The Advocate & His Advocates

I remember the confusion that set in, listening to sermons in the 1950’s as the Holy Spirit was compared to Wind, Water, Oil, & Fire.  Appropriate texts were served up to reinforce each thought, and then parallels were drawn to the properties of each element.

I got confused with the water metaphor not knowing whether I was to drink it, or be filled with it, or baptized in it.  The fire analogy was more threatening than comforting, and when I heard of a rushing mighty wind, I thought more of being overpowered than being empowered.

It was later in my journey that I heard a more personal name for the Holy Spirit – “The Comforter.”  After the early confusion that was very comforting.    But then I thought of comforters on beds to keep us warm in winter, or comfort that grants us solace when sick.  These were kinder and gentler images that were preferable to the earlier ones, but still the confusion reigned.

But later, I came to understand that the word “comforter” was a translation of the Greek word, “Paraclete.”  This word was composed of two smaller words, “Para” (along side of) and “Kaleo” (called).  The Holy Spirit is the one who has been called to come along side of us to be our advocate and our counselor, and to encourage us.  What a wonderful truth!

Then this week it dawned on me, that each Christian is also called to be a “paraclete”.  St. Paul, twenty-seven times in II Corinthians alone, uses one or more forms of this word as he “encourages” the church in Corinth out of the “encouragement” that he has received.  (Read II Corinthians 1:1-7)

We know that compassion is always called for, but compassion is not enough.  It is a ”feeling” word.  The Holy Spirit calls us to action too.  We too are called to come alongside those who suffer, and do something on their behalf.  Let’s do it!

Think it through

Other translations of the word “paraclete” include the words; mediator, intercessor, helper, friend, and go-between. How do these metaphors help us understand the work of the Holy Spirit, and our work?

The Latin word behind our word “comforter” comes from two Latin words “cum” (with) and “forte” (strength). In what ways can we be strength-givers to those in need?


Published in Light and Life,  January-February, 2007


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