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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Dominum et vivificantem

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    • 4. The Messiah, Anointed with the Holy Spirit
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4. The Messiah, Anointed with the Holy Spirit


15. There is also accomplished in its entirety the mission of the Messiah, that is to say of the One who has received the fullness of the Holy Spirit for the Chosen People of God and for the whole of humanity. "Messiah" literally means "Christ," that is, "Anointed One," and in the history of salvation it means "the one anointed with the Holy Spirit." This was the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament. Following this tradition, Simon Peter will say in the house of Cornelius: "You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judea...after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power."50

From these words of Peter and from many similar ones,51 one must first go back to the prophecy of Isaiah, sometimes called "the Fifth Gospel" or "the Gospel of the Old Testament." Alluding to the coming of a mysterious personage, which the New Testament revelation will identify with Jesus, Isaiah connects his person and mission with a particular action of the Spirit of God - the Spirit of the Lord. These are the words of the Prophet: "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be the fear of the Lord."52

This text is important for the whole pneumatology of the Old Testament, because it constitutes a kind of bridge between the ancient biblical concept of "spirit," understood primarily as a "charismatic breath of wind," and the "Spirit" as a person and as a gift, a gift for the person. The Messiah of the lineage of David ("from the stump of Jesse") is precisely that person upon whom the Spirit of the Lord "shall rest." It is obvious that in this case one cannot yet speak of a revelation of the Paraclete. However, with this veiled reference to the figure of the future Messiah there begins, so to speak, the path towards the full revelation of the Holy Spirit in the unity of the Trinitarian mystery, a mystery which will finally be manifested in the New Covenant.


16. It is precisely the Messiah himself who is this path. In the Old Covenant, anointing had become the external symbol of the gift of the Spirit. The Messiah (more than any other anointed personage in the Old Covenant) is that single great personage anointed by God himself He is the Anointed One in the sense that he possesses the fullness of the Spirit of God. He himself will also be the mediator in granting this Spirit to the whole People. Here in fact are other words of the Prophet: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."53

The Anointed One is also sent "with the Spirit of the Lord ": "Now the Lord God has sent me and his Spirit."54

According to the Book of Isaiah, the Anointed One and the One sent together with the Spirit of the Lord is also the chosen Servant of the Lord upon whom the Spirit of God comes down: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him."55

We know that the Servant of the Lord is revealed in the Book of Isaiah as the true Man of Sorrows: the Messiah who suffers for the sins of the world.56 And at the same time it is precisely he whose mission will bear for all humanity the true fruits of salvation:

"He will bring forth justice to the nations..."57; and he will become "a covenant to the people, a light to the nations..."58; "that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."59

For: "My spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children's children, says the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore."60

The prophetic texts quoted here are to be read in the light of the Gospel - just as, in its turn, the New Testament draws a particular clarification from the marvelous light contained in these Old Testament texts. The Prophet presents the Messiah as the one who comes in the Holy Spirit, the one who possesses the fullness of this Spirit in himself and at the same time for others, for Israel, for all the nations, for all humanity. The fullness of the Spirit of God is accompanied by many different gifts, the treasures of salvation, destined in a particular way for the poor and suffering, for all those who open their hearts to these gifts - sometimes through the painful experience of their own existence - but first of all through that interior availability which comes from faith. The aged Simeon, the "righteous and devout man" upon whom "rested the Holy Spirit," sensed this at the moment of Jesus' presentation in the Temple, when he perceived in him the "salvation...prepared in the presence of all peoples" at the price of the great suffering - the Cross - which he would have to embrace together with his Mother.61 The Virgin Mary, who "had conceived by the Holy Spirit,"62 sensed this even more clearly, when she pondered in her heart the "mysteries" of the Messiah, with whom she was associated.63


17. Here it must be emphasized that clearly the "spirit of the Lord" who rests upon the future Messiah is above all a gift of God for the person of that Servant of the Lord. But the latter is not an isolated and independent person, because he acts in accordance with the will of the Lord, by virtue of the Lord's decision or choice. Even though in the light of the texts of Isaiah the salvific work of the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, includes the action of the Spirit which is carried out through himself, nevertheless in the Old Testament context there is no suggestion of a distinction of subjects, or of the Divine Persons as they subsist in the mystery of the Trinity, and as they are later revealed in the New Testament. Both in Isaiah and in the whole of the Old Testament the personality of the Holy Spirit is completely hidden: in the revelation of the one God, as also in the foretelling of the future Messiah.


18. Jesus Christ will make reference to this prediction contained in the words of Isaiah at the beginning of his messianic activity. This will happen in the same Nazareth where he had lived for thirty years in the house of Joseph the carpenter, with Mary, his Virgin Mother. When he had occasion to speak in the Synagogue, he opened the Book of Isaiah and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me"; and having read this passage he said to those present: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."64 In this way he confessed and proclaimed that he was the Messiah, the one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells as the gift of God himself, the one who possesses the fullness of this Spirit, the one who marks the "new beginning" of the gift which God makes to humanity in the Spirit.


50. Acts 10:37f.

51. Cf Lk 4:16-21; 3:16; 4:14; Mk 1:10.

52. 11:1-3.

53. 61:1f.

54. 48:16.

55. Is 42:1.

56. Cf. Is 53:5-6, 8.

57. Is 42:1.

58. Is 42:6.

59. Is 49:6.

60. Is 59:21.

61. Cf. Lk 2:25-35.

62. Cf. Lk 1:35.

63. Cf. Lk 2:19, 51.

64. Cf. Lk 4:16-21; Is 61:1f.

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