The Guest of Our Souls
Augustine calls the Holy Spirit “The quiet guest of our soul.”
St. Augustine in his quote beautifully describes the identity of the Holy Spirit. It is this image of guest that I am going to explain in a yet deeper form. I will begin by presenting to you three examples of three guests, for it is as a guest that St. Augustine describes the Holy Spirit. Then I will describe how the Holy Spirit occupies our souls using my three examples.
Mr. Knightley, a polished, dignified, wise, young gentleman of Jane Austen’s Emma takes the role of a guest in the house of Emma Woodhouse many times. Mr. Knightley never enforces a loud presence in the household, but provides a steady tone of quiet and of love. He constantly barriers himself from the foolery of the vivacious Emma, and finds her foolery troublesome. Mr. Knightley also keeps an eye on the errors and confusions of her growth. He presents a grave face to her fumbles in society and an even greater gravity when she fails to recognize the hurt she has caused others. It is when these fumbles occur that Mr. Knightley confronts Emma and is no longer the quiet occupant of her life. He flings the light onto her blunders and reveals to her the hurt that she has caused and where she had better make amends. It is when he so guides her that Emma slowly begins to realize where she has erred and tries at best to amend where she has hurt others. He guides her because he loves her. He wishes to see her grow into the lovely adult that he knows she can be. Mr. Knightley, the guest of Emma Woodhouse and companion of wisdom.
The second guest is Will Benteen from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Will Benteen first arrives in the great complexities of Scarlett O’Hara’s life when she has finally returned from Atlanta, Georgia to Tara, her home, where her mother is dead, her father half insane, her sisters sick with typhoid, her sister-in-law weak from child-birth, her gardens demolished by the Union soldiers, and her cattle carried off. Will first comes to Tara as a critically ill soldier borne on the horse of another Confederate who supports him. He is then cared for by the O’Hara sisters and Melanie Hamilton, Scarlett’s sister-in-law, and is slowly nursed to health. Soon it is decided by Scarlett that he will become another occupant of Tara. He is a quiet soldier, with peg leg and lanky build, blonde hair and quiet nature. He is unobtrusive and one to whom many in the household go to and relate their troubles. He is always there to listen and advise with patience and wisdom. He sees the pain of Careen, Scarlett’s sister, the fiery and often erring ways of Scarlett, and many of the other hurts and worries of the other members of the household. He neither complains nor is overpowering. He is a steady influence to the shaken family, for he takes time to listen to others and is not wrapped up in his own worries; simple and caring, he offers his service. Will also corrects the erring Scarlett and attempts to show her where she is misplacing her steps in life. Scarlett, however, does not take his advice and continued in her rashness. An observant guest and guiding friend: Will Benteen, the steadiness of Tara.
The third guest is the Infant Jesus. In Bethlehem in the waning of the day and the waxing of the night, a young maiden and a grave, rustic carpenter knock upon the doors of the inns. Their child soon to be born needs a place to lay his infant head and breathe the air new to him. As they pass among the darkened streets of the tiny village of Israel, the mother, Mary, is wearisome, and the father, Joseph, is discouraged, and the baby is patient. Soon the family is shown into a rustic stable by an innkeeper of the last inn that they knock upon. The stable’s roof and walls are the rock of an ancient cave, and the animals drowsily look at the newcomers as they enter. The night lengthens, and a small infant is born. The mother and father are overjoyed. The visitor of Bethlehem, an infant boy is heralded by angels, proclaimed by a star, worshipped by shepherds, and welcomed by husband and wife. The Infant Jesus, the quiet, unobtrusive, gentle, peaceful, innocent visitor of the sleeping world. He did not come as a conqueror, a son of a Pharisee, a son of a prince or king, he came as the son of a carpenter and young maiden of Nazareth as a little infant child for whom there was no place to be received.
Now considering these three guests, I will illustrate how the Holy Spirit visits our hearts and how he is the guest of our souls. The Holy Spirit comes as an unobtrusive guest as did Mr. Knightley, Will Benteen, and the Infant Jesus. The Holy Spirit does not impose anything upon us but provides the quiet reminders of what truth is. He prompts us to goodness and both gently and firmly shows us where we go astray as did Mr. Knightley when he corrected Emma. The Holy Spirit is always at work to uproot the weeds of sin inside of us and toss them into the nothingness that they came from. The Holy Spirit also breathes his inspiration into our souls. The word inspiration means “inbreathing”. To be inspired by the Holy Spirit is to inhale his breath.
When we lack wisdom, understanding, or knowledge, we should consult the Holy Spirit, our internal guest, who gives us his unerring advice. He gives us his many gifts and fruits through the Sacrament of Confirmation when he makes his dwelling place within us all the more powerful. He is our companion and our guardian. Our minds should be constantly aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence, for he is our guest and quiet though he may be, he is not silent. We should never ignore the guest of our souls, for he is in our most intimate place.
Just as Emma eventually listened to Mr. Knightley’s advice and strived to make better her ways, so should we listen to the Holy Spirit even though our human failings hinder us at times. Since the Holy Spirit is the steady guide of our soul, we should lean on him as the household of Tara leaned on Will Benteen. And just as the Infant Jesus was heralded by the angels and worshipped by the shepherds, so should we pray to the Holy Spirit inside of us and speak with him and herald his presence to other people.
The Holy Spirit is a constant companion. As long as we do not stray into mortal sin, the Holy Spirit is always inside of us. He is our consoler, councilor, and guide. If we just allow him to comfort us, instruct us, and guide us then we will feel his overwhelming presence flood through our being. If we just let our holy visitor occupy our soul, then he will become a companion dearer to us then the fickleness of worldly attractions. The Holy Spirit: the quiet, peaceful, firm, steady guest of our soul.
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With The Wind. New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1936
Emma (2009 BBC Version)