The long awaited Messiah, the anointed one, came to restore the gift of divine life forfeited by Adam. “The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’: ‘For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.’” (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” 460)
In the last column, we discovered how God was preparing humanity in the Old Testament to understand the sacrament of confirmation, the anointing with the Spirit. Throughout the Old Testament, God pours out his holy anointing upon those who have been washed with water to receive a fuller outpouring of the Spirit. He does this in order for them to carry out a special mission. Prophets anoint priests and kings in order to give them the help they need to fulfill their special service to God.
The fullness of the Spirit is promised to the future Messiah and God’s holy people. In this column, we will focus on the former, and we will leave the latter to next column.
We know that the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners…to give them the oil of gladness in place of mourning…” (61:1, 3b), was fulfilled on multiple levels.
First, we must understand that the Second Person of the Trinity is begotten of the Father by the Holy Spirit from all eternity. This is part of the intra-Trinitarian life.
Second, when God the Son become flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he was, in time, born by the power of the Holy Spirit who overshadowed her (cf. Luke 1:35). The Holy Spirit was breathed into the womb of Mary, not unlike Adam into whose nostrils were breathed the breath of life (cf. Genesis 2:7). “…The Son is the one anointed by the Father’s Spirit since his Incarnation…” (CCC, 727)
Third, in order to prepare for his public mission, Jesus is first baptized by John in the Jordan. Then, “after Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17). At this point Jesus is revealed publicly as “the Christ,” because he has been anointed by the Father with the anointing of the Spirit (cf. CCC, 437).
After his baptism and confirmation, Jesus was said to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). He is then tempted by the devil, again not unlike Adam in the Garden. After the temptation, Jesus was said to have “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).
Jesus then comes to a synagogue in Nazareth, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He then read from the scroll: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord…’ He then said to them, ‘Today this scripture passage has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:18-19, 21).
Jesus is the fulfillment of the whole of the Old Testament. He is the new Adam, the new Israel, the new Aaron, the new Moses, the new David and Solomon. He is anointed for a special mission, a mission to be our true priest, prophet and king. He is the Redeemer, Savior, Messiah/Christ. He is Yeshua Ha'Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah. His name means, literally, “Yahweh saves, the anointed one.”
“Thus, the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest ‘how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power’” (CCC, 486). You could say that in the Old Testament, the Father prepares us to receive the Son, and in the New Testament the Son prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promises to send us the Third Person of the Trinity. He does so by promising to give the Spirit to the Twelve. “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:16-18). He also tells the Twelve, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, that the Father will send in my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). Shockingly, he goes on to tell them: “…it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). He continues by saying, “…the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (John 16:13).
In partial fulfillment of the promise to the Twelve, after his Resurrection, in order to institute the sacrament of reconciliation, Jesus says: “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit...’” (John 20:21-22). And before his ascends into heaven he promises once again, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Here we have stressed the importance of the Twelve. This is because Jesus did. It is through the Apostles and their successors (bishops and the pope) that we will receive the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit. God the Father sent the Son to give us the Spirit through the church and the leaders Jesus himself appoints to validly celebrate the sacraments of divine life he instituted.
In the next column we will continue with how the sacrament of confirmation fulfills the Old Testament prefigurations, and Jesus’ promises, of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.