Among the questions that we may ask on this Feast day—especially immediately following Easter-Pentecost, is this: How does one experience Christ, and how does one experience the Holy Spirit? Is it one and the same experience, because God is one and simple?
God is utterly simple, but we are not. In our movement into God, we are drawn by God in various ways. Christians—men and women in faith-union with Jesus Christ—have realized at least since the death and Resurrection of Christ that Jesus still speaks His word to the faithful (in scripture, in church teaching, in the living magisterium, in members of His body, in daily events, and so on); and we have understood that Christ’s love for us individually and as his mystical Body is real, personal, intense, life-giving. A believer in Christ experiences both Christ’s love and his wisdom in many and various ways. If he does not, he should at least begin to wonder, “Do I really have faith at all? Is my faith enlivened by love, or just more or less empty belief?” Faith living by love brings us into a real union with Christ, and that includes with his word (wisdom, teaching), and his love (fully and publicly demonstrated on the cross).
Does the believer also experience the Holy Spirit? If so, how is the Spirit’s presence distinct from the awareness of Christ dwelling in the heart of the believer? Nearly forty years ago, while studying St. Paul’s letter to Christians in Rome, chapter 8 (especially verses 9-11), I observed how the Apostle, so gifted by spiritual experiences, interchanges his names for divine Presence in the believer: “Christ,” “the Spirit of Christ,” “the Spirit of God,” “Spirit.” The Apostle can variously name the Divine power indwelling the heart or mind of the believer. It does not matter, in reality, whether one calls the indwelling Presence “Christ” or “Spirit of Christ,” and so on. What matters is the awareness of this divine Presence, its life-giving effects, and one’s personal “living by the Spirit” by “putting to death” actions contrary to God (“deeds of the flesh”).
For the most part, however, Christian faithful have used the term “Holy Spirit” to name God experienced as love, joy, peace, the power of self-control, forgiveness, enlightenment, wisdom, understanding, and so on. When speaking of divine Presence as personal, heart-to-heart, "I living in you, yo living in me," Christians have more often spoken of the presence of Christ Jesus. "Christ" names God as personal: "I love you". "You are mine." The "Holy Spirit"names the same God experienced by impersonal effects, especially love, joy, and peace.
God is One, and ever beyond our understanding, yet always present to each one who will but attend.