been accomplished in the same Upper Room on Easter Sunday" (DV 25). Thus the era of the Church begins, and the Holy Spirit is precisely the soul of this new body. The fourth evocation of the Upper Room concerns the Church's fidelity to its mission, which requires it always to be attentive to the circumstances of its beginning. "While it is an historical fact that the Church came forth from the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, in a certain sense one can say that she has never left it. Spiritually the event of Pentecost does not belong only to the past; the Church is always in the Upper Room that she bears in her heart" (DV 66).

DV explores the "double rhythm" of salvation history, the "rhythm of the mission of the Son" and the "rhythm of the mission of the Holy Spirit," both sent into the world by the Father (DV 63). The articulation of this crucial principle of Trinitarian theology reflects a recovered attention to pneumatology, especially in the self-understanding of Western Christianity. The missions of the Son and the Spirit are intimately co-related; the Spirit's role is precisely to make the Son more fully known in the world. And the role of the Son, as RH and DM had already emphasized, is itself twofold: to reveal humans to themselves and to reveal God as the Father of mercy. The Spirit helps us to ponder the total gift that Christ made of himself for our sake; on this basis, then, people are called, with the help of the same Spirit, to find themselves fully through a sincere gift of self. This idea, often cited by John Paul from Gaudium et spes, "can be said to sum up the whole of Christian anthropology" (DV 60). The theme of gift, of mutual giving and receiving among persons, aptly sums up Christian anthropology precisely because it is also definitive of God's very life. "It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes totally gift, an exchange of mutual love between the divine Persons and that through the Holy Spirit God exists in the mode of gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this self-giving, of this being-love" (DV 10).

Bibliography: For the text of Dominum et vivificantem, see: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 78 (1986) 809900 (Latin); Origins 16, no. 4 (June 12, 1986): 77, 79102 (English); The Pope Speaks 31 (1986): 199263 (English). For a commentary on Dominum et vivificantem, see: a. dulles, The Splendor of Faith: The Theological Vision of Pope John Paul II (New York 1999).

[m. pelzel]